December 12, 2014
Marijuana, Should it be legalized?
One of the highest debated topics in America at this time is whether or not the marijuana (A.K.A. pot) plant should be legal for recreational use. There are several known facts about marijuana and its composition. Many people claim that marijuana can offer many negative health effects, while others claim it works quite well as both a medicine and a recreational activity. Several people urge the public to legalize marijuana because it will offer several economic benefits. Marijuana supporters argue that Marijuana, if legalized, could largely improve the social life in America, while people who oppose marijuana say it would devastate social interactions. One thing is for sure marijuana legalization is a hot topic in literature at this point in time.
Many Americans have used marijuana at least once in their lives (Why we should not, Alaska association, Ruth Marcus,). The “problem” of marijuana use has already gotten out of control for children and adults. “By the time they have graduated from high school, nearly half have tried smoking pot; 16.5 percent of eighth-graders have. More alarming, the number who perceive great risk from regular use has been plummeting, from 58 percent to 40 percent among 12th-graders, according to a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse” (Ruth Marcus). If over half the adolescence population has already tried marijuana, is it worth it to keep spending millions of dollars to try and stop the use of it?
People who smoke marijuana do so to achieve a feeling many describe as being “high”. The chemical that makes the user feel “high” is known as THC. THC stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol. As the plant’s THC potency increases “higher” a user can get. The average THC potency has risen in recent years, “The potency of marijuana has been increasing steadily. In 2009, THC concentrations in marijuana averaged close to 10 percent, compared to around 4 percent in the 1980s” (Marijuana Stats). Marijuana is known to grow in a hot and humid climate. Due to this, primary growth of marijuana is in Colorado and Washington because it is now legal there. A lot of Marijuana is also grown in California because of its perfect climate for the herb. Marijuana can be smoked several ways, through a water pipe, a regular pipe, or rolled with a cigar paper. Pot is the most widely used illegal substance in America and due to the high usage rates, its illegality has frequently been questioned.
Marijuana is often used as a sleep aid “the National Cancer Institute announced in a study that patients who ingested a cannabis plant extract spray reported more restful sleep” (legal everywhere).” It is said that marijuana can be more effective than more harmful, and more expensive sleeping bills. Marijuana is also a great pain reliever. “Furthermore, it helps relax muscle tension and spasms and chronic pain” (legal everywhere). Marijuana distracts the user from their pain quite well, making it a better pain reliever than some over-the-counter pain relievers. Marijuana is used in a variety of helpful ways, should something as useful as this be legal?
Marijuana is much less extreme than other drugs. Alcohol for example, can cause four times as much damage to the brain than marijuana “a 2010 study published in the Lancet and reported on by the Economist, a team of drug experts in the U.K. assessed the combined harms to others and to the user of marijuana as less than the harms posed by alcohol or tobacco use” (legal everywhere). Marijuana, if legalized, could drastically lower the use of other legal drugs, such as alcohol, or illegal drugs, such as cocaine, that are more detrimental to their users. If marijuana is less harmful than legal drugs, should it be legalized?
Several interesting facts about the damages Marijuana can cause to the users can be found in certain places. It is said that “An average marijuana cigarette contains nearly 50% more of the cancer-causing chemical benzopyrene than the average tobacco cigarette” (Statistics). With marijuana giving more cancer causing chemicals, the risk for lung cancer is increased when using marijuana. “Marijuana smoke is also an irritant to the lungs, and frequent marijuana smokers can have many of the same respiratory problems experienced by people who smoke tobacco. These include coughing and phlegm production on most days, wheezing, bronchitis, and greater risk of lung infection, although most of these may go away after stopping smoking marijuana” (Marijuana American lung association). Other than cancer, there are other, less-severe negative lung effects that come with smoking marijuana. The harmful effects of marijuana will always be a reason against its possible legalization.
Marijuana can also have negative effects to another vital part of the human body, the brain. The herb can have many negative effects on the brain, “It impairs short-term memory and motor coordination; slows reaction time; alters mood, judgment and decision-making; and in some people can cause severe anxiety or loss of touch with reality.” (Marijuana American lung association). Marijuana users suffer from short-term memory loss, sometimes making them non-valuable members of society. Slowed reaction time can lead to serious injury or even death to the user, or people around them. A very common side effect of marijuana use is a change in mood, this can make people change completely, causing many social problems. “But with marijuana, people can also experience long-term psychiatric disease, and those who use it heavily prior to age 25 are more likely than nonusers to experience a drop in IQ”(Gitlow Stuart). Marijuana can also cause a large drop in the performance of the brain. Marijuana can cause several brain defects causing it to be viewed with a negative light among scientists.
Marijuana is one of the biggest cash-crops in the world. It is said that marijuana can produce a lot of money for each state if legalized. “$6.17 million: The amount of tax revenue collected in Colorado on legal marijuana sales in just the first two months of 2014” (Stuart, Hunter). Colorado is one of the only states in the U.S. to fully legalize the use of marijuana, and they have seen unbelievable economic success. This begs the question, how much money could other states make if they followed in the footsteps of Colorado? If marijuana can provide much needed money for schools, roadwork, and government salaries, should we reconsider legalization?
Marijuana has the opportunity to create a lot of revenue for the United States. $10.2 billion: The estimated amount the national legal marijuana market will be worth in five years, according to that same ArcView report” (Stuart, Hunter). The U.S. is trillions of dollars in debt, so they could really use this money. The government can also save a lot of money if marijuana is legalized. “It is estimated that legalization could actually save the government over $13 billion” (The Controversy). The combination of both saving billions, and making billions will certainly stimulate the U.S. economy. Marijuana could create more money for the U.S. to utilize and use for the country.
