Today the question of legalized marijuana can be considered as a real challenge for the society and authorities of the U.S. In spite of the fact the U.S. government follows the policy of marijuana prohibition there are several states which admitted the legalization of the usage of marijuana in medicine. This fact arouses the problem of definite economic benefits which can have those states with the legalized marijuana usage. Thus, there are many controversies regarding the benefits to the government, entrepreneurs and consumers.
The supporters of the legalization point out that prohibition curbs trafficking, usage and ultimately reduce crime, thus enhancing productivity and good health. On the other hand, critics argue that prohibition can decrease the number of the problems connected with trafficking and with the situation with drugs abuse.
Illegal entry of drugs within the U.S. is a huge and profitable industry, but only benefits a few people within the organized criminal groups. According to Drug Enforcement Agency, marijuana is considered an illegal drug in the U.S. Thus, legalizing of marijuana and regulating it would do away with the illegal trafficking. Moreover, the great expenditures directed on prohibition enforcement could be used for other economic gains (Miron, 2005).
The federal regulations would ensure a standard and safe product, which would be beneficial to every one involved. Therefore, it could increase the economy of the state by contributing to the tax and revenue policy and moreover, be necessary for special medical needs. The war on drugs drains state resources, which are invested in hunting the criminals, prosecuting them and containing them in jails.
Legalizing marijuana would attract entrepreneurs who would ensure a constant market supply and ultimately reduce its market price. All the same, legalizing marijuana would trigger several social, political, economic and health issues that needs to be addressed seriously.
The cannabis plant contains various chemical substances referred to as cannabinoids. The active chemical associated with physiological as well as psychic outcomes is THC. When smoking, THC is heated and the body absorbs 10-25% of it after inhalation or 6 % when eaten. Only 10 milligrams of THC is enough for a person to get high and experience psychoactive effects. This affects perception regarding speed, time or distance.
The possible effects of inhaling marijuana are respiratory diseases such as lung cancer and asthma. Other effects range from euphoria, paranoia and sedative effect. It has also been associated with higher heart rates, panic attacks and de-realization among others (Mathre, 1997). Consumption of marijuana has been stated to affect memory, coordination, perception, problem solving and even low blood pressure.
THC can affect on cannabinoid receptors and alter their function, particularly those associated with memory pleasure, concentration, and coordination (Mathre, 1997). High doses of marijuana have more adverse effects where one can experience hallucinations, disorientation, loss of memory and delusions. The ‘high’ effect of marijuana causes relaxation and pleasure to the user and is therefore, commonly used as antidepressant, sedative and as an analgesic (Mathre, 1997).
Therapeutic value of medical marijuana is still a controversial issue among scholars and medical researchers. However, cannabis has found various clinical applications and can be used to treat simple illnesses such as migraines, premenstrual syndrome and even terminal and severe problems such as spinal injuries and glaucoma.
For this reason, marijuana has been legalized in a number of states for medical use, but the U.S. federal government is inclined to prevent patients from accessing cannabis and has ascertained definite restrictions for the doctors who use it for medical needs. The main and active ingredient of cannabis is Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (Gieringer et al., 2009).
This is what makes medical marijuana therapeutically effective. THC attaches to the CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain since it mimics the normal endocannabinoids generated in the brain, although its impacts are more severe (Gieringer et al., 2009).
Cb1 receptors are located within the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, basal ganglia, hippocampus, and hypothalamus (Gieringer et al., 2009). THC inhibits production of neurotransmitters such as GABA, dopamine, and acetylcholine. Cannabinoids such as THC stay for a longer time in the brain, hence the resultant physiological effects.
Besides, this is why THC is said to be helpful in relieving chronic and acute pain, reducing nausea as well as vomiting as a result of chemotherapy, stimulating appetite and controlling muscle spasms. Moreover, usage of marijuana is no more considered as a gateway drug to other illicit drugs (Gieringer et al., 2009). Therefore, some states in the U.S. like California and New Jersey have already legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes (Gieringer et al., 2009).
Are there economic benefits reaped from legalizing marijuana in theses states? Thus, we can determine several economic benefits. For instance, the government can be able to collect taxes from marijuana that is traded by legitimate means. Besides, the government can use a lot of revenue in hunting and arresting illegal marijuana and this fact can contribute to some economic growth.
Therefore, the government could legalize marijuana and thereby benefit from taxes and use the funds for other beneficial projects (Gieringer, 2009). Prohibition of marijuana can be compared to that of alcohol prohibition in the U.S. during the 1920s (Gieringer, 2009). The phenomenon of existence of the illegal or prohibited substances can contribute to the creation of syndicates or organized criminal groups that illegally traffic the product.
The budgetary implications of illegal marijuana are enormous. Legalized marijuana would retrieve 7.7 billion dollars annually in the state and at the same time generate tax revenues of close to 2.4 billion dollars per year if it would be taxed similar to other consumer items. If marijuana would be taxed like tobacco or alcohol, it would collect close to 6.2 billion dollars per year (Miron, 2005).
Another economic benefit of legalizing of marijuana is that it has therapeutic effects and could be used instead of other drugs which produced for managing illnesses. If its therapeutic effects are higher than those of the other drugs, marijuana can be used in order to help patients to cope with such terminal illnesses as cancer, AIDs and sclerosis rather than spending money on producing of the other drugs.
It is the patients’ rights to get effective and cheap treatment, which can happen if marijuana would be legalized for clinical use (Miron, 2005).
The deficits in the states budget experienced in California would be adjusted by generation of revenue incurred from legalizing of marijuana. According to the data of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML):
A basic $50/ounce excise tax (roughly $1/joint) would yield about $770 – 900 million per year plus another $240-360 million in sales taxes.
In addition, the state would save over $200 million in enforcement costs for arrests, prosecutions and prison. Additional benefits would accrue from increased employment and spinoff industries. Total retail sales of marijuana could be on the order of $3-$5 billion, with total economic impact of $12-$18 billion including spinoff industries such as coffeehouses, tourism, plus industrial hemp (Gieringer, 2009 pr.1).
To legalize marijuana laws, the medical policy makers and professionals have to cooperate so as to promote medical marijuana legislation. The medical practitioners should support state laws which enable physicians to elaborate on therapeutic value of cannabis with their patients and recommend it for clinical use.
Besides, the medical organizations should embrace the legislations which permit prescriptive access to the product. Moreover, policy advocates like NORML should accept the fact that the effectiveness of marijuana laws could be experienced if they withdraw the criminal penalties for consumers who are caught in possession of medical marijuana as approved by physicians (Pacula et al., 2002).
Rather than decriminalize marijuana, the U.S. government should consider legalizing it due to the budgetary implications it has on the nation. In New Jersey medical marijuana laws were implemented in 2010 and this should be an example to other states since the budgetary benefits incurred from legal marijuana in this state can be worth (Pacula et al., 2002).
In conclusion, marijuana legalization can generate more benefits than its decriminalization and therefore, can be legalized in the country. The U.S. federal and state government should re-assess the laws against marijuana to legalize it for medical use since its budgetary impacts are significant.
Table 1: NUMBER OF ARRESTS DUE TO MARIJUANA PROHIBITION
Total ArrestsMarijuana PossessionMarijuana Sale