Legalization of Marijuana and Drug Use Among Teenagers

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Introduction

Marijuana is a dangerous drug especially when it is misused. It is the most widely used illegal drug in the United States of America. Its source is the cannabis Sativa plant from which flowers, leaves, and stems are mixed to make up the drug. Just like any other drug, it has some side effects on the consumer’s health. For instance, it causes difficulty in thinking hence affecting problem-solving, affecting memory and learning, and leading to poor coordination and distorted perception. It however has positive medical effects, for instance, in its use in cancer chemotherapy. There has been heated debate on the concept of legalization of marijuana especially because it has got both positive and negative effects on an individual’s body. Another contentious issue is the effect of the legalization of marijuana on drug use among US teenagers. This piece of work gives a critical analysis of the effect of the legalization of marijuana and its effect on the rate of drug use among teenagers in the United States of America. This will be derived through looking at what other people/ authors have said regarding the main issue of discussion and their relationship to the research question and thesis statement.

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Thesis Statement

The legalization of marijuana in America would decrease the rate of drug use among United States teenagers. This is as opposed to the idea that legalization of marijuana for any reason sends a wrong message to the young people; that they are free to use it in any manner.

Legalization of Marijuana and drug use among teenagers in the United States

The legalization of marijuana in the United States entails granting the American people permission to legally grow, trade, and even ingest marijuana. It is a concept that has been received with a lot of controversy with some parties supporting it while others are completely against it. There have been arguments that have been put forward concerning why drugs such as marijuana should be legalized as well as those opposing its legalization.

Some of the arguments for the legalization of marijuana include the fact that the drug is not as harmful as tobacco or even alcohol especially when taken in moderate quantities and the use of these two substances are legal despite their harm. Marijuana is also an essential drug in respect to the medical benefits accrued to it for instance in diseases like glaucoma, HIV AIDS, and cancer, especially in chemotherapy sessions. Kick and Disinformation Company argues that the step towards prohibiting marijuana in most states in America has also exacerbated the indulgence in criminal activities as people find their ways towards the use and trade in marijuana, which could be avoided through legalization and campaign for its proper use. Marijuana is also a very important source of income in the United States and the act of legalizing it would therefore result in more tax revenues (Kick and Disinformation Company 122).

Opponents of the legalization of marijuana base their arguments on the cons of marijuana. They view anything to do with marijuana use as evil; for instance, the perception that the use of marijuana is immoral. This is especially when based on religious and ethical grounds and hence its legalization is viewed to be a promotion of immorality and bad behavior. According to Ruschmann (22), the use of marijuana is also considered to be an initial step towards the use and addiction to other harder drugs like cocaine and heroin and therefore its legalization is deemed to be an enhancement towards the use of all other drugs. The use of marijuana through smoking is also not only harmful to the user but also to the others who may inhale the smoke in the surrounding hence it is considered very harmful to the entire society. Another argument against the legalization of marijuana is the belief that it would increase the level of crime as those who are involved in the illegal business of marijuana are linked with other crimes and their imprisonment would reduce the chances for criminal activities.

According to Peet (11), people have been having a wrong notion on the concept of legalization of marijuana and the effect it ought to have on drug use especially among teenagers. Peet asserts that even though people usually have the belief that drug use would increase at a high rate in case drugs were made more freely available through policies such as legalization or decriminalization, it is really difficult to either support or dispute the notion. This is because there is little hand evidence available. However, research shows that drug use patterns and rates are not a function of drug policy but rather a function of social forces that are usually broader and more complex. This argument has been reached upon having a critical analysis of cross-national comparisons.

In a study carried out by MacCoun and Reuter entailing the use of marijuana within the Netherlands, the results were contentious. The study concentrated on finding out whether increased availability and access of pot, which was made possible under the regulation passed by the Dutch government through the coffee shop policy, resulted in increased pot use or not. Although the results showed that there was an increase in use following the opening of the coffee shops, it was not automatic. Nonetheless, the researchers found out that the increase in drug use was not caused by the change in the law but rather due to commercialization. This is the same case with the legalization of marijuana in the United States. A considerably increased rate of use has been experienced due to the commercialization of cannabis that is in turn influenced by the legalization policy. There is too much commercialization in the United States of America. All in all, a conclusion that can be made is that drug policies including those that entail legalization generally have limited impact when it comes to the concept of drug use levels (Peet 12).

