The Pros & Cons of Legalized Marijuana

The debate blazing nationwide over legalizing marijuana for recreational use brings the bud to the peak of the decriminalization movement that began with medicinal usage. Since 2012, nine states – Alaska, Colorado, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington – and the District of Columbia have approved the recreational use of cannabis for individuals over the age of 21. Legalization is the response to a failure of the “war on drugs.”

The pros and cons in the recreational marijuana legalization debate revolve around morality, public health, economics, and legal issues.

Pros:

Legalization corrects social justice imbalances.

Marijuana arrests account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88 percent were for possession. Few arrests are made of drug “kingpins.” People of color are disproportionally affected. Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The arrests clog up courts with “victimless crime” cases to the tune of $3.6 million a year per state that is wasted enforcing marijuana laws annually. Marijuana possession arrests add to overcrowded prisons where casual users cross paths with violent offenders.