2018 Theses Doctoral

Essays on Cannabis Legalization

Thomas, Danna Kang

Though the drug remains illegal at the federal level, in recent years states and localities have increasingly liberalized their marijuana laws in order to generate tax revenue and save resources on marijuana law enforcement. Many states have adopted some form of medical marijuana and/or marijuana decriminalization laws, and as of 2017, Washington, Colorado, Maine, California, Oregon, Massachusetts, Nevada, Alaska, and the District of Columbia have all legalized marijuana for recreational use. In 2016 recreational marijuana generated over $1.8 billion in sales. Hence, studying marijuana reforms and the policies and outcomes of early recreational marijuana adopters is an important area of research. However, perhaps due to the fact that legalized recreational cannabis is a recent phenomenon, a scarcity of research exists on the impacts of recreational cannabis legalization and the efficacy and efficiency of cannabis regulation. This dissertation aims to fill this gap, using the Washington recreational marijuana market as the primary setting to study cannabis legalization in the United States. Of first order importance in the regulation of sin goods such as cannabis is quantifying the value of the marginal damages of negative externalities. Hence, Chapter 1 (co-authored with Lin Tian) explores the impact of marijuana dispensary location on neighborhood property values, exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in marijuana retailer location. Policymakers and advocates have long expressed concerns that the positive effects of the legalization--e.g., increases in tax revenue--are well spread spatially, but the negative effects are highly localized through channels such as crime. Hence, we use changes in property values to measure individuals' willingness to pay to avoid localized externalities caused by the arrival of marijuana dispensaries. Our key identification strategy is to compare changes in housing sales around winners and losers in a lottery for recreational marijuana retail licenses. (Due to location restrictions, license applicants were required to provide an address of where they would like to locate.) Hence, we have the locations of both actual entrants and potential entrants, which provides a natural difference-in-differences set-up. Using data from King County, Washington, we find an almost 2.4% decrease in the value of properties within a 0.5 mile radius of an entrant, a $9,400 decline in median property values. The aforementioned retail license lottery was used to distribute licenses due to a license quota. Retail license quotas are often used by states to regulate entry into sin goods markets as quotas can restrict consumption by decreasing access and by reducing competition (and, therefore, increasing markups). However, license quotas also create allocative inefficiency. For example, license quotas are often based on the population of a city or county. Hence, licenses are not necessarily allocated to the areas where they offer the highest marginal benefit. Moreover, as seen in the case of the Washington recreational marijuana market, licenses are often distributed via lottery, meaning that in the absence of an efficiency secondary market for licenses, the license recipients are not necessarily the most efficient potential entrants. This allocative inefficiency is generated by heterogeneity in firms and consumers. Therefore, in Chapter 2, I develop a model of demand and firm pricing in order to investigate firm-level heterogeneity and inefficiency. Demand is differentiated by geography and incorporates consumer demographics. I estimate this demand model using data on firm sales from Washington. Utilizing the estimates and firm pricing model, I back out a non-parametric distribution of firm variable costs. These variable costs differ by product and firm and provide a measure of firm inefficiency. I find that variable costs have lower inventory turnover; hence, randomly choosing entrants in a lottery could be a large contributor to allocative inefficiency. Chapter 3 explores the sources of allocative inefficiency in license distribution in the Washington recreational marijuana market. A difficulty in studying the welfare effects of license quotas is finding credible counterfactuals of unrestricted entry. Therefore, I take a structural approach: I first develop a three stage model that endogenizes firm entry and incorporates the spatial demand and pricing model discussed in Chapter 2. Using the estimates of the demand and pricing model, I estimate firms' fixed costs and use data on locations of those potential entrants that did not win Washington's retail license lottery to simulate counterfactual entry patterns. I find that allowing firms to enter freely at Washington's current marijuana tax rate increases total surplus by 21.5% relative to a baseline simulation of Washington's license quota regime. Geographic misallocation and random allocation of licenses account for 6.6\% and 65.9\% of this difference, respectively. Moreover, as the primary objective of these quotas is to mitigate the negative externalities of marijuana consumption, I study alternative state tax policies that directly control for the marginal damages of marijuana consumption. Free entry with tax rates that keep the quantity of marijuana or THC consumed equal to baseline consumption increases welfare by 6.9% and 11.7%, respectively. I also explore the possibility of heterogeneous marginal damages of consumption across geography, backing out the non-uniform sales tax across geography that is consistent with Washington's license quota policy. Free entry with a non-uniform sales tax increases efficiency by over 7% relative to the baseline simulation of license quotas due to improvements in license allocation.

  • Cannabis--Law and legislation
  • Marijuana industry
  • Drug legalization
  • Drugs--Economic aspects

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American University

THREE ESSAYS ON THE EFFECT OF LEGALIZING MARIJUANA ON HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND SOCIAL SECURITY

The legalization of marijuana has emerged as a critical public policy issue, with far-reaching implications for health, education, and government programs at both the state and federal levels. The three essays of this dissertation show that medical marijuana legalization (MML) has a negative effect in each of these areas. The first essay shows, that the enactment of MMLs can exacerbate the crisis of overdose deaths in the United States. The study analyzes three key areas: the rate of overdose deaths caused by both legal and illegal drugs, the impact of MML on social norms regarding the perceived harm of marijuana, and an investigation into the gateway theory by examining the use of other addictive drugs. I find that MMLs increase deaths attributed to overdose by 21.5% population. MMLs s also indicate increase the number of deaths due to prescribed opioids by 44.6%, and deaths from all opioids (heroin and cocaine in addition to prescribed opioids) by 37.2 % Results suggest an overall increase in the use of marijuana, primarily due to lower perceived risk among adolescents. Additionally, results show an increase in hospital admissions due to substance abuse. The analysis suggests that legalizing medical marijuana may exaggerate the current problem of drug overdose in the United States. The second essay examines the impact of improved access to medical marijuana, measured by the proximity of schools to the nearest dispensary, on the academic performance of high school students in California. Students in schools farther from a marijuana dispensary have higher academic performance as measured through AP, ACT, SAT scores, and average GPA, and lower number of suspensions due to violence and illicit drug use. To show this, I construct the first geocoded dataset on marijuana dispensary and high school locations, use newly developed difference-in-differences estimators that rule out any bias due to heterogeneous treatment effects over time, and explore dynamic responses. This essay reveals the importance of ensuring a largest possible distance between schools and dispensaries to protect adolescents from the potential harm caused by medical marijuana. Finally, the third essay shows that in the long term, MMLs increase the number of disabled workers who receive Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) because of mental health issues. SSDI is a major social insurance program that provides benefits to workers who become disabled, and understanding how policy changes in other areas may impact this program is important. In this study, there were important differences between the results of a two-way fixed effects model and a new model by Callaway and Santa’Anna. MMLs, in theory, could either increase or decrease the number of SSDI recipients, and traditional fixed effects models suggest both could be at play; however, only the negative effect is robust to correction for heterogeneous effects. This highlights the need for future research to understand the true impact of medical marijuana legalization

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The Evidence—and Lack Thereof—About Cannabis

Research is still needed on cannabis’s risks and benefits. 

Lindsay Smith Rogers

Although the use and possession of cannabis is illegal under federal law, medicinal and recreational cannabis use has become increasingly widespread.

Thirty-eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical cannabis, while 23 states and D.C. have legalized recreational use. Cannabis legalization has benefits, such as removing the product from the illegal market so it can be taxed and regulated, but science is still trying to catch up as social norms evolve and different products become available. 

In this Q&A, adapted from the August 25 episode of Public Health On Call , Lindsay Smith Rogers talks with Johannes Thrul, PhD, MS , associate professor of Mental Health , about cannabis as medicine, potential risks involved with its use, and what research is showing about its safety and efficacy. 

