The legalization of marijuana has been a controversial issue within the U.S. due to the negative connotations associated with its use. Prior to the process behind the decriminalization of marijuana that started in Oregon by 1973, the mere possession of small quantities of marijuana was considered as being on par with possessing cocaine, heroin or other types of illegal narcotics (Pacula 7). It was only during the mid 1970s that possession of small quantities not exceeding certain amounts (2.5 to 4 ounces) became relatively minor offenses or in some cases became perfectly legal (ex: Alaska, Maine, California, etc.) (Pacula 9).
Though access to marijuana at the present has become increasingly widespread as seen in the trend in its legalized use for medical maladies (ex: California legalized its use in 1996) and for recreational use in Alaska and Oregon, the fact remains that various states have been hesitant in its legalization (Pacula 11). This is despite the fact that various studies have shown its medical properties as well as the obvious lack of sudden upsurges in crime that were initially feared as being one of the main reasons why marijuana should not be legalized at all.
The current political climate surrounding marijuana legalization is rife with debates for and against its legalization yet the current trend has shown a marked increase in the amount of states that have legalized it for medical purposes as well as a slow orientation towards it acceptance for recreational purposes (Pacula 22). As such, this paper will focus on the argument of legalizing marijuana in New York based on facts that highlight both the potential positive and negative effects of its legalization. It is anticipated that through this paper, a succinct explanation can be developed which would help to support marijuana’s legalization in New York.
Positive Effects of Marijuana Legalization
One of the most obvious positive benefits for marijuana legalization comes in the form of the medical benefits that marijuana has. Based on the work of Palamar, it was noted that marijuana was a natural method of pain relief, helped elderly individuals that suffered from various mental disorders, and is considered a natural means for combating the early onset symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s (Palamar 352).
In fact, Palamar indicates that when presented with the option for chemically induced medication for individuals suffering from aches and pains due to surgery or other types of afflictions, or the use of marijuana, Palamar recommends that marijuana be utilized since it does not have the same risk that taking Vicadin or Prolax has on the body (Palamar 356).
Decrease in the Amount of Petty Arrests
McGuire states that arrests associated with the possession of marijuana in minor amounts prior to its legalization and associated medical use in certain states often resulted in incarcerations of several months to several years. The main issue with this was due to the way in which marijuana was categorized with the likes of cocaine, LSD, heroin and other highly illegal narcotics (McGuire 76).
This categorization is actually highly flawed since marijuana neither possesses the highly addictive nature of these types of narcotics nor does it possess the same level of hallucinogenic properties. In fact, marijuana actually helps to calm an individual down and has been recommended for individuals that are suffering from insomnia or certain types of psychological mania resulting in them becoming extremely overactive. When taking these facts into consideration, it can be seen that given the properties of marijuana it should not be considered as something as physically or psychologically damaging as some of the aforementioned narcotics (McGuire 77).
As such, arrests associated with its possession merely places an undue burden on the justice system as well as causes people that are innocent to go to jail for minor misconducts. Based on current trends in marijuana legalization, it is likely that it will be classified under the same restrictions as cigarettes and alcohol, the possession of which is not a significant breach of the law.
After examining the positive effects of marijuana legalization, the main though that can be derived from the arguments presented is that New York would greatly benefit from such an act. It would help in numerous medical cases as well as reduce the burden that the police department and jails would have when it comes to arrests associated with small amounts of marijuana possession.
Potential Negative Effects
Aside from the positive effects, there are also the negative effects to take into consideration when it comes to marijuana legalization in New York. The first of these potential negative effects is the manner in which marijuana consumption could influence children or young adults. It is important to note that the act of smoking is not something that is inherent in an individual’s personality; rather, it is a form of learned behavior that is acquired through observance and ending with action.
In fact, it was observed that children that had parents who smoked were more at risk in becoming smokers themselves as compared to children from families with no smokers whatsoever (Marijuana and the Controlled Substances Act 2). As such, observance of marijuana consumption via smoking may lead to children developing the notion that smoking marijuana is something they should emulate. This leads to the potential of them smoking marijuana at an early age due to the presence of marijuana in the household which they may be able to access later on.
Another potential negative effect of marijuana legalization is how people could abuse its consumption the same way they do when it comes to alcohol and cigarettes. While marijuana is not addictive, its effects do result in impaired judgment, slower body movement as well as some slight psychologically calming effects which adversely impacts an individual’s capacity to respond to a variety of situations (Marijuana and the Controlled Substances Act 5).
This presents itself as a significant issue since an individual that is performing an activity that requires proper hand-eye coordination as well as adequate cognition (ex: driving) could become a danger to others as well as themselves should they attempt to perform such an activity while under the influence of marijuana. Such a situation is quite common to individuals that imbibe significant amount of alcohol and, as such, there is a significant amount of precedent when it comes to dealing with such issues; however, adding to the amount of deaths due to intoxication is still worrisome nonetheless.
After examining arguments both for and against the legalization of marijuana in New York, it can be seen that the pros far outweigh the cons. Based on the benefit it would have on society alone, the legalization of marijuana in New York would result in a considerable amount of social good both from a medicinal and a judicial standpoint.
“Marijuana and the Controlled Substances Act.” Congressional Digest 93.8 (2014):2-6. Print.
McGuire, Jo. “What Are The Costs Associated With Marijuana Legalization?.” Occupational Health & Safety 83.9 (2014): 74-78. Print
Pacula, Rosalie. “Assessing The Effects Of Medical Marijuana Laws On Marijuana Use: The Devil Is In The Details.” Journal Of Policy Analysis & Management 34.1 (2015): 7-31. Print.
Palamar, Joseph J. “An Examination Of Opinions Toward Marijuana Policies Among High School Seniors In The United States.” Journal Of Psychoactive Drugs 46.5 (2014): 351-361. Print.