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The United States drug enforcement administration (par 1) gives a contradicting answer to the research question of this assignment. This, therefore, disputes the thesis statement by showing that the legalization of drugs has a high possibility of increasing the use and high levels of addiction. This argument has been reached because the legalization of different drugs has been tried before and had negative results, that is, it failed. Those parties that have been supporting the legalization of marijuana and other drugs have settled on the argument that in the event of legalizing the illegal drugs, there would be less consumption of the drugs, and addiction to the drugs would also decrease. The legalization of drugs such as marijuana has been deemed to have the effect of making people have the drugs at a moderate rate as well as making them choose not to use the drugs at all as opposed to when the drugs remain to be illegal. This can be compared to the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes where due to unlimited access, people have reduced their rates of consumption and others decided to even abstain from them. However, despite this argument, it is clear that a lot of negative effects have been attributed to alcoholism and smoking tobacco.

According to the United States drug enforcement administration (par 2), periods that are characterized by lenient controls are associated with more drug abuse, and those periods that have tight controls are linked to less drug abuse. A good example that has been given to illustrate the fact that legalization of drugs could lead to an increased level of drug use and addiction is the Alaska experiment and how it failed. In 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court asserted that the state could not in any way interfere with the possession of marijuana by an adult as long as it was meant for personal consumption in one’s place of residence. This did not bear positive results. Even though the ruling covered only those individuals of 19 and above years of age, teenagers were among those who were involved with the increased use of marijuana. According to a 1988 University of Alaska study, the state’s 12 to 17-year-olds used marijuana at more than twice the national average for their age group” United States drug enforcement administration (par 7). This was an aspect that was received with a lot of concern to an extent that residents in Alaska voted for the decriminalization of marijuana and its possession in 1990. This is an indication that the people believed that the legalization of marijuana led to increased use and addiction to the drug. The increased use was also considered to be a too expensive concept to bear and hence the need to do away with the legalization policy. This observation indicates that the legalization of marijuana would increase the rate of drug use among teenagers in the United States of America. This contradicts the thesis statement.

A study carried out by Lowinson, Ruiz, and Millman (1393) also contradicts the thesis statement and indicates that the legalization of marijuana would increase the rate of drug use and addiction among teenagers in the United States of America. After some states decided to decriminalize marijuana in 1979, coupled with the Carter administration’s consideration of federal decriminalization, there was a considerable increase in the use of marijuana among teenagers. In 1979, it was reported that about 51 percent of 12th graders admitted the fact that they were involved in the active consumption of marijuana in the last year. However, with the imposition of tougher laws and enhanced concentration that was given to the risks associated with drug abuse, a lot of improvement was observed. For instance, in 1979, a decline of 57 percent was observed. This is a clear indication that the legalization of drugs could lead to an increased rate of use and addiction among teenagers and adults.

Portugal’s decriminalization policy is another good example that can help in answering this assignment’s research question and critically analyze the thesis statement. Vastag (par 1) asserts that five years after the enforcement and implementation of the Portugal’s drug decriminalization policy, considerable positive results were attained. There was a decrease in the use of drugs among adults as well as the teenagers. In the year 2001, the Portuguese government decided to curb the social problems that were being faced by its population. This included the various issues that were associated with drug abuse particularly HIV deaths. One means that was deemed appropriate was the decriminalization of the use and possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroine among other illicit street drugs. The decriminalization of these drugs was based on the fact that the concept of concentrating on jailing and punishment of those involved with drug possession and use was not a good solution.

