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Legalization of Cannabis in the USA

Legalization of Cannabis in the USA: Medical, Political, Social, and Economic Implications

The legalization of cannabis is a recent policy in the USA, and in terms of numerous medical, political, social, and economic implications, it benefits American society. It has emerged as a significant platform for economic development. In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in cannabis legalization. The focus on the disadvantages of fully legalizing cannabis can be termed as backward because cannabis should not be in the same category as heroin and other drugs like cocaine. A highly debated question is whether it is possible to change the opinion of the reserved population who are against cannabis consumption and legalization. Currently, too little attention has been paid to socio-economic issues that legalization of marijuana will cause. Researchers have not treated its socio-economic consequences in detail, and it is still unknown whether they will be positive or not. This paper investigates evidence that supports the positive socio-economic consequences of legalizing marijuana in the community. Data for this study will be collected from secondary sources. The paper will be organized in the following way: the first part is going to focus on the economic implications, the second section will discuss the political implications, the third chapter will provide information on marijuana in medicine, and the last part will concentrate on rebuttals and their refutation. The following are the research questions that will guide the direction of the paper:

1) What are the negative and positive effects of cannabis on health?

2) In what ways will the legalization of cannabis benefit the economy?

3) How will legalization of marijuana affect society’s wellbeing?

4) What will be the consequences of legalizing cannabis for medical research?

5) What will be the political implications of legalizing marijuana?

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Currently, the cannabis policy is experiencing a fundamental change. The majority of American states have canceled criminal penalties for minor cannabis possession, and a large part of psychologists prescribe it to their patients. Much remains unknown about the net effect of cannabis legalization on public health in the USA. Most of the adults that consumed cannabis did not experience any substantial problems. Since cannabis legalization has become a significant issue, the number of studies on medical benefits of cannabis consumption is expected to increase. Previous studies have been constrained because of the strict federal regulation of interactions with cannabis. Its consumption comes with essential risks, which are mostly health-related. The main chemical compound of cannabis is THC that, as some scholars argue, increases the risks of panic attacks and psychotic symptoms in users. The overall socio-economic effect of legalizing marijuana will depend on how the American society would react to its legalization. Concerns include whether the citizens who already use other substances will switch to cannabis or use it in addition to other elements. Most studies suggest that driving under the influence of cannabis is safer than while using alcohol, but it is important to remember that driving sober will reduce the risk of accidents. In light of the issues related to the legalization of marijuana, it is vital to analyze the specific socio-economic issues that legalizing marijuana will add to the society.

Economic Implications

Legalizing marijuana will have positive economic implications regarding the revenue generated from taxes and money saved from the lack of implementation of federal laws against the use of marijuana. In 2008, the United States spent 13.8 billion USD on enforcement activities related to marijuana. States injected 10.4 billion USD while the federal government spent 3.4 billion USD (Miron 1). Products like cigarettes and alcohol are taxed as the government sees fit considering that they are recreational drugs. The revenue from the two products is stable despite the consumption that grows annually. Some researchers claim that taxes collected from marijuana will decrease with time because of the increased number of businesses entering the marijuana industry. However, they are wrong because most scholars argue that the expansion of the legal cannabis market will translate to the growth in fiscal revenues that will be collected by the government. Money generated from the marijuana industry can be injected into projects that stimulate development like education and safeguarding the well-being of the society like mental health support programs and addiction treating centers.

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The Tax Foundation published a report with the analysis supporting the idea that legalizing the marijuana sector will have positive economic impacts. The report showed that the marijuana industry has the potential to collect 28 billion USD. It includes the federal revenue, amounting to 7 billion USD, business taxes, standing at 5.5 billion USD, and income and payroll taxes, reaching 1.5 billion USD (Ekins and Bishop-Henchman 1). Extra federal taxes that can be imposed on marijuana sales have the potential to generate proportionally more revenue in the form of taxes. If cannabis were to have a national tax similar to that of tobacco at 23 USD per pound, 500 million USD could be generated (Ekins and Bishop-Henchman 1). A sales surtax of 10% has the potential to accumulate 5.3 billion USD annually (Ekins and Bishop-Henchman 1). These sums of money can be collected from a legalized marijuana sector. The figures presented above show that a legal marijuana industry will generate the considerable revenue for both federal and local governments as opposed to what critics imagine.

Political Implications

The primary role that political powers play in this issue is deciding whether to legalize or prohibit the use of marijuana. The latter can either be for recreational or medical use, and therefore, a decision must be made with the purpose of legalizing it. To understand the political implications of legalizing marijuana, one must first appreciate the fact that in the United States, the political power is divided between the federal government and the individual state authorities. As it currently stands, the former has illegalized all types of marijuana use through the Drug Enforcement Agency, which categorizes it as a Schedule I drug through the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (Steiner 1). These types of drugs have the following characteristics: the zero medical use, severe safety concerns, and the high potential of being abused, making marijuana fall under the same category as heroin. On the other hand, almost 50% of the total states in the United States have legalized the medical use of this drug with regions such as Colorado, California, Alaska, Nevada, Maine, Oregon, Washington, and Massachusetts accepting the recreational use (Steiner 1). Based on this situation, some political implications may arise if the federal remains adamant in its stand while the state governments legalize marijuana use. Additionally, the full legalization by the federal power would also cause some issues to be resolved.

