Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller; librarian; and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.
The debate over legalizing cannabis has been a subject of controversy in many countries over the decades (besides being called weed, it is known by many other names, including marijuana and ganja).
It is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world. In most countries, cannabis was made illegal in the early twentieth century.
In some countries, people can face long jail sentences, even for possession for small amounts, while in others it is tolerated.
For example, in the Netherlands, it can be bought and sold in certain coffee shops, and in the Christiana area of Copenhagen, Denmark, it has historically been sold and smoked openly since the 1970s.
In the USA there have been moves in recent times to legalize medical and recreational use in some states.
The cannabis legalization debate often focuses around two areas: one being the therapeutic use of the drug by sufferers of medical conditions, who believe that it relieves their symptoms; and the other being the wider use of cannabis as a recreational drug.
“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”
— ― Carl Sagan
Did You Know?
Over 40 percent of people living in the USA have tried cannabis at least once.
Across the world, it is believed that over 160 million adults use marijuana at least once per year, and over 22 million use the drug on a daily basis.
Over 800,000 people are arrested for cannabis each year in the US.
“So many writers make dope glamorous; a form of romantic transgression, or world-weariness, or poetic sensitivity, or hipness. Mainly it's the stuff of ritualistic communion among inarticulate bores.”
— ― Leonard Michaels
In the United States, the use of cannabis is very common with over 100 million Americans estimated to have tried the drug, and 25 million Americans thought to have used it within the previous year, despite the drug being made illegal by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.
Much of the recent debate in the US has been focused on the policies of individual states, such as California, where the medical use of cannabis has been allowed with restrictions since the mid-nineties, and where measures to legalize recreational use were recently narrowly rejected in a public vote in 2010.
In November 2012 Colorado and Washington states voted to legalize the sale and possession of cannabis for recreational use. Since the election of Donald Trump, however, it is unclear whether the federal government will allow cannabis production and use to continue unhindered in states where it has been legalized.
I have collected together the main for and against arguments and listed them below as pros and cons of legalizing cannabis.
I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If He put it here and He wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?
— Willie Nelson
Pros of Legalizing Cannabis
- It should be up to individuals whether they wish to take the drug or not and the authorities should not be able to dictate what people can and can’t do.
- The health damaging effects of cannabis are at worst, mild – the drug is less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes, both of which are legal.
- Crime would be reduced with legalization, as the number of violent disputes between criminals over drugs would be minimized if drugs are taken out of the black market.
- Cannabis legalization would mean that it could be taxed, which would create revenue.
- There is evidence that cannabis alleviates the symptoms of some medical conditions, such as people with MS or cancer.
- The police and legal system would be freed up to use their resources on more serious crimes.
- Organized criminals and terrorists would see their profits hit by legalization.
- The laws against marijuana can have the effect of criminalizing some people, who would be unlikely to break the law in any other sphere of their life. Young people especially can end up with criminal records which may affect them long term in terms of job prospects etc.
- Cannabis hemp can be used to make a variety of products, including clothes.
- The quality of cannabis sold could be monitored for its strength and safety by the authorities if it were legal, as happens with alcohol and tobacco.
Did You Know?
Across the world, cannabis is the second most common mood-altering drug used by people, with alcohol being the most popular.
Common nicknames for cannabis include grass, pot, hash, weed, and ganja.
The world's largest producer of marijuana is thought to be Paraguay.
Why is marijuana against the law? It grows naturally upon our planet. Doesn't the idea of making nature against the law seem to you a bit . . . unnatural.
— Bill Hicks
I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-bomb blast.
— Ronald Reagan
Cons of Legalizing Cannabis
- We have enough problems caused by cigarettes and alcohol without legalizing another intoxicant that has associated health problems.
- Cannabis can act as a gateway drug and lead people on to more serious drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.
- Incidents of driving while under the effects of marijuana would increase.
- Some places where the cannabis laws were relaxed in the past, like Holland, are now making efforts to tighten controls after years of suffering problems.
- Some scientific experiments suggest a link between increased chance of developing mental illnesses and cannabis use.
- Even a minimum age limit was imposed, more cannabis would inevitably end up in the hands of children.
- Legalizing cannabis would send out the wrong signal to drug dealers and drug users. It would imply that drugs are safe and that the authorities are weak on drugs and drug abuse.
- At the very least, marijuana smoking carries many of the same physical dangers as cigarettes, with harm to others caused by second hand smoke, as well as to the smoker.