Do you think medicinal cannabis paved the way for legalization of recreational use?

The momentum has been clear for a few years now. California was the first to legalize it for medical reasons [in 1996]. Washington and Colorado were the first states to legalize recreational use back in 2012. You see one state after another changing their laws, and over time, you see a change in social norms. It's clear from the national surveys that people are becoming more and more in favor of cannabis legalization. That started with medical use, and has now continued into recreational use.

But there is a murky differentiation between medical and recreational cannabis. I think a lot of people are using cannabis to self-medicate. It's not like a medication you get prescribed for a very narrow symptom or a specific disease. Anyone with a medical cannabis prescription, or who meets the age limit for recreational cannabis, can purchase it. Then what they use it for is really all over the place—maybe because it makes them feel good, or because it helps them deal with certain symptoms, diseases, and disorders.

Does cannabis have viable medicinal uses?

The evidence is mixed at this point. There hasn’t been a lot of funding going into testing cannabis in a rigorous way. There is more evidence for certain indications than for others, like CBD for seizures—one of the first indications that cannabis was approved for. And THC has been used effectively for things like nausea and appetite for people with cancer.

There are other indications where the evidence is a lot more mixed. For example, pain—one of the main reasons that people report for using cannabis. When we talk to patients, they say cannabis improved their quality of life. In the big studies that have been done so far, there are some indications from animal models that cannabis might help [with pain]. When we look at human studies, it's very much a mixed bag. 

And, when we say cannabis, in a way it's a misnomer because cannabis is so many things. We have different cannabinoids and different concentrations of different cannabinoids. The main cannabinoids that are being studied are THC and CBD, but there are dozens of other minor cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis products, all of varying concentrations. And then you also have a lot of different routes of administration available. You can smoke, vape, take edibles, use tinctures and topicals. When you think about the explosion of all of the different combinations of different products and different routes of administration, it tells you how complicated it gets to study this in a rigorous way. You almost need a randomized trial for every single one of those and then for every single indication.

What do we know about the risks of marijuana use?  

Cannabis use disorder is a legitimate disorder in the DSM. There are, unfortunately, a lot of people who develop a problematic use of cannabis. We know there are risks for mental health consequences. The evidence is probably the strongest that if you have a family history of psychosis or schizophrenia, using cannabis early in adolescence is not the best idea. We know cannabis can trigger psychotic symptoms and potentially longer lasting problems with psychosis and schizophrenia. 

It is hard to study, because you also don't know if people are medicating early negative symptoms of schizophrenia. They wouldn't necessarily have a diagnosis yet, but maybe cannabis helps them to deal with negative symptoms, and then they develop psychosis. There is also some evidence that there could be something going on with the impact of cannabis on the developing brain that could prime you to be at greater risk of using other substances later down the road, or finding the use of other substances more reinforcing. 

What benefits do you see to legalization?

When we look at the public health landscape and the effect of legislation, in this case legalization, one of the big benefits is taking cannabis out of the underground illegal market. Taking cannabis out of that particular space is a great idea. You're taking it out of the illegal market and giving it to legitimate businesses where there is going to be oversight and testing of products, so you know what you're getting. And these products undergo quality control and are labeled. Those labels so far are a bit variable, but at least we're getting there. If you're picking up cannabis at the street corner, you have no idea what's in it. 

And we know that drug laws in general have been used to criminalize communities of color and minorities. Legalizing cannabis [can help] reduce the overpolicing of these populations.

What big questions about cannabis would you most like to see answered?

We know there are certain, most-often-mentioned conditions that people are already using medical cannabis for: pain, insomnia, anxiety, and PTSD. We really need to improve the evidence base for those. I think clinical trials for different cannabis products for those conditions are warranted.

Another question is, now that the states are getting more tax revenue from cannabis sales, what are they doing with that money? If you look at tobacco legislation, for example, certain states have required that those funds get used for research on those particular issues. To me, that would be a very good use of the tax revenue that is now coming in. We know, for example, that there’s a lot more tax revenue now that Maryland has legalized recreational use. Maryland could really step up here and help provide some of that evidence.

Are there studies looking into the risks you mentioned?

Large national studies are done every year or every other year to collect data, so we already have a pretty good sense of the prevalence of cannabis use disorder. Obviously, we'll keep tracking that to see if those numbers increase, for example, in states that are legalizing. But, you wouldn't necessarily expect to see an uptick in cannabis use disorder a month after legalization. The evidence from states that have legalized it has not demonstrated that we might all of a sudden see an increase in psychosis or in cannabis use disorder. This happens slowly over time with a change in social norms and availability, and potentially also with a change in marketing. And, with increasing use of an addictive substance, you will see over time a potential increase in problematic use and then also an increase in use disorder.

If you're interested in seeing if cannabis is right for you, is this something you can talk to your doctor about?

I think your mileage may vary there with how much your doctor is comfortable and knows about it. It's still relatively fringe. That will very much depend on who you talk to. But I think as providers and professionals, everybody needs to learn more about this, because patients are going to ask no matter what.

Lindsay Smith Rogers, MA, is the producer of the Public Health On Call podcast , an editor for Expert Insights , and the director of content strategy for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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Most americans favor legalizing marijuana for medical, recreational use, legalizing recreational marijuana viewed as good for local economies; mixed views of impact on drug use, community safety.

Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand the public’s views about the legalization of marijuana in the United States. For this analysis, we surveyed 5,140 adults from Jan. 16 to Jan. 21, 2024. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology .

Here are the questions used for the report and its methodology .

As more states pass laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use , Americans continue to favor legalization of both medical and recreational use of the drug.

Pie chart shows Only about 1 in 10 U.S. adults say marijuana should not be legal at all

An overwhelming share of U.S. adults (88%) say marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational use.

Nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) say that marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational purposes, while roughly a third (32%) say that marijuana should be legal for medical use only.

Just 11% of Americans say that the drug should not be legal at all.

Opinions about marijuana legalization have changed little over the past five years, according to the Pew Research Center survey, conducted Jan. 16-21, 2024, among 5,14o adults.

The impact of legalizing marijuana for recreational use

While a majority of Americans continue to say marijuana should be legal , there are varying views about the impacts of recreational legalization.

Chart shows How Americans view the effects of legalizing recreational marijuana

About half of Americans (52%) say that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana is good for local economies; just 17% think it is bad and 29% say it has no impact.

More adults also say legalizing marijuana for recreational use makes the criminal justice system more fair (42%) than less fair (18%); 38% say it has no impact.

However, Americans have mixed views on the impact of legalizing marijuana for recreational use on:

  • Use of other drugs: About as many say it increases (29%) as say it decreases (27%) the use of other drugs, like heroin, fentanyl and cocaine (42% say it has no impact).
  • Community safety: More Americans say legalizing recreational marijuana makes communities less safe (34%) than say it makes them safer (21%); 44% say it has no impact.

Partisan differences on impact of recreational use of marijuana

There are deep partisan divisions regarding the impact of marijuana legalization for recreational use.

Chart shows Democrats more positive than Republicans on impact of legalizing marijuana

Majorities of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say legalizing recreational marijuana is good for local economies (64% say this) and makes the criminal justice system fairer (58%).

Fewer Republicans and Republican leaners say legalization for recreational use has a positive effect on local economies (41%) and the criminal justice system (27%).

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to cite downsides from legalizing recreational marijuana:

  • 42% of Republicans say it increases the use of other drugs, like heroin, fentanyl and cocaine, compared with just 17% of Democrats.
  • 48% of Republicans say it makes communities less safe, more than double the share of Democrats (21%) who say this.

