A wise man once said, “If the people cannot trust the government to do the job for which it exists—to protect them and promote their common welfare—all else is lost” (Barack Obama).
Legalizing the use of medicinal or recreational marijuana, I believe, will do exactly this.
Medicinal marijuana, without a doubt, has many positive benefits, such as helping and relieving those undergoing cancer chemotherapy or those suffering from AIDS, asthma, pain and muscle spasms, and glaucoma. However, legalizing marijuana cannot be seen as a value to our country when the risks outweigh the benefits.
If a government’s sole purpose is to protect its people and not expose them to risks, how can it legally endorse the production and distribution of a drug that has proven to be dangerous and is still considered immoral by a majority of the population?
The medical risks of marijuana include loss of brain cells, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, energy loss, impaired thinking, and blood vessel blockage. This drug has also been found to contain up to 100% more tar than found in tobacco and often is laced with other, more harmful drugs without the smoker’s knowledge. A government, whose job is to protect its citizens, cannot, in good conscience, allow these citizens to risk their health and lives with the use of marijuana, legal or not.
However, many supporters of legalizing marijuana question a government’s right to intervene in an individual’s free will, in their private decision of choosing whether or not to use marijuana. But a government, when it forbids its citizens from taking this drug, is not actually taking away their free will but protecting it. Drugs, such as marijuana, are addictive. Once an individual tries it once, whether this be for recreational or medicinal purposes, they no longer have the ability to make a rational decision of whether to continue to take the drug. They are addicted. Even users of “soft drugs” like marijuana can experience both a physical dependence on them, and withdrawal.
Besides harming just the smoker, the use of marijuana can also negatively impact others. Statistics link marijuana use to both crimes and car accidents. Children can even suffer the consequences through neglect by drug-addicted parents. A “medicine” that has such potential detriments to both the user and innocent third-party members cannot be seen as a medicine at all.
The last, probably most dangerous, side effect of legalizing marijuana is an increase in drug use. The Gateway Theory depicts how smoking marijuana can often lead to the usage of harder, more dangerous drugs. Gabriel Nicholas, a marijuana prohibitionist, describes its dangers: “it appears that the biochemical changes induced by marijuana in the brain result in drug-seeking, drug taking behavior, which in many instances will lead the user to experiment with other pleasurable substances. The risk of progression from marijuana to cocaine to heroin is now well documented.”
Legalizing this drug will also send the message to many that drug use is acceptable and safe, a statement that is far from the truth. Permitting a dangerous drug to be dispensed legally, even if only for medicinal use, undoubtedly allows easier access for people to recreationally use and abuse it. Adolescents are most at risk to believe this message and suffer the effects from marijuana, such as delaying emotional development and puberty. Our country cannot afford to take these risks.
Many words can be used to describe marijuana: fun, amusing, dangerous, medicinally beneficial, immoral, and most importantly, illegal, and that is how it should stay. As journalist George Will comments, “There is no reason to think today’s levels of [drug] addiction are anywhere near the levels that would be reached under legalization.” No one is certain if this is true, but I for one, do not wish to find out.