Advocating for the Legalization of Marijuana

Luke Zejdlik, Guest Writer

  The legalization of federally regulated marijuana is imperative to the social and economic climate of the United States. Because of the fact alcohol usage is legal in the United States, it is only fair that marijuana usage should be to, given the side effects of marijuana are not as detrimental to human health as alcohol. In addition, the legalization of marijuana would take away the questionable crime associated with it also. In today’s society, 61% of America’s population believes marijuana should be fully legal. This demonstrates how the majority of the United States does not see outweighing problems from the legalization. The United States public does not perceive marijuana like it did in the past, it has become more accepted in society and law enforcement, given the state-by-state legalization in places such as Washington, Colorado, and California. For example, police in Minneapolis have ended the practice of targeting small marijuana sellers and have released charges against 47 people arrested in the first five months of 2018. Economically, legalizing marijuana would start a tremendous boom in the United States economy. Legalizing it would open up a whole new industry for jobs plus government tax revenue. Specifically, it could “generate 1.1 million jobs by the year 2025” [and] “generate an additional $131.8 billion in aggregate tax revenue by 2025.”

  Currently, policies to revise the legalization on marijuana in the United States have been introduced to Congress, but not yet accepted nor denied. One bill, H.R.420 – Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, introduced by Representative Earl Blumenauer on January 9, 2019, has taken its first step being introduced to the House. The title of this act provides a self explanatory political alignment for the intentions of this bill, making marijuana have the same rules and regulation as alcohol in the United States. This bill would also remove marijuana from being a schedule one drug, which makes its use illegal. In turn, marijuana would be overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, providing a safe and consistent regulation of cannabis in the United States.

  Marijuana becoming legal federally does not look like a clear possibility for the United States public. This idea is due to the makeup of the United States government. The first time in eight years, Democrats have ruled the majority of the House. However, the presidency and Senate are still made of Republicans mostly. Politically and historically, Republicans have had a more negative bias towards marijuana than people who identify as Democratic or Independent. Roughly 53% of Republicans its legalization. Although that is above half, it is far below the Democrats (75%) and Independents (71%) support for the legalization. Another reason marijuana does not seem to become legal soon is that it does not have enough pull on voters. When citizens are voting for a candidate, the relevance of the candidates stance on the legalization of marijuana does not pull the voter to a side, generally marijuana is not an issue single-issue voters tend to vote on. More specifically, a survey was done at Quinnipiac University asking, “If you agreed with a political candidate on their issues, but not on the issue of legalizing marijuana, do you think you could still vote for that candidate or not?”  Respondents answered with 13% in no’s and an 82% in yes’s.

  Although the legalization does not look good for the upcoming years, the legalization has made some significant progress from its past. In December of 2018, President Trump signed a Farm bill which allowed hemp and hemp based cannabidiol to be grown and produced. Today, roughly two-thirds of the United States has legalized marijuana medicinally and 10 states have legalized it recreationally. Lastly, alcohol was once prohibited and illegal in the United States, but now it is legalized. So, it could just be a matter of time for marijuana to become legal federally.

  Today, 18% of United States adults believe that smoking marijuana is completely safe and 7.3% believe that second hand smoke from marijuana does not affect children at all (Halperin, 2018). If marijuana were to become legal, it is bound for there to be research done to determine the negative health risks it could potentially bring. All in all, Congress should pass the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. The marginal benefits of legalizing marijuana outweigh the costs both economically and socially. So, what can citizens of the United States do to push for its legalization? Not only should United States citizens vote in the Presidential elections, but local elections are just as important. For instance, by voting in local elections, one can elect officials that can begin to legalize cannabis on a state level (which is how marijuana is legal in several states across the United States.) Citizens can also sign up for email alerts to get informed and align with several interest groups to push pro-legalization policy. For instance, The Marijuana Policy Project is an organization that is pro-legalization, citizens can stay up-to-date on the issue by signing up for their email alerts and attending meetings. Citizens can also contact local lawmakers to explain their pro-legalization stance.