Demographic, partisan differences in views of marijuana legalization

Sizable age and partisan differences persist on the issue of marijuana legalization though small shares of adults across demographic groups are completely opposed to it.

Chart shows Views about legalizing marijuana differ by race and ethnicity, age, partisanship

Older adults are far less likely than younger adults to favor marijuana legalization.

This is particularly the case among adults ages 75 and older: 31% say marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational use.

By comparison, half of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 say marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, and larger shares in younger age groups say the same.

Republicans continue to be less supportive than Democrats of legalizing marijuana for both legal and recreational use: 42% of Republicans favor legalizing marijuana for both purposes, compared with 72% of Democrats.

There continue to be ideological differences within each party:

  • 34% of conservative Republicans say marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, compared with a 57% majority of moderate and liberal Republicans.
  • 62% of conservative and moderate Democrats say marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, while an overwhelming majority of liberal Democrats (84%) say this.

Views of marijuana legalization vary by age within both parties

Along with differences by party and age, there are also age differences within each party on the issue.

Chart shows Large age differences in both parties in views of legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use

A 57% majority of Republicans ages 18 to 29 favor making marijuana legal for medical and recreational use, compared with 52% among those ages 30 to 49 and much smaller shares of older Republicans.

Still, wide majorities of Republicans in all age groups favor legalizing marijuana at least for medical use. Among those ages 65 and older, just 20% say marijuana should not be legal even for medical purposes.

While majorities of Democrats across all age groups support legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use, older Democrats are less likely to say this.

About half of Democrats ages 75 and older (53%) say marijuana should be legal for both purposes, but much larger shares of younger Democrats say the same (including 81% of Democrats ages 18 to 29). Still, only 7% of Democrats ages 65 and older think marijuana should not be legalized even for medical use, similar to the share of all other Democrats who say this.

Views of the effects of legalizing recreational marijuana among racial and ethnic groups

Chart shows Hispanic and Asian adults more likely than Black and White adults to say legalizing recreational marijuana negatively impacts safety, use of other drugs

Substantial shares of Americans across racial and ethnic groups say when marijuana is legal for recreational use, it has a more positive than negative impact on the economy and criminal justice system.

About half of White (52%), Black (53%) and Hispanic (51%) adults say legalizing recreational marijuana is good for local economies. A slightly smaller share of Asian adults (46%) say the same.

Criminal justice

Across racial and ethnic groups, about four-in-ten say that recreational marijuana being legal makes the criminal justice system fairer, with smaller shares saying it would make it less fair.

However, there are wider racial differences on questions regarding the impact of recreational marijuana on the use of other drugs and the safety of communities.

Use of other drugs

Nearly half of Black adults (48%) say recreational marijuana legalization doesn’t have an effect on the use of drugs like heroin, fentanyl and cocaine. Another 32% in this group say it decreases the use of these drugs and 18% say it increases their use.

In contrast, Hispanic adults are slightly more likely to say legal marijuana increases the use of these other drugs (39%) than to say it decreases this use (30%); 29% say it has no impact.

Among White adults, the balance of opinion is mixed: 28% say marijuana legalization increases the use of other drugs and 25% say it decreases their use (45% say it has no impact). Views among Asian adults are also mixed, though a smaller share (31%) say legalization has no impact on the use of other drugs.

Community safety

Hispanic and Asian adults also are more likely to say marijuana’s legalization makes communities less safe: 41% of Hispanic adults and 46% of Asian adults say this, compared with 34% of White adults and 24% of Black adults.

Wide age gap on views of impact of legalizing recreational marijuana

Chart shows Young adults far more likely than older people to say legalizing recreational marijuana has positive impacts

Young Americans view the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in more positive terms compared with their older counterparts.

Clear majorities of adults under 30 say it is good for local economies (71%) and that it makes the criminal justice system fairer (59%).

By comparison, a third of Americans ages 65 and older say legalizing the recreational use of marijuana is good for local economies; about as many (32%) say it makes the criminal justice system more fair.

There also are sizable differences in opinion by age about how legalizing recreational marijuana affects the use of other drugs and the safety of communities.

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Table of contents, most americans now live in a legal marijuana state – and most have at least one dispensary in their county, 7 facts about americans and marijuana, americans overwhelmingly say marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational use, clear majorities of black americans favor marijuana legalization, easing of criminal penalties, religious americans are less likely to endorse legal marijuana for recreational use, most popular.

About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

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essays on legalizing weed

Five Reasons Why We Should Legalize Cannabis

Cannabis use in the United States has had a long and complicated history. For decades, people who used cannabis were subject to social ostracization and criminal prosecution. However, attitudes toward cannabis have been evolving in recent years. An increasing number of states have started to legalize cannabis for medical or recreational use. This shift in policy has been driven by a variety of factors including changing public attitudes and the potential economic benefits of legalization. In this article, we will explore the potential benefits of legalizing cannabis in our country.

1. Legalization for the Environment

Legalizing cannabis can have significant benefits for the environment. When cannabis is grown illegally, it is often done in environmentally damaging ways, such as using chemical pesticides or clearing primary forests to make room for crops. Legalization could allow customers to support more environmental growers. This will incentivize more responsible growing practices, such as the use of organic farming methods or the use of renewable energy sources to power indoor grow operations. In addition, the culture of growing cannabis can help to discover and preserve precious marijuana seeds , increasing biodiversity and facilitating a deeper understanding of cannabis plants and their cultivation.

2. Legalization for Justice

Where cannabis is illegal, people are being arrested and charged for possession or sale, which leads to costly court cases and a burden on the criminal justice system. Legalization would free up law enforcement resources to focus on more serious crimes and simultaneously reduce the number of people incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. This could help to reduce the overall prison population and save taxpayers money.

In addition, legalization can have significant benefits for justice and equity, particularly for marginalized communities that have been disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis. Communities of color have been particularly affected by the war on drugs, with Black Americans being nearly four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white Americans, despite similar rates of use.

By regulating cannabis cultivation and sales, legalization can help to eliminate the black market and reduce the involvement of criminal organizations in the cannabis industry. This can lead to safer communities and reduced drug-related violence in communities that have been most affected by the criminalization of cannabis.

3. Legalization for Public Health

Cannabis has been shown to have many beneficial and therapeutic effects on both physical and mental health. However, people may be hesitant to seek medical marijuana treatment due to fear of legal repercussions if cannabis is illegal. Legalization can allow more people to enjoy better health outcomes. It can also promote the safer use of cannabis by educating the public on appropriate cannabis use and providing quality control measures for cannabis products. Legalization can also lead to increased research into potential medical applications of cannabis and could lead to the development of innovative treatments.

Another potential perk of cannabis legalization is that it could reduce the use of more harmful drugs. In the absence of cannabis, people may turn to more dangerous drugs like heroin or fentanyl to manage chronic pain or other conditions. By legalizing cannabis, we can provide a safer alternative for these individuals and could reduce the overall demand for these more dangerous drugs. States that have legalized cannabis found a decrease in opioid overdose deaths and hospitalizations, suggesting that cannabis are an effective alternative to prescription painkillers.

4. Legalization for the Economy

The legalization of cannabis can generate significant tax revenue for governments and create new economic opportunities. When cannabis is illegal, it is sold on the black market, and no taxes are collected on these sales. However, when it is legal, sales can be regulated, and taxes can be imposed on those sales. In states that have legalized cannabis, tax revenue from cannabis sales has been in the millions of dollars , with California registering a whopping $1.2 billion in cannabis tax revenue in 2021. This impressive income can be used to reduce budget deficits, fund various public services such as education and healthcare, and create new opportunities for investment in projects that revitalize the economy.

