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Legalization of Marijuana

The fight against drug addiction and drug trafficking in the world is conducted in various ways. According to the degree of stringency of legislation regarding this social phenomenon, the methods of struggle are usually divided into three separate groups such as countries of moderate control, tight policies, and liberal approach (Berke). Currently, the trend of changing attitude from strict control to moderate government intervention is relevant for the majority of democratic countries, including the United States. In the United States, there is a major problem of drug use and criminality connected with drug turnover (Berke). Therefore, to resolve the issue, the US government takes gradual steps to the legalization of soft drugs such as marijuana. The beginning of this process of legalization in the country has caused heated debate not only at the public but also at the government levels, which is also associated with the expansion of the geography of countries where the use of the drug in question has become legal (Berke). The coverage of the issue of marijuana legalization in mass media and scientific literature varies, and the supremacy of one position over the other in this dispute depends on the socio-political situation in a particular time period in the United States.

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Trends in the Legalization of Marijuana

The problem of the spread and harmful effects of drugs is relevant to the modern United States. The drug craze in the last century led to the deaths of thousands of people, and despite consistent and tough government policies to combat drug trafficking and addiction, the United States continues to lose tens of thousands of people every year because of drug use (Hartig and Geiger). In view of the impossibility of controlling the consumption of illegal substances, the government decided to adopt a liberal approach and begin the legalization of soft drugs. Marijuana is one of such drugs that, from a medical point of view, do not cause rapid dependence and they lead to minimal physical and mental harm for the body (Estoup et al. 1881). However, this position is not common as many representatives of the medical community emphasize that marijuana causes addiction in the long-term perspective. The termination of long-term use of marijuana causes a person to have a sharp decrease in mood, bouts of anger, apathy, and a desire to compensate for the disappearing effect by other means (Estoup et al. 1883). Thus, in scientific circles, there is no consensus about the nature of the influence of marijuana on the human body.

In the United States, the method of controlling drug use implies the gradual legalization of marijuana. Today, the movement for the legalization of cannabis is in full swing. In 2016, such states as California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada joined Washington and Colorado to legalize the use of this drug (Berke). Other states, such as Florida, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota, have done the same thing, but they have legalized the use of marijuana only in cases of medical necessity (Berke). Thus, now more than half of the US states have legalized the use of marijuana in full or limited (medical) capacity. However, in the United States, as in many other countries, there is a fairly broad movement of opposition towards the legalization of the use of soft drugs.

The process of legalizing cannabis is not an exceptional phenomenon, characteristic only of the United States. Currently, 21 countries have legalized marijuana fully or partially for medical and/or adult use (Berke). In 2016, Uruguay and Canada began the process of legalizing marijuana through the legal regulation of main provisions concerning the use of this type of drug while maintaining restrictions on its production and sale (Berke). Furthermore, Ireland, Australia, Germany, and Jamaica have approved laws that recognize medical marijuana; however, in other cases, the use of this drug continues to be an offense (Berke). Thus, the legalization of marijuana is a global trend of state control policy regarding organized drug use.

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Coverage of Legalization Issue in Media and Scientific Literature

The analysis of the scientific literature and publications in the media has allowed to identify the opinions regarding the legalization of marijuana in the United States. For the convenience of analysis, all opinions have been divided into social, legal, and fiscal groups.


A number of researchers in the United States support the legalization of marijuana. For example, Campbell et al. claim that banning marijuana is an unwarranted government intervention in the individual freedom of choice; a person is free to decide for themselves what to do, what to use, and in which sizes and quantities (2). Furthermore, Monte et al. believe that marijuana is no more harmful to human health than alcohol or tobacco is; the latter is legal and widely used as well as regulated by the government that uses the sale of alcohol and tobacco products to replenish the state budget through the introduction of a system of excise taxes (241). At the same time, Monte et al. insist that marijuana provides the alleviation of pain for patients suffering from many diseases, including cancer, AIDS, and glaucoma (241). In addition, from the point of view of McGinty et al., crime and violence, both in the country and at its borders with neighboring countries, increase significantly due to the illegal sale and purchase of marijuana (115). Therefore, legalization would logically remove the need for such a criminal behavior, thus transferring the entire shadow business into a legal field while rejecting the need to commit crimes.

