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Legalization of Marijuana


To legalize or not to legalize marijuana is rather challenging question. The modern society is transforming, but it is hardly ready for such kind of radical changes. Different members of society have their own concerns about the policy of marijuana legislation. We will apply a functionalist approach from the sociological perspective. In terms of this perspective it is explored whether a modern society is changing or not in a dynamic way. There is a need to find a perfect balance among different members of the society in order to find out the reliability of marijuana legislation. On behalf of the government, the process of marijuana legislation would result in additional costs, which may be used in different fields of business, manufacturing, payment for public facilities etc. Therefore, the government is focused on economic benefits of the marijuana legislation. On behalf of the rest of the society, legislation of marijuana may be considered from both negative and positive perspectives. On the one hand, it will be easier for people to relax after job and forget about their problems. On the other hand, it is necessary for people to follow legal principles and moral norms, where marijuana is beyond the limits.


A.B. 390 Political, Economic, and Social Concerns

On February 23, 2009 the Assembly Member Tom Ammiano presented A.B. 390. It is a potential marijuana legislation law. From economic perspective, tax on marijuana retention, cultivation etc. would benefit much the economy of the country. On the other hand, this law regulates punishment and control over individuals aged less than 21 years old and forbid public smoking of marijuana or employees’ smoking of marijuana at work.

From the functionalist perspective, different layers of the society reflect their incompatible ideas on this policy: those, who argue with this policy, make an emphasis on a negative influence on health. Those, who support this policy, as a rule, underline their compliance with the “soft approach” of Obama’s Government (Romano 2007). The one common point for both opponents and proponents of the policy is that under conditions of the modern crisis. It is very important to find out additional sources of money and tax imposed on marijuana is a perfect alternative. Very often this approach is criticized by the opponents of the policy.

Moreover, from the functionalist perspective it is claimed that there will be less violence in case marijuana is legalized. There is an evident decrease of gang violence, as well. Such positive shifts cannot remain unmentioned for the society. We should also underline that both economic and environmental concerns are taken into account in terms of marijuana legislation: “A.B. 390 “would generate much needed revenue for the state; … end the environmental damage to our public lands from illicit crops, and improve public safety by redirecting law enforcement efforts to more serious crimes” (AB 390).

Social concerns of the policy in terms of functionalist approach

In one way or another, social concerns very often remain unmentioned in the context of marijuana legislation. It can be explained by a desire of the modern society to have more money, power, and in the name of that to sacrifice their individual or social moral norms. Ammiano’s bill appeals for the public response. It triggers those concerns, which were usually neglected by the society. This fact can be explained by a public support of marijuana legislation in the media.

Both, Mexican drug cartels and illegal consumption and arresting for it of the individuals are criticized on TV. It is evident, that it is better to legalize marijuana, because prohibition is “far from reducing crime, prohibition has fostered gangsterism on a scale that the world has never seen before” (Krasny 94).

As we have already mentioned, in terms of functionalist approach, there are different sociological perspectives on marijuana legislation. The proponents of this policy are united in the organization named NORML (Bellville 2009). They compare retail trade of marijuana with retail trade of wine. On the one hand, they are much more concerned about economic implications of the policy of legislation. They are focused on ecological concerns, as well. Therefore, they consider that legalization of marijuana would benefit for the society and satisfy of their economic needs, and health issues. Personal choice to buy or not to buy marijuana depends on every member of the society separately. It should be noted that the legislation of marijuana should not be considered as a promotion of this substance usage, but as a hidden policy, which makes a forbidden fruit available for those who are older than 21 years old.

There are also people, who are strictly argued with this policy. They do not think that there are possible economic benefits of marijuana legislation. John Lovell, a lobbyist for the California Police Officers’ Association, claims that such considerations about economic benefits are more invented than true (Krasny 96). He even claims that in order to implement this policy, it will take the government to spend additional costs.

We can see that the legislation of marijuana is considered from different perspectives and each of these perspectives is justified. It is necessary to give an objective evaluation of this case. First of all, it is possible to claim that in the global context of social benefits, the level of drug dealers and drug cartels will decrease, because there will be no need in them. Accordingly to the possible low changes, every individual who is more than 21 years old will be able to buy marijuana legally. The second concern is that we will have a way to free our minds after a hard working day. The third benefit is that in the philosophical context the discussion of the legislation of marijuana may be as follows: libertarians are narcissistic, because they do not take into account concerns of other people and legalization of drugs, and alcohol are criticized, because these two are considered to be a social evil. Therefore, we have a deal with a “neo-prohibitionist theory”, where mind stimulants are positioned as social evils and are initially prohibited.

Under conditions of a functionalist perspective, this policy should be considered in terms of a positive social policy. The first and foremost concern of any policy developed by the government is to benefit for the society. Yes, there are negative effects of marijuana consumption, but tobacco and alcohol are not like honey for our organisms, as well…
There is a need to create a conglomerate of economists, doctors, sociologists, and scientists in the name of reliable and sound considerations about marijuana policy legislation. There is a need to find a perfect balance between consumption of a forbidden fruit of marijuana or regulate the levels of consumption of this damaging and hazardous element for health.

There are two basic pillars to base this policy upon: these are social justice and human well-being. In the name of the first basic pillar, A.B.390 can serve as a preventive factor of an everlasting “war on drugs”. It means that sociologists are focused about the overconsumption of marijuana by young people and adults.

A problem of racial bias can be also regulated in case of marijuana legislation. It means that marijuana consumption/selling/production will not be associated with representatives of ethnic minorities anymore. In accordance with statistical data, Afro-Americans consume marijuana less than Americans, but they are often blamed for marijuana consumption (Mauer 2009). Therefore, in terms of sociological perspective in general and functionalist approach in particular, there are different attitudes in the society concerning the issue of marijuana legislation. In order to put up the controversies among opponents and proponents of the policy, it is relevant to take into account Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We can talk about implications of humanistic psychology in terms of this hierarchy of needs.


There is no need to smoke marijuana in order to satisfy our basic needs. Safety needs can be correlated with marijuana smoking, because they would feel easier and safer in that case. Psychological needs are more often satisfied in the process of marijuana smoking. The ideas of self-actualization and peak experiences are not correlated with marijuana smoking, as well.


Therefore, in the sociological context marijuana legislation serves for satisfaction of individual’s safety needs and psychological concerns of an individual. Marijuana would benefit for health in case it is prescribed with the medical purpose. Thus, in order to consider either positive or negative implications of marijuana smoking, it is better to concentrate on the needs of an individual and his own concerns. Moreover, it is relevant to take into account economic, ecological, and social factors in order to make the only one right decision and to position marijuana legislation as a socially beneficial policy. It is desirable to consider different pro and contra factors and find out the golden mean for further policy implementation. Functionalist approach implies taking into account opinions of different members of the society in the name of a common social good.

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