Marijuana can have other positive economic benefits when described in literature. Money involving drug cartels, their profits/money spent to stop them, can be drastically lowered if marijuana was legalized. If marijuana was legalized, the U.S. government would not spend nearly as much money to stop the growth and selling of marijuana (Top Ten reasons). If marijuana was legalized, many citizens would buy it from stores and pay taxes instead of buying it illegally and untaxed from drug dealers. Marijuana could both reduce money flow to drug dealers and increase revenue for the government.
Marijuana being legalized is definitely not out of the realm of possibility. It will most likely take several years, if marijuana ever get legalized. It can have many great effects to the user including relieving stress. However, it can also harm vital organs such as the brain and lungs. Marijuana can offer several economic benefits for both individual states, and the United States as a whole. Marijuana can also have a variety of social effects. Marijuana can also have several social effects. Taking into account all the current information about marijuana should certainly be legalized. The positives clearly outweigh the small negatives. There has never been a death from marijuana, but several legal things cause millions of deaths per year, so not legalizing marijuana makes America a hypocrite.
While researching the positives and negatives of marijuana I noticed a gap. The sources I found talked a lot about the scientific positives and negatives with strictly factual information. I did not find a lot about how people truly felt about all the available information, it was just given in a very bulleted way. I chose to dig deeper and find out how people truly feel about the legalization of marijuana. To get my data, I am using the people closest to me and asking several questions to Norton High School (Located in Massachusetts) juniors and seniors to see how they felt about the plant.
How do students at Norton High School truly feel about Marijuana and its legalization?
I chose to answer my question by collective quantitative data from my peers using the likert scale. “The most important consideration is to include at least five response categories” (Statistic Roundtable). Traditionally the likert scale has five possible responses, I only used four responses so kids do not just pick neutral because they do not want to say they believe illegal substances should be legal in school. Surveying high school kids is tough because they often give in to peer pressure, “peer pressure can influence how children dress, what kind of music they listen to, and what types of behavior they engage in, including risky behaviors such as using drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, and engaging in sex” (Childrens Health). To eliminate peer pressure, I used the likert scale, but I asked each student face to face without anybody listening. This method gave me the true opinions of the person I was surveying because nobody else could interfere in anyway. I used these steps to collect my data to my research question: How do students at Norton High School truly feel about marijuana and its legalization.
Marijuana should be legal.
Strongly disagree- 0% disagree-10% agree-60% strongly agree-30%
Marijuana has a positive effect on a persons health.
Strongly disagree- 0% disagree- 0% agree-80% strongly agree- 20%
Marijuana as a lot of health risks involved with it.
Strongly disagree- 0% disagree- 30% agree- 70% strongly agree- 0%
Marijuana is a drug
Strongly disagree- 0% disagree- 10% agree- 70% strongly agree- 20%
Marijuana, if legalized, will reduce America’s stress levels.
Strongly disagree- 0% disagree- 10% agree- 40% strongly agree- 50%
The sample population I chose was the juniors and seniors at Norton High School. I chose to do only juniors and seniors because marijuana is a serious topic, that requires a maturity level that most freshmen and sophomores can not obtain. I chose to take my sample population from Norton High School because of its convenience. I attend Norton High making it quite easy for me to survey the students there. The students at NHS gave me some very interesting data.
I really found out the true feelings of the kids in Norton High School towards marijuana and its legalization. My findings were very clear and the conclusions that can be drawn are quite evident. There was not a big variety in the answers I received, however this did not scare me into thinking there was bias because I did my best to eliminate bias. I asked the students individually to truly arrive at a valid conclusion about the opinions of NHS upperclassmen. My findings I believe are quite accurate.
I have arrived at the very strong conclusion that NHS juniors and seniors are in favor of legalizing marijuana, that marijuana can have many positive effects, and that marijuana can also bring along with it some negatives. Only 10% of students who were surveyed even slightly disagreed with the statement (marijuana should be legal), meaning NHS juniors and seniors really favor the legalization of marijuana over its current ban in 48 states. With 100% of kids either strongly agreeing or agreeing with the statement, marijuana can have positive health effects, and with 90% of students agreeing in some way that American stress could be reduced with the legalization of marijuana, it is clear that upperclassman believe marijuana can bring with it many positive effects on human life. A decent amount of kids (30%) disagree that marijuana can pose health risks, but it can not sway th fact that 70% of kids at least somewhat agree marijuana can pose health risks. This leads me to believe students also believe marijuana can pose health risks which is not uncommon. Upperclassman do support the legalization of marijuana, while realizing marijuana can have positive and negative effects on the body.
I have arrived at a conclusion, NHS upperclassman completely approve the use of marijuana. This could be saying two things, the first is that america’s view of the plant is shifting. It used to be the devil’s spawn, but everyone is beginning to come around to it. These findings also may lead to the possibility that kids are being much more rebellious in the 21st century. Kids have been getting rowdier as the years go on, and these findings may be just another example of that. Future research should focus on other drugs. This is not to get other drugs legalized, but to see what the upperclassman like. If the students like all the drugs you offer them, they may just be rebellious. If the kids ignore the other drugs but continue their fight for marijuana, then kids just like marijuana and there is no deeper meaning.
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