Aside from tax revenue, legalizing cannabis can create new jobs. The cannabis industry is a rapidly growing industry, and legalization could lead to the creation of new jobs in areas such as cultivation, processing, and retail sales. This can help to reduce unemployment and create new gainful opportunities for people who may have struggled to find employment in other industries. Legalization can also lead to increased investment in related industries, such as the development of new products or technologies to improve cannabis cultivation or the creation of new retail businesses. There are now several venture capital funds and investment groups that focus solely on cannabis-related enterprises.

5. Legalization for Acceptance

Finally, legalization could help reduce the stigma surrounding cannabis use. Before cannabis legalization, people who use the plant were often viewed as criminals or deviants. Legalization can help change this perception and lead to more open and honest conversations about cannabis use. Ultimately, legalization could lead to a more accepting and inclusive society where individuals are not judged or discriminated against for their personal and healthcare choices. By legalizing cannabis, we can harness the power of a therapeutic plant. Legalization can heal not just physical and mental ailments of individuals but also the social wounds that have resulted from its criminalization.

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Will Hawaii legalize weed? The fight for recreational marijuana is complicated

Legal recreational marijuana use may be on the ballot in Florida this November.

Hawaii’s state Senate made headlines last month after overwhelmingly approving a bill to legalize recreational marijuana by 2026, but its passage into law is far from certain given the state’s complicated history with cannabis.

The bill is opposed by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, including Honolulu prosecutor Steve Alm and Hawaii Attorney General Anne E. Lopez, both Democrats, and former Republican Governor Linda Lingle. They’re concerned about an overall increase in youth consumption, addiction rates and the potential boost to Hawaii’s black market.

According to Colin Moore, a political science professor at the University of Hawaii, the state’s anti-recreational marijuana coalition has been “a little more organized than they’ve been in the past.”

“Expanded decriminalization of marijuana may increase recreational use in a way similar to legalization,” Lopez’s office wrote in submitted testimony related to the bill. “However, decriminalized marijuana is unregulated, untested, and untaxed. This lack of regulation and testing creates a significant public health concern, particularly as marijuana use increases.”

More: Florida Supreme Court OKs ballot measure allowing recreational pot

Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

Local law enforcement officials have also raised alarms about the potential ramifications of legalization, expressing concerns about impaired driving and the impact on public safety. Moreover, the state’s economic reliance on tourism, particularly from Japan, raises questions about how legalization could affect visitor perceptions and industry dynamics.

“Hawaii is the only Pacific state without recreational marijuana. The social conservatism here is something that is often lost, and I think that is something driving the fact that this fails year after year after year,” Moore said. “And I think that people who are opposed are, I mean, this for them can be a voting issue.”

The Aloha State was the first in the U.S. to legalize medical marijuana in 2000 and decriminalize personal use in 2019; efforts to legalize recreational cannabis have repeatedly stalled in the Statehouse . This pattern underscores the deep-rooted divisions within Hawaii’s political establishment, where even a Democratic majority does not guarantee support for progressive legalization.

Despite these challenges, the bill still has a number of fans in the state Legislature, who remain steadfast in their belief that legalization is long overdue. Advocates argue that regulation and taxation of marijuana would promote public health, reduce criminalization and generate revenue for the state at a time when it desperately needs it. Hawaii’s tourism-driven economy continues to suffer nearly eight months after wildfires decimated Lahaina in August.

“The decriminalization of cannabis is far overdue. People use cannabis. Decades of rigorous prosecution, imprisonment, and forfeiture have not changed this simple fact,” State Sen. Karl Rhoads, a Democrat, wrote in submitted testimony related to the bill. 

More: Most Americans want legal pot. Here's why feds are taking so long to change old rules.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green, a Democrat and a licensed physician, said he would sign the bill into law if the House passed it. He recently told Hawaii News that marijuana could have beneficial side effects in mitigating the impact of other drugs. 

“I have some thoughts that marijuana might blunt the effect, if you will, of people on these heavy drugs, these horrible drugs,” Green said. “It is a relative sedative. People are far less violent. They are much hungrier, but they, aside from snacking and stealing Cheetos, will probably do less harm.”

A poll by the nonprofit advocacy firm Pacific Resource Partnership found that 58% of Hawaii residents support legalizing recreational marijuana , a majority Moore said is “noteworthy” but “significantly lower” than similar polls in other West Coast and blue states.

Jeremy Yurow is a politics reporting fellow based in Hawaii for the USA TODAY Network. You can reach him at [email protected] or on X @JeremyYurow

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The Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana

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Economic benefits, medical benefits, criminal justice and public health.

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essays on legalizing weed

Argumentative Essay On Marijuana Legalization

Published by gudwriter on May 27, 2018 May 27, 2018

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Why Marijuana Should be Legalized Argumentative Essay Outline

Introduction.

Thesis: Marijuana should be legalized as it is more beneficial that it may be detrimental to society.

Paragraph 1:

Marijuana has not caused turmoil in some of the countries where it has been legalized.

  • Marijuana does not increase violent, and property crimes as many suggest.
  • Studies reveal that in Colorado, violent crimes have declined following the legalization of marijuana.

Paragraph 2:

Prohibiting use of marijuana does not limit its consumption.

  • In spite of the many laws prohibiting the use of marijuana, it is one of the most highly abused drugs.
  • 58% of young people from all over the world use marijuana.
  • It has not been attributed to any health complications.

Paragraph 3:

Legalization of marijuana would help state governments save taxpayers money.

  • Governments spend lots of funds on law enforcement agencies that uphold laws restricting the use of marijuana.
  • They also spend vast sums of money on sustaining arrested dealers and consumers in prison.
  • Legalizing marijuana would result in saving vast sums of money.

Paragraph 4:

Marijuana is less noxious than other legal substances.

  • Marijuana has less health side effects than other legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco.
  • Alcohol is 114 times more destructive than marijuana.

Paragraph 5:

Marijuana has been proven to have medical benefits.

  • Marijuana helps stop seizures in epileptic patients.
  • It helps stop nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy .

Paragraph 6:

Marijuana has been proven to be a stress reliever.

  • Marijuana relieves stress and depression in their users by causing excitement.
  • Its use reduces violence and deaths related to stress and depression.

Conclusion.

There are many misconceptions about marijuana existent in the modern world. People have continued to ignore health benefits linked to this substance citing their unproven beliefs. Owing to its ability to stop seizures, nausea, and stress in individuals governments should highly consider marijuana legalization. Its legalization will also help state governments reduce expenses that result from maintaining suspects convicted of marijuana possession and consumption.

Why Marijuana Should be Legalized Argumentative Essay

The argument that marijuana use should be made legal has gained momentum both in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world in recent years. This has seen the drug being legalized in some states in the U.S. such that by 2013, twenty states had legalized medical marijuana. As of the same year, Colorado and Washington had legalized recreational marijuana. The arguments behind the push for legalization majorly revolve around the idea that the drug has medicinal effects. However, there are also arguments that there are serious health effects associated with the drug and this has only further fueled the already raging debate. This paper argues that marijuana should be legalized as it is more beneficial that it may be detrimental to society.

Marijuana has not caused any notable negative effects in countries where it has been legalized. There is a general belief that marijuana consumers are violent. However, no authentic research can prove these assertions. As already seen, some states in the United States have legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana. In spite of this, no cases of marijuana-related violence have been recorded so far in such states (Markol, 2018). Reports reveal that the rate of violence and property crimes have decreased in Colorado following the legalization of the drug. If marijuana does not increase violent crimes, there is no reason as to why it should not be legalized.

