Support or Oppose

The legality of marijuana has been the subject for debate and controversy for decades. With the new generation, the number of supporters of marijuana legalization has increased dramatically. In the United States, legalizing marijuana is a major concern because it is the most frequently used illegal drug. Nearly 98 million Americans over the age of 12 have tried marijuana at least once. Politicians have thought of legalizing marijuana to increase revenue by imposing taxes. At the forefront of this idea is California, which is currently the most populous state in the United States yet has the highest budget deficit of all states.

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Also, California has the 5th highest unemployment rates exceeding 12 percent. In 2009, the California economic crisis became severe as the state faced bankruptcy. This budget shortfall has caused the state to look for ways out. California’s way out of a huge budget deficit begins with Proposition [5] Proposition 19 also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 would legalize various marijuana activities, allow local government to regulate these activities, allow for marijuana related government taxes, and authorizes various criminal and civil penalties by local government.

The California ballot for Proposition 19 opened on November 2, 2010 in California, hoping to change the fate of marijuana legalization in America forever. The bill failed, but only trailed the outcome by nearly 500 votes. [4] Among the arguments for the passing of Proposition 19 was that legalizing marijuana in California could reduce drug-related violence, based on a study conducted by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy. In addition some believe that it would help alleviate the drug war in Mexico.

Based on the theory adopted by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy that up to 60% of Mexican drug cartels’ profits come from sales of marijuana, legalizing the drug in nearby California would drastically cut their funding. As a result, supporters of this argument believed that legalization would lead to a decrease in drug-related violent crime in Mexico. [3] Also cited were a savings of $960 million per year in law enforcement costs, and a generation of $350 million a year in state and local tax revenues.

Supporters also argued that passing the measure would result in additional benefits including tourism and spinoff industries such as cafes and paraphernalia. Based on California’s wine industry, proponents of this theory anticipated that legalizing marijuana in the state could generate up to $18 billion, including the creation of 60,000-110,000 jobs. [4] Perhaps one of the most well-known arguments for the legalization of Marijuana is to treat conditions including pain and nausea caused by HIV/AIDS, cancer and other conditions.

When presented with all the information above it’s easy to see why so many people can rationalize their decision to support Proposition 19. Increasing revenue and employment rate’s while decreasing law enforcement costs and crime, all by providing the public with a safe “wonder drug” to aid in a variety of ailments. What could be better? Unfortunately though all these claims seem viable none of them can escape scrutiny. To address Marijuana as a potential drug, scientific evidence needs to be provided to substantiate the claims.

To date the evidence is not sufficient for the marijuana plant to gain FDA approval, for two main reasons. First, there have not been enough clinical trials showing that marijuana’s benefits outweigh its health risks in patients with the symptoms it is meant to treat. The FDA requires carefully conducted studies in large numbers of patients (hundreds to thousands) to accurately assess the benefits and risks of a potential medication. [5] Also, to be considered a legitimate medicine, a substance must have well-defined and measureable ingredients that are consistent from one unit (such as a pill or injection) to the next.

This consistency allows doctors to determine the dose and frequency. As the marijuana plant contains hundreds of chemical compounds that may have different effects and that vary from plant to plant, its use as a medicine is difficult to evaluate. However, THC-based drugs to treat pain and nausea are already FDA approved and prescribed, and scientists continue to investigate the medicinal properties of cannabinoids. Regarding the supposed economic benefits of taxing marijuana, some comparison with two drugs that are already regulated and taxed, alcohol and tobacco is worth considering.

People don’t typically grow their own tobacco or distill their own spirits, so consumers accept high taxes on them as retail products. Marijuana, though, is easy and cheap to cultivate, indoors or out, and Proposition 19 would allow individuals to grow as much as 25 square feet of marijuana for “personal consumption. “Why would people volunteer to pay high taxes on marijuana if it were legalized? The answer is that many would not, and the underground market, adapting to undercut any new taxes, would barely diminish at all.

This bill also implied that marijuana would be regulated and controlled by the initiative. In fact, the law provides for no regulation or control, but leaves it up to local governments to initiate such controls and or regulations. In addition, there are no provisions to tax marijuana cultivation or use in the initiative. Instead, such taxation, if it ever happens will be left to local governments. In fact, a provision of the initiative specifically prevents the state of California from taxing marijuana sales any more than the usual sales tax in contrast to cigarettes and liquor.

[1] Since the enforcement of locally enacted taxation will be next to impossible, there will never be any significant revenue produced through this initiative. Another major conflict is that this bill would create a state law that conflicts with federal drug laws. On the surface, this does not seem to be a big deal, since President Obama has stated that he won’t enforce the federal law in California. However, there is another issue that could cause the loss of billions of dollars to the state.

Public contracts and grants require grantees to effectively enforce the drug-free workplace requirements (which includes marijuana use) outlined by the federal government’s Federal Workplace Act of 1988. Not only may schools lose their federal grants, but medical research institutions, could lose millions of dollars annually The current healthcare and criminal justice costs associated with alcohol and tobacco far surpass the tax revenue they generate, and very little of the taxes collected on these substances is contributed to offsetting their substantial social and health costs.