The social side of the problem under discussion can be found in the claims of the opposition. For example, for Estoup et al., the main obstacle to the legalization of marijuana is the moral component of the issue (1883). The researchers argue that the legalization of even such a ‘light’ drug as marijuana raises the question of the immorality of this decision since there is a concern about drugs, the use of which is considered shameful and deprecating, which makes it possible and permissible to discuss further the possibility of legalizing other, stronger drugs (Estoup et al. 1884). In addition, Gardenier et al. warn that the long-term use of marijuana can harm the health and well-being of a person, thus leading to severe dependence on the drug and removal of the addict from the reality by immersion in constant narcotic oblivion (116). The researchers also insist on lack of research on the effects of long-term use of this drug (Gardenier et al. 116). Finally, a number of researchers inform that the regular use of marijuana can lead to the subsequent shift to heavier, more dangerous drugs, such as heroin and cocaine (Hall and Weier 118). Thus, in terms of the social determinants of the legalization of marijuana, researchers insist on the limitations of clear knowledge about the effect of this drug on the human body.

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From the point of view of legal reasons, opinions have also divided into two polar groups. For example, Campbell presents statistics, showing that crimes, related to the acquisition, possession, sale, and distribution of drugs, usually constitute a significant share in the total amount of crimes, thus exceeding the figures for other types of crime. The researcher claims that, as a rule, young people between the ages of 18 and 30, who are sentenced to sufficiently severe punishment and up to imprisonment, are accused in drug-related cases (Campbell). As a result, convicted persons are subjected to significant social harm, and society receives people who have lost the opportunity to be a part of it at the time of their maturity (Campbell). Therefore, the legalization of marijuana for wide use can partially solve the issue of crime rates. In contrast, Schwadel and Ellison point that those involved in the illegal purchase and sale of drugs are more often involved in other criminal activities, which indicates a close relationship between these types of crimes (412). They also believe that the legalization of marijuana will actually lead to the creation of a whole network of legally operating organizations in the country that can simultaneously sell other types of drugs, hiding behind the legal sales of marijuana (Schwadel and Ellison 416). Thus, for legal reasons, the issue of legalization has absolutely polar points of view.


The issue under discussion has a variety of opinions regarding its fiscal side. According to Monte et al., the fight against marijuana requires substantial financial expenses from the state that are necessary for the activities of law enforcement agencies, the judicial and penal systems, and the subsequent re-socialization of those who have served their sentences (242). As a rule, there is a concern about young people, which also indicates that the state suffers indirect losses in the economy, since some young people, the most active part of the population, are excluded from the country’s economic activities (Monte et al. 242). Further, McGinty et al. believe that the legalization of marijuana will be the impetus for the development of legal business and the emergence of new jobs, which will inevitably lead to an increase in tax revenues as well as the removal of part of the money from the black market (117). At the same time, Gardenier et al. insist that there are no significant financial reasons for the legalization of marijuana (116). The researchers state that the use of marijuana, despite the emphasis on its ‘harmlessness’, can lead to problems of both a medical and a social nature, such as loss of jobs and sources of income, the destruction of the family, and so on, which inevitably causes an increase in the financial burden on the state budget (Gardenie 116). Consequently, even the possible benefit of legalization is leveled by the subsequent costs of combating the consequences of this phenomenon.

Considering above information, it should be noted that the currently available results of medical observations indicate that the use of marijuana is not as harmless as the advocates of legalization claim. Thus, Hall has conducted an extensive research for more than 20 years, aimed at studying the effects of cannabis use (117). Among such negative outcomes, Hall mentions reduced reaction and increased likelihood of accidents, dependence, reduced cognitive abilities (especially among adolescents), the development of mental disorders, and increased risk of lung diseases as well as a negative effect on the fetus during pregnancy (Hall 117). Thus, there is still no consensus on the need for the legalization of marijuana, which causes controversy both in the scientific and public circles. The overwhelming number of countries in the world consistently oppose this process, while the majority of the states where legalization has occurred have done it only partially.


The socio-political situation in the United States at a specific time period determines the supremacy of the mass media or scientific attitude on the issue of the legalization of marijuana. In this country, the problem of drug use and criminality connected with drug turnover is quite significant, which has determined the need for the government to take a liberal approach to the issue through the legalization of soft drugs. In some US states, marijuana, which is considered a soft drug, is legalized for adult or medical use. The trend for its legalization as a way to control the spread of drugs is also relevant for other countries of the world. Still, even in the USA, there is no consensus regarding the legalization of marijuana in mass media and scientific literature. The supporting and opposing opinions are distributed in social, legal, and fiscal categories. Social arguments stress on the positive and negative influence of marijuana on the person’s state of health as well as general morality in society. At the same time, legal factors cover the issues of drug-related criminality and penalties for such crimes. Finally, fiscal arguments relate to the budgetary subventions on the fight against uncontrolled drug use. Arguments and counterarguments regarding the legalization of marijuana are mutually exclusive, and the prevalence of opinions depends on the political decision of the US government.

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