It is also noteworthy that prohibiting marijuana use does not limit its consumption. Less than 10% of countries in the world prevent the use of marijuana, but according to research, 58% of young people in most of these countries are marijuana users (Head, 2016). General reports reveal that marijuana is one of most commonly abused drug in the world. It is also readily available in most states as it is a naturally growing plant (Head, 2016). In spite of its continued use, there are few cases, if any, of marijuana-related health complications that have been reported in any of these countries (Head, 2016). Therefore, if the illegality of marijuana does not limit its consumption, then state governments should consider its legalization.

Legalization of marijuana would further help state governments save taxpayers’ money. It is widely known that in countries where marijuana is illegal, authorities are stringent and will arrest any individual found in possession of the drug (Sanger, 2017). However, as earlier mentioned, laws prohibiting the use of the drug do not prevent its consumption, and this means that many people are arrested and prosecuted for possessing it (Sanger, 2017). State governments therefore use a lot of funds to support law enforcement agencies that seek to uphold laws prohibiting the use of marijuana (Sanger, 2017). Many people have been arrested and incarcerated for either possessing or consuming the drug, and the government has to use taxpayers’ money to sustain such people in prison. Since these actions do not limit consumption of marijuana, state governments should legalize the drug so as to save taxpayers money.

Another advantage of marijuana is that it is less noxious than other legal substances. According to research, marijuana is the least harmful drug among the many legal drugs existent in the world today (Owen, 2014). There are millions of campaigns every year cautioning people against smoking cigarettes, but there has been none seeking to warn people about marijuana consumption (Owen, 2014). Lobby groups have even been making efforts to push for legalization of marijuana. If marijuana had severe health effects as many purport, state governments would be investing heavily in campaigns aimed at discouraging its consumption (Owen, 2014). According to studies, alcohol, which is legal in many countries, is 114 times more harmful than marijuana (Owen, 2014). Therefore, if such harmful substances can be legalized, then there are no justifications as to why marijuana should not be legalized.

Further, marijuana has been proven to have medicinal benefits. Several countries, particularly in Europe, and the United States have legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana. Their move to legalize marijuana was based on medical reports that showed a variety of health benefits linked to the drug (Noonan, 2017). Research shows that marijuana can reduce seizures in epileptic persons. Several studies have also proven that the drug indeed has a variety of health benefits. For instance, Charlotte Figi, who is now aged 10, used to have more than 100 seizures every month at age three, but since Colorado legalized medicinal and recreational marijuana, her parents started treating her with the substance, and today her seizures have significantly reduced (Noonan, 2017). Marijuana has as well been proven to reduce nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Owing to this medicinal value, state governments should consider legalizing the drug.

Additionally, marijuana has been proven to be a stress reliever. Consumption of the drug causes excitement among its users enabling them to forget about troubling situations. Unlike alcohol which is likely to aggravate stress and depression, marijuana works wonders in alleviating anxiety and depression (Sanger, 2017). There are many health and social effects associated with stress, including mental disorders and violence against others (Sanger, 2017). To avoid cases of stress-related violence and mental disorders, state governments should make marijuana consumption legal.

There are many misconceptions about marijuana in the world today. People have continued to ignore the health benefits linked with this substance and have instead focused on citing yet-to-be proven misconceptions. Owing to the ability of the drug to stop seizures, nausea, and stress in individuals, governments should seriously consider its legalization. The legalization will also help state governments reduce expenses that result from sustaining suspects convicted of marijuana possession and consumption. So far, there is more than enough evidence proving that marijuana has lots of benefits to individuals, the society, and the government, and therefore should be legalized.

Head, T. (2016). “8 reasons why marijuana should be legalized”. ThoughtCo . Retrieved June 27, 2020 from https://www.thoughtco.com/reasons-why-marijuana-should-be-legalized-721154

Markol, T. (2018). “5 reasons why marijuana should be legalized”. Marijuana Reform . Retrieved June 27, 2020 from http://marijuanareform.org/5-reasons-marijuana-legalized/

Noonan, D. (2017). “Marijuana treatment reduces severe epileptic seizures”. Scientific American . Retrieved June 27, 2020 from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/marijuana-treatment-reduces-severe-epileptic-seizures/

Owen, P. (2014). “6 powerful reasons to legalize marijuana”. New York Times . Retrieved June 27, 2020 from https://www.alternet.org/drugs/6-powerful-reasons-new-york-times-says-end-marijuana-prohibition

Sanger, B. (2017). “10 legit reasons why weed should be legalized right now”. Herb . Retrieved June 27, 2020 from https://herb.co/marijuana/news/reasons-weed-legalized

Why Marijuana Should be Legal Essay Outline

Thesis:  Marijuana has health benefits and should thus be legal.

Benefits of Marijuana

Marijuana slows and stops the spread of cancer cells.

  • Cannabidiol can turn off a gene called Id-1 and can therefore stop cancer.
  • In an experiment, researchers were able to treat breast cancer cells with Cannabidiol.

Marijuana helps with pain and nausea reduction for people going through chemotherapy.

  • Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy suffer from severe pains and nausea.
  • This can further complicate their health.
  • Marijuana can stir up their appetite, decrease nausea, and reduce pain.

Paragraph  3:

Marijuana can control epileptic seizure.

  • Marijuana extract stopped seizures in epileptic rats in ten hours.
  • The seizures were controlled by the THC.

Disadvantages of Marijuana

Marijuana is addictive.

  • One in ten marijuana users become addicted over time.
  • If one stops using the drug abruptly, they may suffer from such withdrawal symptoms.

Marijuana use decreases mental health.

  • Users suffer from memory loss and restricted blood flow to the brain.
  • Users have higher chances of developing depression and schizophrenia.

Marijuana use damages the lungs more than cigarette smoking .

  • Marijuana smokers inhale the smoke more deeply into their lungs and let it stay there for longer.
  • The likelihood of lung cancer can be increased by this deeper, longer exposure to carcinogens.

Why Marijuana Should Be Legal

Paragraph 7:

Improved quality and safety control.

  • Legalization would lead to the creation of a set of standards for safety and quality control.
  • Users would know what they exactly get in exchange for the money they offer.
  • There would be no risks of users taking in unknown substances mixed in marijuana.

Paragraph 8:

Marijuana has a medicinal value.

  • Medical marijuana treats a wide assortment of “untreatable” diseases and conditions.
  • Public health would be improved and the healthcare system would experience less of a drain.  

Paragraph 9: 

Among the major arguments against marijuana legalization is often that legalization would yield an increase in drug-impaired driving.

  • This argument holds that even now when the drug is yet to be fully legalized in the country, it is a major causal factor in highway deaths, injuries, and crushes.
  • It however beats logic why marijuana is illegalized on the ground that it would increase drug-impaired driving while alcohol is legal but also significantly contributes to the same problem.

Legalization of marijuana would have many benefits. The drug is associated with the treatment of many serious illnesses including the dreaded cancer. Legalization would also save users from consuming unsafe marijuana sold by unscrupulous people.

Why Marijuana Should Be Legal Essay

There is an ongoing tension between the belief that marijuana effectively treats a wide range of ailments and the argument that it has far-reaching negative health effects. There has nevertheless been a drive towards legalization of the drug in the United States with twenty nine states and the District of Columbia having legalized it for medical and recreational purposes. It was also found by a study that there is a sharp increase in the use of marijuana across the country (Kerr, Lui & Ye, 2017). Major public health concerns are being prompted by this rise. This should however not be the case because marijuana has health benefits and should thus be legal.

Marijuana slows and stops the spread of cancer cells. A study found that Cannabidiol can turn off a gene called Id-1 and can therefore stop cancer. A 2007 report by researchers at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco also indicated that the spread of cancer may be prevented by Cannabidiol. In their lab experiment, the researchers were able to treat breast cancer cells with this component (Nawaz, 2017). The positive outcome of the experiment showed that Id-1 expression had been significantly decreased.