For every dollar society collects in taxes on alcohol, for example, we end up spending eight more in social costs. That is hardly a recipe for fiscal health. A recent Rand Corp. report, “Altered State,” found that it is difficult to predict estimated revenue from marijuana taxes, and that legalization would increase consumption but could also lead to widespread tax evasion and a “race to the bottom” in terms of local tax rates. Perhaps the biggest concern is safety on the roads.

In 2010 a comment was made by a formal General Sergeant that “driving under the influence of Marijuana is much like being under the influence of Alcohol. In response an experiment was conducted by two local Los Angeles journalists who decided to take a car and drive stoned. With the help from the California Highway Patrol the highway was closed to the public and several obstacles were arranged simulating how a driver might need to operate in heavy traffic. The experiment, said one of the journalists “was to see how impaired I was after smoking pot” California has more drivers than any other state, 22 million of them.

So the big concern was if legalizing marijuana would make the roads less safe. The proponents of Proposition 19 insist it won’t. The common conception among supporters is that the impairment is rather slight like taking an antihistamine. The journalists certainly found that driving and drugs don’t mix. One of them nearly veered off the highway through a test course. “I wasn’t ok, so that was kind of shocking to me” said one of the drivers. But safety seems to be a big reason support for proposition 19 dropped.

51 percent opposed and 39 percent supported in a poll conducted before the bill was denied in 2010. [5] To give credibility to the tests conducted by the journalist’s we can explore the affects Marijuana has on the brain. When marijuana is smoked, THC rapidly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. THC acts upon specific molecular targets on brain cells, called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are ordinarily activated by chemicals similar to THC called endocannabinoids, such as anandamide.

These are naturally occurring in the body and are part of a neural communication network (the endocannabinoid system) that plays an important role in normal brain development and function The highest density of cannabinoid receptors is found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. Marijuana over activates the endocannabinoid system, causing the high and other effects that users experience.

These include distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning and memory. Because it seriously impairs judgment and motor coordination, marijuana also contributes to accidents while driving. A recent analysis of data from several studies found that marijuana use more than doubles a driver’s risk of being in an accident. Further, the combination of marijuana and alcohol is worse than either substance alone with respect to driving impairment.

As a recreational drug, marijuana is not quite as benign as most of its proponents would claim. Heavy marijuana use results in long-term effects on the brain, including lower responses in those areas which are affected by THC. Although users are able to compensate somewhat through the use of other brain areas, the long term effects of this damage, as user’s age, has not been determined. This damage may be responsible for impairments noted in short-term and long-term memory, along with a host of possible other psychiatric illnesses.

Regular use of marijuana use by young people can have especially negative long lasting impact on the structure and function of their brains. A recent study of marijuana users who began using in adolescence revealed a profound deficit in connections between brain areas responsible for learning and memory. And a large prospective study (following individuals across time) showed that people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost as much as 8 points in IQ between age 13 and age 38; importantly, the lost cognitive abilities were not restored in those who quit smoking marijuana as adults.

[4] A proportion of marijuana users become addicted and suffer from classic withdrawal symptoms upon abstinence. For a minority of users, marijuana is a gateway drug, and they proceed to use and abuse more powerful psychostimulants. Besides its effects upon the brain, Marijuana raises heart rate by 20-100 percent shortly after smoking; this effect can last up to 3 hours. In one study, it was estimated that marijuana users have a 4. 8-fold increase in the risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking the drug.

This may be due to increased heart rate as well as the effects of marijuana on heart rhythms, causing palpitations and arrhythmias. Marijuana use can lead to increased risks for respiratory cancers and may have some adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular effects in some users. Marijuana smoke has been placed on the California Proposition 65 list of carcinogenic materials, as required by California law for materials proven to cause cancer. [5] Marijuana use during pregnancy has been shown to result in lower child intelligence, while increasing the incidence of mental health problems.

The idea that marijuana is a harmless recreational pastime has been disproved through continuing scientific research. Although this bill was denied the continued support for legalizing Marijuana is great, ensuring that this is a topic that will be an issue of debate for years to come. In my opinion we don’t need all the problems that will result from the passage of Proposition 19 . This bill would established a legal “right” to use marijuana, potentially endangering the lives of others through allowing intoxicated individuals to perform crucial driving jobs.

In addition, this bill could result in the loss of billions of dollars in federal grants and contracts to schools and hospitals, which would be unable to comply with federal drug-free workplace requirements. Contrary to the claims of proponents, Prop 19 would neither regulate, control, nor tax marijuana, but merely provides the legal right of local governments to create their own hodgepodge of local laws and ordinances, which would be virtually impossible to enforce.

Although marijuana use does not negatively impact all users, it does have numerous adverse health effects on a significant percentage of individuals, which will result in increased medical and social costs to the people of California. This was a poorly written initiative that needs to make drastic revisions before it can be considered, in addition to the conduction of more scientific research needs to be done to determine future health risks for the users.