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As it currently stands, a conflict exists on which political power, the federal or state one, has a right to regulate marijuana use. Each of these two quotes the Constitution in justifying their right. Federal authorities focus on the Supremacy Clause that is found in Article VI of the Constitution, which gives federal laws supremacy over state ones in any case of a conflict through the doctrine of preemption (Steiner 1). On the other hand, the states believe that their power is supreme according to the Tenth Amendment that empowers the states to create laws if existing ones prohibit their power or are not effective in protecting the residents (Steiner 1). Therefore, the implication that arises here is that the courts will face challenges in prosecuting individuals arrested by federal authorities for dealing, using, or possessing marijuana in states that have legalized it. Additionally, unscrupulous dealers may sell marijuana to persons without valid medical licenses in states that only allow for medical marijuana use, making it easy for the illegal weed trade to thrive.

In the case where the federal government fully legalizes both medical and recreational marijuana application, there will be some implications that would arise from this political decision. Firstly, this legalization would reduce the number of criminal records mostly associated with cannabis usage. This situation would, in its turn, decrease the deleterious effects it has on young people who cannot obtain a job, have access to public housing, receive an occupational license, or move forward in life due to a criminal record (Dills, Goffard and Miron 1). Secondly, the legalization would allow the judiciary and law enforcement to reduce the expenditure associated with arrest and prosecution of marijuana users (Dills, Goffard and Miron 1). While it is a Schedule I drug, the Drug Enforcement Agency strictly contracts the budget used in managing marijuana use. Legalization of cannabis would allow these resources to be channeled towards pursuing other drug menaces such as cocaine and heroin. Lastly, it would allow Congress to create proper regulation guiding the use and the trading of marijuana (Dills, Goffard and Miron 1). This achievement would reduce road accidents associated with marijuana use since, like in cases of other drugs, some certain usage limit would be established. An example of ways in which the government could regulate the trade is laws that govern the amounts and the packaging involved in the supply chain. Other recommendations include having the government control over the marijuana supply chain by being a monopoly. This model will have laws that determine amounts subscribed to specific marijuana use, plants, pricing, the purchasing age limit, and conditions for distribution networks. Such a framework will ensure that the political powers consider health effects of marijuana during its legalization.

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Marijuana in Medicine

The application of medical marijuana to treat diseases began in China, followed by the whole Asia, after which the practice spread to the Middle East and Africa. During 2737 BC, the Chinese historical records show that cannabis tea was used in treating illnesses like rheumatism, gout, poor memory, and malaria (Hudak 10). 1400 BC saw the use of cannabis in the Indian culture, which did not allow for indulgence in alcohol to alleviate stress or anxiety. Healers in India prescribed it for diseases related to overproduction of mucous in mucous membranes. Other chest-related ailments like asthma and coughs were also treated with cannabis. In ancient Rome, Pliny prescribed marijuana as a painkiller; however, he noted that the excessive consumption could lead to impotence. A doctor, whose early contribution to surgery was significant, used alcohol plus cannabis as an anesthetic. Issues related to women’s’ health, like managing labor pain and treating postpartum depression, were also treated with marijuana. In Africa, this drug was first used in Egypt and spread to the rest of the continent by the 12th Century (Hudak 90). Cannabis was applied to treat snake bites, malaria, dysentery, anthrax, and during childbirth. The highlight of medical marijuana use in Europe was during the 1830s when Dr. Jacques Moreau did experiments on the cognitive implications of the drug. In 1860, the Ohio State Medical Society had a conference during which they summarized the medical uses of marijuana. The applications noted include treating cough, pain, and inflammation. In 1868, the US Dispensary listed the purposes of an extract from cannabis soaked in alcohol to make an appetite enhancer, treat mental illnesses, insomnia, hydrophobia, cholera, and gout, and increase the sexual interest. Around 1890, a physician of the Queen of England at that time published an article in the Lancet journal that listed the success of cannabis in treating facial tics, insomnia, menstrual problems, and asthma. The use of medical marijuana was widespread in the United States until 1937 when special taxes were imposed for the transportation of cannabis (Hudak 210).

In modern times, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is yet to approve the marijuana plant as a whole to be a medical one. However, its medicinal properties have been proved to exist, and the FDA has even approved two medications, Dronabinol and Nabilone that are made of cannabinoids, a major chemical group in marijuana. The first medication is effective in reducing nausea in cancer patients under chemotherapy, while the second one prevents the wasting syndrome in AIDS patients by stimulating their appetite (Bridgeman 186). Additionally, patients with dementia and anorexia have been shown to react positively to THC, another important compound found in marijuana. The same substance is effective in reducing spasticity in persons with multiple sclerosis where muscles remain in a contracted nature affecting the normal posture, speech, and movement (Bridgeman 186).