Marijuana also helps with pain and nausea reduction for people going through chemotherapy. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy suffer from severe pains, appetite loss, vomiting, and painful nausea. This can further complicate their already deteriorating health. Marijuana can be of help here by stirring up the appetite, decreasing nausea, and reducing pain (Nawaz, 2017). There are also other cannabinoid drugs used for the same purposes as approved by the FDA.

It was additionally shown by a 2003 study that the use of marijuana can control epileptic seizure. Synthetic marijuana and marijuana extracts were given to epileptic rats by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robert J. DeLorenzo. In about ten hours, the seizures had been stopped by the drugs (Nawaz, 2017). It was found that the seizures were controlled by the THC which bound the brain cells responsible for regulating relaxation and controlling excitability.

Some scientists claim that marijuana is addictive. According to them, one in ten marijuana users become addicted over time. They argue that if one stops using the drug abruptly, they may suffer from such withdrawal symptoms as anxiety and irritability (Barcott, 2015). However, the same argument could be applied to cigarette smoking, which is notably legal. There is need for more studies to be conducted into this claim being spread by opponents of marijuana legalization.

It is also argued that marijuana use decreases mental health. Those opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana like to cite studies that show that users of the drug suffer from memory loss and restricted blood flow to the brain. They also argue that users have higher chances of developing depression and schizophrenia. However, these assertions have not yet been completely ascertained by science (Barcott, 2015). The claim about depression and schizophrenia is particularly not clear because researchers are not sure whether the drug triggers the conditions or it is used by smokers to alleviate the symptoms.

It is further claimed that marijuana use damages the lungs more than cigarette smoking. It is presumed that marijuana smokers inhale the smoke more deeply into their lungs and let it stay there for longer. The likelihood of lung cancer, according to this argument, can be increased by this deeper, longer exposure to carcinogens. However, the argument touches not on the frequency of use between marijuana and cigarette smokers (Barcott, 2015). It neither takes into account such alternative administration methods as edibles, tinctures, and vaporizing.

Legalization of marijuana would lead to improved quality and safety control. Purchasing the drug off the street provides end users with no means of knowing what they are exactly getting. On the other hand, legalizing it would immediately lead to the creation of a set of standards for safety and quality control (Caulkins, Kilmer & Kleiman, 2016). This would certainly work in the marijuana industry just as it is working in the tobacco and alcohol industries. Users would be able to know what they exactly get in exchange for the money they offer. Additionally, there would be no risks of users taking in unknown substances mixed in marijuana sold on the streets.

Marijuana should also be legal because it has a medicinal value. It has been proven that medical marijuana treats a wide assortment of “untreatable” diseases and conditions. These include problems due to chemotherapy, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, migraines, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and Crohn’s disease (Caulkins, Kilmer & Kleiman, 2016). Public health would be improved and the healthcare system would experience less of a drain if medical cannabis products were made available to those suffering from the mentioned conditions. Consequently, more public funds would be available for such other public service initiatives as schools and roads.

Among the major arguments against marijuana legalization is often that legalization would yield an increase in drug-impaired driving. This argument holds that even now when the drug is yet to be fully legalized in the country, it has already been cited to be a major causal factor in highway deaths, injuries, and crushes. Among the surveys those arguing along this line might cite is one that was conducted back in 2010, revealing that of the participating weekend night-time drivers, “8.6 percent tested positive for marijuana or its metabolites” (“Why We Should Not Legalize Marijuana,” 2010). It was found in yet another study that 26.9% of drivers who were being attended to at a trauma center after sustaining serious injuries tested positive for the drug (“Why We Should Not Legalize Marijuana,” 2010). It however beats logic why marijuana is illegalized on the ground that it would increase drug-impaired driving while alcohol is legal but also significantly contributes to the same problem.

As the discussion reveals, legalization of marijuana would have many benefits. The drug is associated with the treatment of many serious illnesses including the dreaded cancer. Legalization would also save users from consuming unsafe marijuana sold by unscrupulous people. There are also other health conditions that can be controlled through the drug. Arguments against its legalization based on its effects on human health also lack sufficient scientific support. It is thus only safe that the drug is legalized in all states.

Barcott, B. (2015).  Weed the people: the future of legal marijuana in America . New York, NY: Time Home Entertainment.

Caulkins, J. P., Kilmer, B., & Kleiman, M. (2016).  Marijuana legalization: what everyone needs to know . New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Kerr, W., Lui, C., & Ye, Y. (2017). Trends and age, period and cohort effects for marijuana use prevalence in the 1984-2015 US National Alcohol Surveys.  Addiction ,  113 (3), 473-481.

Nawaz, H. (2017).  The debate between legalizing marijuana and its benefits for medical purposes: a pros and cons analysis . Munich, Germany: GRIN Verlag.

Why We Should Not Legalize Marijuana. (2010). In  CNBC . Retrieved June 25, 2020 from  https://www.cnbc.com/id/36267223 .

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Ross Douthat

Legalizing Marijuana Is a Big Mistake

A small skeleton set against a wood and marijuana pattern background.

By Ross Douthat

Opinion Columnist

Of all the ways to win a culture war, the smoothest is to just make the other side seem hopelessly uncool. So it’s been with the march of marijuana legalization: There have been moral arguments about the excesses of the drug war and medical arguments about the potential benefits of pot, but the vibe of the whole debate has pitted the chill against the uptight, the cool against the square, the relaxed future against the Principal Skinners of the past.

As support for legalization has climbed, commanding a two-thirds majority in recent polling , any contrary argument has come to feel a bit futile, and even modest cavils are couched in an apologetic and defensive style. Of course I don’t question the right to get high, but perhaps the pervasive smell of weed in our cities is a bit unfortunate …? I’m not a narc or anything, but maybe New York City doesn’t need quite so many unlicensed pot dealers …?

All of this means that it will take a long time for conventional wisdom to acknowledge the truth that seems readily apparent to squares like me: Marijuana legalization as we’ve done it so far has been a policy failure, a potential social disaster, a clear and evident mistake.

The best version of the square’s case is an essay by Charles Fain Lehman of the Manhattan Institute explaining his evolution from youthful libertarian to grown-up prohibitionist. It will not convince readers who come in with stringently libertarian presuppositions — who believe on high principle that consenting adults should be able to purchase, sell and enjoy almost any substance short of fentanyl and that no second-order social consequence can justify infringing on this right.

But Lehman explains in detail why the second-order effects of marijuana legalization have mostly vindicated the pessimists and skeptics. First, on the criminal justice front, the expectation that legalizing pot would help reduce America’s prison population by clearing out nonviolent offenders was always overdrawn, since marijuana convictions made up a small share of the incarceration rate even at its height. But Lehman argues that there is also no good evidence so far that legalization reduces racially discriminatory patterns of policing and arrests. In his view, cops often use marijuana as a pretext to search someone they suspect of a more serious crime, and they simply substitute some other pretext when the law changes, leaving arrest rates basically unchanged.

So legalization isn’t necessarily striking a great blow against mass incarceration or for racial justice. Nor is it doing great things for public health. There was hope, and some early evidence, that legal pot might substitute for opioid use, but some of the more recent data cuts the other way: A new paper published in The Journal of Health Economics found that “legal medical marijuana, particularly when available through retail dispensaries, is associated with higher opioid mortality.” There are therapeutic benefits to cannabis that justify its availability for prescription, but the evidence of its risks keeps increasing: This month brought a new paper strengthening the link between heavy pot use and the onset of schizophrenia in young men.

