The legalization of marijuana has been a hot topic over the last few years after the passage of Colorado’s Proposition 64. This legalized recreational use of the drug for adults 21 and over in 2012. Since then, a total of eight states, including neighboring state Massachusetts, have made marijuana legal. According to Citizen’s Court, state laws that legalize marijuana eliminate all criminal penalties for possession or usage of the drug for solely recreational purposes. This differs from the decriminalization of marijuana, as decriminalization only reduces penalties for a limited quantity of the drug.
Recreational marijuana is currently illegal in New Hampshire, although the use of medical marijuana is permitted for certain conditions, including cancer and severe chronic pain. Though the state has decriminalized the drug for limited amounts—up to three quarters of an ounce—getting caught with anything larger than that still means hefty fines and even jail time. Marijuana is a particularly tricky slope, as there are many benefits, but equally as many concerns.
Legalizing marijuana could potentially give adults more freedom of choice with a drug that is often harmless. In a new report published in Scientific Reports where the recreational use of ten drugs were tested, including marijuana, methadone, alcohol, tobacco and heroine, marijuana was found to be, by far, the safest. According to NBC, the study shows that the dangers of marijuana “may have been overestimated in the past,” while also pointing out that the risk of alcohol has been “commonly underestimated,” researchers from the study stated.
Legalization could also help free up law enforcement officers. According to a study conducted by the FBI, police make a marijuana-related arrested every fifty-one seconds. These arrests take up a lot of an officer’s time, because it includes arresting them, driving them back to the police station, and booking them, to say the least. Legalization of the drug could help to free up more of the police force, getting them to focus and respond more quickly to other crimes.
However, it’s not as easy as it seems. There are some negative health benefits associated with marijuana usage—legalizing the drug could cause an increase in the current drug crisis. Smoking marijuana, even infrequently, can cause heavy coughing. Research done by the company Very Well Mind has shown that frequent marijuana smokers can suffer from some of the same health risks as chronic smokers, such as more frequent chest infections, daily cough, phlegm production and an increased risk of serious lung infections.
Additionally, driving while under the influence of marijuana is highly dangerous. However, the substance is not as easy to detect as a Blood Alcohol Level, making enforcement of a law preventing individuals from driving under its influences hard to enforce. According to The Denver Post, fatal crashes in Colorado—a state that has legalized the substance—have risen substantially since 2012. A number of those involved in these accidents have been tested positive for marijuana.
As we clearly see, there are valid arguments to legalize marijuana, as well as to keep it illegal. There are many benefits to its legalization, some even life changing, but we cannot forget that being under the influence of any drug does impair us. The possible dangers of legalizing this drug should not be ignored, and it is still important to be cautious, to protect others and yourself.
For more on the change in legislation, see B5.
Lindsey Gibbons can be contacted