First, let me point out that I am not a fan of intoxicating substances, even if I do like an occasional cold beer. My behavior would not change depending upon whether marijuana were legal of illegal. I do not inhale smoke into my lungs, be it smoke from the burning of tobacco, marijuana, or burning incense, and I have no desire to use any substance solely for its chemically stimulating effect. (OK, coffee is an exception.)
I believe that laws that attempt to prohibit behavior that a large segment of the population is going to engage in regardless of its legality are harmful. We should have learned that lesson from the attempt to prohibit alcohol in the USA in the 1920s. Some evidence indicates that during prohibition alcohol consumption actually increased during prohibition. Prohibiting alcohol was just as much of an abject failure as prohibiting marijuana use is today.
Anyone who wants to smoke marijuana can easily obtain it at a reasonable price on the illegal market, and a substantial portion of the population does. Prohibition appears to be having zero impact on marijuana consumption among adults and may actually stimulate it among minors.
Opponents of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana claim that legalization would result in a sharp increase in the use of the drug among teens. Figures from Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legal for several years, indicate that is not the case. Marijuana use in Colorado appears to be substantially unchanged since its recreational use was legalized in 2012.
A 2015 survey of Colorado youth found that 21 percent of Colorado youth had used marijuana in the past 30 days, down slightly from 25 percent in 2009 when marijuana was still illegal. Most Colorado high school students did not use marijuana at all before legalization, and they still do not. About 1/4 of Colorado teens used marijuana before legalization, and about 1/5 do so today. That is not a significant decrease, but neither is it an increase.
If legalizing marijuana does not significantly reduce its use, why bother to legalize it? Because the underground marijuana market is a big contributor to more serious crime. Organized crime syndicates make hundreds of millions of dollars from the illegal marijuana market, and various government agencies spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year in a fruitless attempt to fight marijuana trafficking.
When marijuana is legalized, it can be controlled and taxed, just as tobacco and alcohol are. The legal market takes the profit out of illegal trafficking and greatly reduces or even completely eliminates the illegal market. Taxes on the sale of marijuana can be used in part of drug education and prevention plans, just as taxes on tobacco have increased awareness of the harm that the product does and have reduced it use. Thanks to educational programs, tobacco use has declined drastically in the United Sates.
Another argument is that marijuana is a gateway drug to the use of even more addictive substances. That may or may not be true, but as legalization does not increase marijuana’s use, that is an irrelevant argument.
I am one of those who has been opposed to legalizing marijuana most of my life. I have voted against legalizing medical marijuana in the past. I now see that I was wrong. If an initiative appears on the Arizona ballot to legalize its recreational use, I will vote for it. I think my vote would be a vote against crime.
Incidentally, I’ve written numerous books, two of which are currently on sale on Amazon as well as other places. Click on the book cover images in the left sidebar for more information.