And the broad downside risks of marijuana, beyond extreme dangers like schizophrenia, remain as evident as ever: a form of personal degradation, of lost attention and performance and motivation, that isn’t mortally dangerous in the way of heroin but that can damage or derail an awful lot of human lives. Most casual pot smokers won’t have this experience, but the legalization era has seen a sharp increase in the number of noncasual users. Occasional use has risen substantially since 2008, but daily or near-daily use is up much more, with around 1‌‌6 million Americans , out of ‌more than 50 million users, now suffering from what ‌‌is termed marijuana use disorder.

In theory, there are technocratic responses to these unfortunate trends. In its ideal form, legalization would be accompanied by effective regulation and taxation, and as Lehman notes, on paper it should be possible to discourage addiction by raising taxes in the legal market, effectively nudging users toward more casual consumption.

In practice, it hasn’t worked that way. Because of all the years of prohibition, a mature and supple illegal marketplace already exists, ready to undercut whatever prices the legal market charges. So to make the legal marketplace successful and amenable to regulation, you would probably need much more enforcement against the illegal marketplace — which is difficult and expensive and, again, obviously uncool, in conflict with the good-vibrations spirit of the legalizers.

Then you have the extreme case of New York, where legal permitting has lagged while untold numbers of illegal shops are doing business unmolested by the police. But even in less-incompetent-seeming states and localities, a similar pattern persists. Lehman cites (and has reviewed ) the recent book “Can Legal Weed Win? The Blunt Realities of Cannabis Economics,” by Robin Goldstein and Daniel Sumner, which shows that unlicensed weed can cost as much as 50 percent less than the licensed variety. So the more you tax and regulate legal pot sales, the more you run the risk of having users just switch to the black market — and if you want the licensed market to crowd out the black market instead, you probably need to make legal pot as cheap as possible, which in turn undermines any effort to discourage chronic, life-altering abuse.

Thus policymakers who don’t want so much chronic use and personal degradation have two options. They can set out to design a much more effective (but necessarily expensive, complex and sometimes punitive) system of regulation and enforcement than what exists so far. Or they can reach for the blunt instrument of recriminalization, which Lehman prefers for its simplicity — with medical exceptions still carved out and with the possibility that possession could remain legal and that only production and distribution be prohibited.

I expect legalization to advance much further before either of these alternatives builds significant support. But eventually the culture will recognize that under the banner of personal choice, we’re running a general experiment in exploitation — addicting our more vulnerable neighbors to myriad pleasant-seeming vices, handing our children over to the social media dopamine machine and spreading degradation wherever casinos spring up and weed shops flourish.

With that realization, and only with that realization, will the squares get the hearing they deserve.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Twitter (@NYTOpinion) and Instagram .

Ross Douthat has been an Opinion columnist for The Times since 2009. He is the author of several books, most recently, “The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery.” @ DouthatNYT • Facebook

Marijuana activist and 'Detroit's resident radical' John Sinclair has died at 82

essays on legalizing weed

A champion of legal marijuana, counterculture hero and poet, John Sinclair died Tuesday morning at age 82.

His representative, Matt Lee, confirmed he died at Detroit Receiving Hospital of congestive heart failure.

Sinclair was an influential activist who was best known for his fight toward legalizing marijuana and for his role as band manager for the MC5. The Davison native was also a champion of civil rights and co-founder of the radical anti-racist group the White Panther Party.

"He was on the forefront of the marijuana movement, that's for sure," Lee said. "But I don't think people realized how knowledgeable he was in American music and he was a certified expert in all forms of American jazz and rhythm and blues."

More: The power of rock: 50 years after the John Sinclair Freedom Rally

Sinclair was famously arrested for felony possession of two joints in the late 1960s and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The arrest and sentence galvanized counterculture activists and many came to his defense with a 1971 freedom rally at Ann Arbor's Crisler Arena, headlined by John Lennon and Yoko Ono with performances by Bob Seger and Stevie Wonder. The 14-hour event drew 15,000 people and Sinclair was released from prison in Jackson three days later after serving fewer than three years.

Lennon, who had been arrested for marijuana possession himself, wrote a song for Sinclair, which appears on the John Lennon and Yoko Ono album "Some Time in New York City," released in 1972. “They gave him 10 for two/What else can Judge Colombo do/We gotta set him free,” Lennon's lyrics say.

The song "John Sinclair" was covered by 1990s rock band Blind Melon, which may have exposed a new generation of pot activists to Sinclair, including former Hash Bash organizer Nicholas Zettell, who heard the song at age 14. His dad took him to hear Sinclair speak in person a year later.

"That was a very inspirational event in my life that led me to passionately pursue cannabis legalization activism ... something about the injustice of his story lit a fire in me," said Zettell, who was inspired to go to school in Ann Arbor after learning about the Hash Bash and Michigan's medical and legal cannabis movement. "I wanted to keep the radical spirit thriving.

"I and many, many others owe a lot to John and his righteous ways."

In a Detroit News interview in 2021, on the 50th anniversary of the freedom rally for Sinclair, the activist said he was surprised it took Michigan so long to legalize marijuana.

"The truth prevailed," he said. "People didn't quit using it, you see? And more and more people got on the side of the felons and pretty soon they had to remove the felony. It just didn't make any sense."

Sinclair had been living in the Cass Corridor in recent years. He was able to see marijuana not only be legalized in his home state, but become so available that dispensaries dot the entire landscape from county to county.

"He thought it was great. He would say, 'We finally got the squares to come around,'" Lee said. "He was definitely on the cutting edge of counterculture. When you look at how other towns had their Abbie Hoffmans and their Jerry Rubins and those people, he was the Detroit equivalent to them. He was definitely Detroit's resident radical."

Sinclair was scheduled to speak Saturday at the annual Ann Arbor Hash Bash, a rally and festival that is held at noon the first Saturday of April on the University of Michigan Diag. The first Hash Bash happened in 1972, just months after Sinclair's historic freedom rally.

Instead, this Saturday's 53rd annual Hash Bash will partially be a de-facto remembrance event for Sinclair. Event coordinator Jamie Lowell said there was already a portion of the Bash earmarked to pay homage to other legalization activists who have recently died, including Rick Thompson, Brad Lemke, Gersh Avery and Rhory Gould. Several politicians and cannabis activists, including John's ex-wife, photographer Leni Sinclair, are scheduled to speak Saturday.

"He and Leni Sinclair, in my mind anyway, they kind of kicked off the modern movement that led to where we are now in Michigan and it's taken tens of thousands of people over decades to get here," said Lowell, adding that he was grateful Sinclair was able to speak at the Hash Bash in 2023, in spite of bad weather.

"He decided to stick it out anyway and offer up his wisdom and he did, and people really, really appreciated it. It was really special," he said. "A lot of people were there for the first time, so to hit a Hash Bash and get an address from John Sinclair is pretty cool."

Sinclair leaves behind a huge body of work in the form of books and recorded poems and essays backed by blues and jazz musicians. His last book, "Collected Poems 1964-2024," is currently at the printer, set to be released next week by M.L. Liebler at Ridgeway Press.

"John Sinclair was my hero poet in my youth, and then he became my good friend," said Liebler.

Sinclair is survived by his daughters Celia Sinclair and Sunny Sinclair, granddaughter Beyonce and his ex-wife, Leni Sinclair.

[email protected]

Minor and Major Arguments on Legalization of Marijuana Essay

Minor argument, major argument.

Conlusion : Marijuana should not be legalised.

Premises 1 : If marijuana were to be legalized it would be impossible to regulate its’ sell to, and use by the minors. It would set free, the bounds that exist on the transit of the drug, making it reach the intended and unintended places including possession by children. The use of the drug by minors on the other hand has devastating effects.

Premises 2 : legalization increases the use of the drug for non-medical reasons. Legalization increases the circulation in the society which means that those who are to use it for reactional purposes are also getting it at increased rates than when it is illegal. The increased use for non-medical reasons means more abuse in the society (White, 2009).