Did You Know?
It is essentially medically impossible to die directly from a cannabis overdose.
Reports on how cancerous cannabis is are mixed, with some reports ranking smoking cannabis as worse than cigarettes, and other findings suggesting that it may actually reduce the risks of certain types of cancer.
Marijuana is self-punishing. It makes you acutely sensitive, and in this world, what worse punishment could there be?
— PJ O'Rourke
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2014 Paul Goodman
Bryan Bethell on February 23, 2016:
I think it should be legal. I know for a fact in my community and others cannabis is easier to for kids to obtain than alcohol or tobacco. The local dealer doesn't check ID's. They sell to anyone. One thing that made up my mind is if it comes from a retailer, it will not have the drugs they can lace it with. Do I think kids should smoke pot? No but if its gonna happen anyway, make it as safe as possible. Putting people in jail for any drug is wrong. I know users who went to jail. They sat there and made new friends who are users. They come out worse than they went in. A better idea would be to throw that money into treatment. If we treat the underlying causes of drug abuse, the abuse would drop. Telling an adult what they can and can not do with their body is wrong at all levels. We need to educate kids about the use of drugs and its effects. When they use as kids, the kid should face a punishment of some kind. When they become an adult, it is not the governments responsibility to allow or not allow the use of any drug. Its not the government responsibility to watch over me like I am a child.
Brad on March 01, 2015:
I have never smoked mj or tobacco. but as long as tobacco and alcohol are legal, then mj should also be legal.
Any restrictions on Alcohol could be used for mj.
Keisha Hunter from Kingston, Jamaica on November 11, 2014:
Interesting poll results; great hub.
Jim from Ohio on October 25, 2014:
I'm for the legalization of all drugs. Adults should have the choice of what to put in their body. There is little difference between doing heroin or eating 3 Big Macs a day. People do terrible things with their bodies and we let them.
80-90% of people who take drugs aren't addicts, so I don't think the problem of addiction and usage of harder drugs would become more common.
I think that legalizing all drugs would lead to people taking less of the harmful drugs that are cheaper versions of other drugs.
I have no idea how all that should be done, but I'm completely against he drug war. At the very least, cannabis should be legal. It has actual health benefits.
Alexander Donkin from Newport News, VA on October 22, 2014:
Awesome hub...and it just happened to be the first I've read. Very objective. However, I would love to read a hub about Holland and there "suffering problems." I'll follow you in the hopes that you'll write one....thanks.
Cheeky Kid from Milky Way on October 21, 2014:
Well, i guess it's more on moderation than illigelizing. I mean, everything can serve as both a medicine and a poison.
tobins on October 21, 2014:
I am for the legalization of cannabis. I honestly cannot believe this is still even an issue in the U.S. If big pharm could figure out how to get a monopoly on growing, they'd have their lobbyists all over it... done deal. Problem is it wouldn't be profitable for big pharm... however very powerful narcotic prescription medication is. Look around your local pharmacy next time and see what these legal "medications" are doing to our population then give me one valid argument against the legalization of cannabis.
Michelle Scoggins from Fresno, CA on October 18, 2014:
Good point Kylyssa - I can see the benefits of legalizing marijuana for the regulation of it only. Then maybe illegal production would reduce just like with alcohol.
Kylyssa Shay from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on October 18, 2014:
@mdscoggins That's a good point but if marijuana were to fall under the FDA it would be subject to the same purity standards other foods, beverages, and medicines do. Legalizing it would probably go a long way toward making it safer. It's not legal to add formaldehyde to drinking alcohol so it wouldn't be legal to dip marijuana in it, either.
Michelle Scoggins from Fresno, CA on October 18, 2014:
Great hub. Really like how you honestly put together the good and bad of the substance. What I consider to be truly important when thinking about legalization are the additives that are very popular in the US. Most of the marijuana that is marketed is not pure grown "weed," it is synthetically altered by spraying, dipping or in some other way creating a different product. Also, to the best of my knowledge research has not tested what those additives do to the body long-term which would be important to find in the future. Thanks for all the information.
Niquel Cozart from New Jersey suburb on October 15, 2014:
Great hub! I personally don't feel it should be made legal. I am one of the people that feel it will lead to stronger drug use and have young children using it. Right now, really good kids are too afraid to try something illegal, but that will change if it becomes more accessible.