To curb the social problems and drug use in particular, it was considered that focusing on prevention and treatment measures would produce excellent results. This is so because the issue of punishment tends to nurture a rebellious attitude among those involved and thus instead of decreasing the rate of drug abuse, it is associated with exactly the opposite, a rise in the rate of abuse. Prevention and treatment of the individuals involved with the life threatening activities is deemed to play a critical role in decreasing the number of people who died from the infections that resulted from drugs and their influence. Drugs use is associated with making people lose some form of control where they tend to indulge in inappropriate behavior, for instance, having many sexual partners without the care to protect themselves. This therefore exposes them to various dangers such as those of contracting sexually transmitted diseases like HIV Aids.

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After the introduction of the decriminalization policy in Portugal, considerable number of positive results was achieved. Research indicates that the number of deaths that were associated with street drug abuse declined greatly. After five years, the deaths dropped from 400 to 290 every year. Consequently, the number of the HIV cases that were related to the use of dirty and infected needles that were used in the injection of illegal substances such as heroine, marijuana, and cocaine decreased from approximately 1,400 in the year 2000 to about 400 in 2006. This data was made available in a report that was released by the Cato Institute, which is a well known body in Washington, DC Vastag (par 4).

This is enough justification that legalization of marijuana could not increase the rate of drug use among teenagers in the United States of America. Instead of enforcement policies that are aimed at criminalizing drug use and possession, it is advisable that more effective strategies that will allow the individuals make informed decisions are implemented. Some of them include putting the addicts into treatment or rehabilitation centers rather than prisons. This will ensure that the drug addicts are able to learn on ways of controlling their drug usage. Proper measures such as education programs aimed at making those involved with drug use be aware of the damages caused by drugs as well as the benefits they would enjoy as a result of staying away from drugs should be emphasized.

A study carried out by Melina indicates that legalization of drugs such as marijuana does not in any way increase the rate of use and addiction of drugs among adults and teenagers. The research indicated that legalized medical pot does not raise the rate of teen use. This study was based on Rhode Island. Melina (par 1) asserts that legalization of marijuana in Rhode Island did not lead to an increase in illegal use of the drug among the youths in the state.

Conclusion

From the above discussion, it is evident that the concept of legalization of marijuana has been very contentious with various parties having varying perceptions. Legalization of marijuana would decrease drug use among teenagers in the United States. The reason for legalization of Marijuana in some states and not in others is the fact that different states view the use of marijuana differently, for instance, those that have recognized its essence in medical field for example in the chemotherapy of various diseases like California support its legalization. Although it causes difficulty in thinking and hence affecting problem solving, affects the memory and learning, and leads to poor coordination and distorted perception, I consider the legalization of marijuana to be a positive step as its prohibition entails intrusion of personal freedom and just like any other substance it is only harmful when it is not taken in moderation. The pros of legalizing marijuana also outweigh the cons and the understanding of the benefits associated with marijuana is likely to change the mind of those opposing it. prohibition will also not limit marijuana use and therefore there should be strategies towards its legalization combined with campaigns aimed at enlightening the people on the effects of its use.

Works Cited

Kick, Russell, and Disinformation Company. Everything you know is wrong: the Disinformation guide to secrets and lies. London: Disinformation Company, 2002. Print

Lowinson, Joyce, Ruiz, Pedro, and Millman Robert. Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook. 4th Ed. UK: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2005. Print

Melina, Remy. “Legalized Medical Pot Doesn’t Spur Teen Use, Study Finds.” Myhealthnewsdaily, 2011. Web.

Peet, Preston. Under the influence: the disinformation guide to drugs. New York: The Disinformation Company, 2004. Print

Ruschmann, Paul. Legalizing Marijuana. New York: InfoBase publishing, 2004. Print

United States drug enforcement administration. “Fact 6: Legalization of Drugs will lead to Increased Use and Increased Levels of Addiction. Legalization has been tried before, and failed miserably.” Justice. gov, 2011. Web.

Vastag, Brian. “5 Years After: Portugal’s Drug Decriminalization Policy Shows Positive Results.” Scientific American, 2009. Web.

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