Premises 3: Marijuana use has long-term adverse medical effects. Legalization the legalization would mean that the country was allowing the citizens be exposed to these conditions when it was possible to control such through having it remain illegal (Vick, 2010).

Premise 4 : Even when used for medical reasons, Marijuana still has side effects which need to be avoided through not legalizing it. They include destabilized thinking.

Premise 5 : With legal marijuana, deviancy cases will increase. Marijuana has been directly related to crime. With it being legalized, the impact is that crime will rise.

Support: As Govier (2010) identifies, “Marijuana should not be legalized. That’s because sustained use of marijuana worsens a person’s memory, and nothing that adversely affects one’s mental abilities should be legalized”. According to Govier (2010), the medical harms of marijuana outweigh its medical benefits.

Lepore (1985) states, “Marijuana should not be legalized because of its side effects!!” According to Lepore (1985), “Marijuana weakens the adrenal glands”, and displaces a vitamin called L-glutamine. The loss of L-glutamine, according to Lepore (1985), makes one have a hampered thinking.

A survey by U.S Department of Justice (1992), identified that 80 percent of the American population believe “it was a bad idea” to legalize and only “14% said it was a good idea”. As Peck and Dolch (2001) state, Marijuana use in a case study caused a boy to, “ran away from home a couple of times, vandalize buildings, and stole things”. As the authors believe, such use distorts the normal behavior of the citizens thus a loss especially from the most active category of the youth.

Conlusion: marijuana should be legalized.

Premise 1 : Marijuana remaining illegal is against the constitutional rights of people. According to the constitution, citizen posses the right to chose what they do as liberty bestowed on them by the constitution. Not legalizing it makes it that the government was controlling their liberty thus defining what they can do not do with their own lives.

Premise 2: Some people are prescribed to use marijuana as a medication to their medical conditions. Making marijuana illegal is denying them a right to the use of this substance as a medicine. This is inhumane because for some the unavailability of marijuana due to its being illegal means they have to suffer pains (Cantor & Berkowitz, 1984).

Premise 3: Having marijuana as illegal is an act of discrimination. It discriminates the minority who are the citizens and users of the drug. This discrimination leads to branding and name calling on this category and thus an act which continues and fuels deviancy in society.

Premise 4: Marijuana being illegal causes legal battles which lead to waste of security and law enforcement resources. With this quality, the police units are engaged in constant struggles called drug wars. This reduces the number of police who can be engaged in other meaningful security activities aimed at protecting citizens.

Support: Rosenthal, Kubby and Newhart (2003) state, “ the damage to the mental health of millions of Americans as a result of arrest, incarceration, loss of property, and humiliation are far more serious than any medical damage ever reported from the use of marijuana” as Rosenthal, Kubby and Newhart (2003) believe, marijuana’s use for medical reasons is a valid reason why it has to be legalized because for these categories, denying them through having it illegal is like denying then a drug they cannot live without.

As Rosenthal, Kubby and Newhart (2003) believe too, the millions who depend on marijuana for medical and non-medical reasons should not be made to suffer further loses through the court procedures they are put to.

Study done by Flowers (1999) reveled that, “1 in 10 respondents believed use of marijuana should be legal. Nearly 49 percent felt that marijuana should be legal by prescription for medical purposes, while over 13 percent believed marijuana use should be decriminalized”

Cantor, N., & Berkowitz, L. (1984). Theorizing in social psychology: Special topics . Orlando: Academic Press.

Flowers, R. B. (1999). Drugs, alcohol and criminality in American society . Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Govier, T. (2010). A practical study of argument . Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Lepore, D. (1985). The ultimate healing system: Breakthrough in nutrition, Kinesiology and holistic healing techniques: course manual . Pleasant Grove, Utah: Woodland Pub.

Rosenthal, E., Kubby, S., & Newhart, S. (2003). Why marijuana should be legal . Philadelphia: Running Press.

U.S Department of Justice (1992). Drugs, Crime, and the Justice System . New York: DIANE Publishing.

Peck, D. L., & Dolch, N. A. (2001). Extraordinary behavior: A case study approach to understanding social problems . Westport, Conn: Praeger.

Vick, D. (2010). Drugs & Alcohol in the 21st Century: Theory, Behavior, & Policy . NY: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

White, J. E. (2009). Contemporary moral problems . Australia: Thomson Wadsworth.

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John Sinclair, Former MC5 Manager and Counterculture Activist, Dies at 82

By A.D. Amorosi

A.D. Amorosi

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John Sinclair

John Sinclair, the counterculture activist and former MC5 manager who helped define that proto-punk ensemble’s radical politics, died on Tuesday at 82.

Sinclair’s death from congestive heart failure at the Detroit Receiving Hospital was first reported by the Detroit News and confirmed by a representative for his family.

“Sinclair is one of those ‘a lot of things to a lot of people’ kind of guys,” Kramer told Billboard in 2018. “He has a lot of passions, a lot of interests, a lot of causes that he maintains … Not always a saint or the easiest guy to get along with, and sometimes we hated him. But I would say he was a mentor and a friend.” It was through the MC5 that Sinclair found his greatest fame. In 1966, the Motor City rock band got a regular gig at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom where they met Sinclair – a radical political writer and White Panther Party leader nicknamed the “King of the Hippies” – and by the next year made him the group’s manager. In turn, Sinclair made them into the official house band of the White Panthers and fueled their radical politics. After bringing the MC5 to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago (where they became the only band to perform there before police broke up the massive anti-Vietnam war rally) Sinclair got the band signed to Elektra for its 1969’s live album debut, “Kick Out the Jams.” “He was as a very important part in what the MC5 became,” Kramer said. John Sinclair was born in Flint, Michigan on October 2, 1941. After enrolling at Albion College in 1960, he dropped out during freshman year. When he attended the Flint College of the University of Michigan, he became part of the university’s school newspaper, The Word , with his interest in writing and publishing acting as clear goals for his future.

After his college graduation in 1964, Sinclair began work as a writer for the jazz magazine DownBeat, and in 1965, delved into poetry, winning high marks with his reading at the now-legendary Berkeley Poetry Conference. By 1967, he and his wife, Leni Sinclair, founded the underground newspaper, the Ann Arbor Sun . Along with becoming a White Panther Party leader around this same time, Sinclair’s building advocacy of marijuana began to get him in trouble. With two prior convictions for marijuana possession to his name, Sinclair was arrested in 1969 for possession of two joints (he tried to sell them to an undercover police officer) and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The severity of the sentence led many in the music world to rally on his behalf. At the Woodstock festival that summer, Yippie honcho Abbie Hoffman was thrown off the stage by Pete Townshend for attempting to give a speech about Sinclair during the Who’s set (the group had no problem with Sinclair, and in fact singer Roger Daltrey later often wore a “Free John Sinclair t-shirt; the issue was over interrupting their set). And not only did John Lennon record his song, “John Sinclair” for his and Yoko Ono’s 1972 album, “Some Time in New York City,” the couple, along with Detroit natives Bob Seger and Stevie Wonder, attended a 1971 freedom rally in Ann Arbor in solidarity with Sinclair. Sinclair was released from prison two days after the rally.

“John was on the forefront of the marijuana movement,” Matt Lee told The Detroit News . “But I don’t think people realized how knowledgeable he was in American music and he was a certified expert in all forms of American jazz and rhythm and blues.”

Along with releasing albums, reading poetry and writing essays on cannabis, he created the John Sinclair Foundation in 2004, an Amsterdam-based, non-profit organization to ensure the preservation and presentation of all of his work in the arts, letters, and cannabis legalization efforts.

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