For such patients, marijuana can ease their pain and allow them to lead an almost normal life. One more major medical property of marijuana is its utilization as a pain reliever for non-severe pain (Bridgeman 186). This application is especially important in reducing opioid use and dependence, which is a crisis affecting millions of Americans and resulting in deaths due to overdoses.

Lastly, marijuana is considered highly effective in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is characterized by extreme anxiety as a result of a traumatic experience such as an accident or being in combat. PTSD is thought to result from a deficiency on endocannabinoids, which are essential in the endocannabinoid system maintaining the normal functioning of the body. The cannabinoids in marijuana help to relieve symptoms associated with PTSD by activating the cannabinoid receptors that, in their turn, enable communication to cells responsible for maintaining healthy serotonin levels. The conventional way of treating PTSD has been administering a combination of antidepressants that have side effects that can lower the quality of a person’s life. These effects include stomach upset, sweating, low sex libido, and headaches (Julien 15). One has to continue taking these drugs as long as they want to remain calm. 8 million American adults have PTSD annually. The number is a significant portion of the population in the USA (U.S Department of Veterans Affairs 1). It means that the quality of life for 8 million Americans is compromised by PTSD. Therefore, marijuana would help to reduce overdependence on antidepressants, which are not only addictive but very expensive.

Therefore, it is clear that marijuana contains some essential compounds such as cannabinoids and THC whose medical properties have been determined and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Marijuana can prove a suitable replacement for opioids and antidepressants, which are not only expensive drug options but also create dependency in patients. Additionally, it has proved efficient in reducing the severity of symptoms in people suffering from cancer and AIDS, which are both conditions with no cure. More research should be done to determine the full potential of using marijuana for medicinal purposes.


Critics of legalized marijuana claim that there is a high correlation between marijuana use and poor education performance. Their support for this statement is that marijuana can impede brain development in teenagers causing problems in critical thinking, memory, learning, coordination, and attention, which all lead to poor school performance. However, in a 2017 study, 13.9% of citizens aged between 12 and 17 years confirmed that they had used marijuana during the preceding year. 44% had done it in their lifetime while 8.9% had used this drug during the previous year (National Institute on Drug Abuse 1). The data presented shows that teens indulge in marijuana usage despite the severe consequences attached. Legalizing marijuana will accomplish the opposite of critics’ claims by helping to curb the use of cannabis among teens under the legal age of consumption. It is due to the fact that policies will specify the age limit that would allow particular parts of the population to partake in using marijuana just like it happens with alcohol. Additionally, the claims on brain development are most related to long-term high consumption, and legalization can help to avert this situation by controlling the quantity or the composition of marijuana allowed for sale.

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There have been claims that legalization of marijuana will result in chaos within the society. Individuals with such a perception paint a picture where legalization and open smoking of cannabis will lead to deaths and disoriented users driving vehicles and causing accidents. However, these people do not consider that legalizing marijuana will provide frameworks that guide all their concerns in a manner where all citizens (users and non-users) are considered (Kilmer 15). For example, while alcohol is a legalized drug, regulations are in place to prevent accidents as a result of drunk driving, and the same approach can be applied in curbing the fears associated with legalizing marijuana. Studies have shown that most states that choose to legalize marijuana have policies and laws that support commercialization (Valpolini 60). In this case, for-profit ventures sell cannabis to consumers and are, consequently, taxed and abide by other rules that govern licensing. Additionally, hardly any cases are reported where a person has lost own life due to a weed overdose, and therefore, legalization of the drug will in no way contribute to the increase in the number of deaths.


In conclusion, there are many arguments in support of legalization of marijuana in the United States. Some positive economic effects will result from this step. The government will be able to receive the revenue from taxes paid by the marijuana industry and save the expenses currently associated with enforcing the federal laws against marijuana. This legalization would also reduce the current conflicts that are forced by courts when enforcing the law since the federal government has illegalized marijuana while a good proportion of the states have officially accepted marijuana use, especially for medical purposes. A large proportion of the youth is unable to reach success in life as a result of having a criminal record related to marijuana use, and this situation can easily be reverted by legalizing cannabis. Additionally, it would allow for the creation of regulations guiding marijuana use, thus helping to prevent the overuse of the drug and accidents related to its use, reduce associated health complications, and, lastly, ensure that only those of the legal age have access to the drug. In existing literature, marijuana has been proved to possess some compounds with medicinal properties. They include THC and cannabinoids. Marijuana is efficient as a pain reliever, a muscle relaxer, in treating PTSD and multiple sclerosis, decreasing the effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients, and in reducing wasting the weight in people with AIDS by increasing their appetite. Despite claims that marijuana use leads to poor education performance and may result in a disruption in the societal order, there is the extensive evidence proving that the legalization of marijuana will create immense benefits to the citizens of the United States.

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