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The last 4 decades have been characterized by heated debates regarding the potential benefits to society associated with the legalization of marijuana. This resulted in a number of states modifying their marijuana laws to allow some form of marijuana use. As of 2014, 23 states including the District of Columbia had passed laws that legalized the use of marijuana in certain ways.
Recreational use of marijuana had been legalized in four states, more states are in the process of legalizing the use of recreational marijuana. In addition, some states have removed criminal penalties associated with the possession and use of small quantities of marijuana. A trend that can be observed is that many states are in the process of modifying their marijuana laws to be more lenient (Austin 45). However, federal law maintains that transporting, cultivating, selling and using marijuana is illegal; nevertheless, the federal government has given state governments the discretion to enact laws to legalize recreational or medical use of marijuana. This paper argues against the legalization of marijuana and presents arguments and evidence supporting the illegalization of marijuana. There will be maintained that legalization of marijuana serves to undermine the prevention efforts undertaken by anti-drug movements throughout the United States.
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The first reason why marijuana should remain illegal relates the addictive nature of the drug. Marijuana is classified as an addictive Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) (Johnston, O'Malley and Bachman 80). In addition, statistics show that marijuana remains the most extensively abused illicit substance in the United States among both adults and young people. For instance, it has been reported that 42 percent of high school seniors in the United States have once tried marijuana, with 20.6 percent indicating marijuana use during the last month. In addition, the recent years have shown an increase in the treatment rates for those addicted to marijuana.
The second reason for the illegalization of marijuana stems from the fact that marijuana addiction starts at adolescence; therefore, preventing first use is crucial. Marijuana addiction has been labelled a pediatric onset disease, with the mean age of first use in the United States being 17.8 years. In addition, it has been reported that about 61.8 percent of marijuana users started before reaching 18 years. Moreover, there are some communities across the United States having a relatively lower marijuana initiation age, usually as low as 12-13 years (Johnston, O'Malley and Bachman 85). Research has established that marijuana use at a lower age is detrimental to young people in the sense that it increases the risk of developing marijuana addiction and dependency in the course of adults and increases the chances of substance abuse (Austin 56).
Marijuana should also be illegalized on grounds that marijuana use negatively affects brain development. Despite the fact that those supporting the legalization of marijuana claim that using marijuana does not affect brain function and development, scientific evidence has been presented suggesting that smoking marijuana has an effect on the development of prefrontal cortex – an area of the brain that develops last. Smoking marijuana has also been found to disturb the brain function required for behavior control, judgment, learning, memory and motivation (Austin 56).
Marijuana should also be illegalized because its use has been associated with suicidal thoughts, gang involvement and carrying a firearm. Despite the fact that those supporting the legalization of marijuana claim that marijuana is not related to violent behavior and that it results in a mellow mood, empirical evidence has suggested a relationship between adolescents smoking marijuana and their gang involvement as well as suicidal thoughts. For instance, a survey in high school students reported that 64 percent of students who brought a gun to school used marijuana. The survey also found that 51.8 percent of those involved in gang reported using marijuana, whereas 45.4% with suicidal thoughts also reported using marijuana (Johnston, O'Malley and Bachman 86).
In conclusion, there is vast evidence suggesting the dangers associated with the legalization of marijuana. Such a government action will increase rates of marijuana addiction, the likelihood of adolescents developing substance abuse during adulthood, affect brain function, and increase the incidences of violent crime among others. A crucial step in reducing new marijuana initiates can be done by illegalizing marijuana.
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