This article will explain why marijuana, or cannabis, should be legalized at both the state and federal levels. Actually, with it legal in many states, it’s more accurate to say that cannabis legalization should be expanded into the rest of the country.
This is an important difference. The will of the American people has already spoken on the matter of cannabis legalization (1) and its opinion is clear: the prohibition on cannabis should end immediately. This means a change in federal law, one that answers to the will of the people.
Under the Obama administration, federal laws against marijuana weren’t enforced in states where it was legal. But with recent announcements from the White House and the appointment of an anti-marijuana Attorney General, it’s time to do this all over again.
Cannabis Legalization and the Continuation of a Trend
With medical and recreational use already legalized in 28 and 8 states respectively, there is ample precedent for the legalization of marijuana. And because these states have reported little, if any, negative effects from legalization, similar measures in other states would amount to nothing more than the following of a successful trend.
Little, if any, negative effects from cannabis legalization has been reported #cannabis… Click To TweetThe success of the legalization trend includes a real-world refutation of many anti-marijuana claims. For instance, anti-marijuana activists claimed that legalization would lead to increases in crime, traffic accidents, and overall use of drugs and alcohol.
But as it turned out, none of these negative consequences has materialized (2). The rate of incidence of these social ills remained more or less constant between the pre- and post-legalization periods. This is a big part of the pro-legalization argument; if it has succeeded in these states, it’s safe to assume the same success in others.
The Medical Benefits of Marijuana
Cannabis has demonstrated an extraordinary range of medical benefits for patients allowed to use it(3). These benefits derive essentially from two of its main components: THC and CBD. Both of these components have distinct medical benefits.
CBD does not affect behavior or cognition. Like THC, it has been shown to reduce inflammation, pain, and nausea. Additionally, research has shown that CBD can help control epileptic seizures and treat serious addictions.
Marijuana has mental health benefits as well. Although more research is needed here, cannabis has helped many users find relief from the troubling symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Lastly, animal research has suggested that cannabis extracts might kill or slow the spread of cancer cells. This evidence alone suggests two important things: 1) that cannabis has incredible healing potential, and 2) that the American people have an absolute right to pursue these benefits without fear of punishment.
Marijuana users all over the country have known about these benefits for decades. As for the scientific community and medical research, it’s just a case of better late than never. Now that medical researchers have finally overcome their absurd bias against cannabis, the federal government is morally obliged to legalize its use across the board.
The Legalization of Cannabis for Recreational Use
The legalization of cannabis should not be restricted to medical use. It should, and must, be extended to recreational use as well. This is an easy case to make in both ethical and societal terms.
In ethical terms, every adult has the right to do as he or she pleases, as long as their actions don’t cause harm to others or society as a whole. And any laws or policies against self-harm just don’t apply to the use of cannabis.
Besides that, there is ample precedent for cannabis legalization with alcohol and tobacco. It has been demonstrated again and again that cannabis is far less damaging to the health than either of these legal substances (4). If these substances are legal, cannabis must be as well.
In societal terms, anti-marijuana activists just don’t have a leg to stand on. It’s already been shown that legal cannabis does not increase the incidence of social harms. When you couple these demonstrable facts with the health benefits of cannabis and the importance of individual liberty, the legalization debate is completely settled. Again.