27 Jan 2023


The Legalization of Marijuana: Social and Economic Effects

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Since time in memorial, the possession and use of marijuana have been deemed illegal in many states in the world. However, in present times, some nations have decriminalized the use of marijuana while others are still conservative on this matter. Notably, in some regions in Europe and America, individuals have been allowed to possess small quantities of marijuana. In Washington and Colorado states of the U.S., for example, the use of marijuana has been allowed specifically for medicinal use only. In countries where the use of the drug has been prohibited, possession and use of marijuana attract different types of penalties. These sanctions may vary from simple to severe punishments. On the other hand, in countries where the use of the drug has been decriminalized, possession of small amounts of the drug is not punishable. Nonetheless, possession of large quantities of marijuana attracts severe punishments. For example, according to the Amsterdam drug policies, marijuana is considered a soft drug (Reinarman, Cohen & Kaal, 2004) . As such, individuals who are found with the drug cannot be arrested. However, if they are found possessing marijuana that exceeds 5g they will be subject to the law. Therefore, this report will discuss the reason why marijuana is illegal in some countries like the U.S and the effects of its legalization. 

Why the use of marijuana is illegal in countries like the U.S 

In the U.S, settlers introduced the crop in 1600 through the Jamestown Virginia (Caulkins et al., 2015) . Since marijuana was introduced in the U.S., the plant has been used for various reasons. For instance, the plant was used as a source of fibers that were used for making clothes and ropes among others. This made the crop to be identified as a crop of economic significance, particularly in North America. Due to the increase in demand for cannabis products, settlers increased the cultivation of this product. This led to marijuana being grown extensively as a staple crop. 

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Between the late 1800s and mid1900s, scientists discovered the medicinal value of marijuana. This was after Sir William Osler found out that marijuana extract had the potential of cure migraines. Companies such as Eli Lilly, Brothers Smith, Tilden, and Parke-Davis were established to manufacture the extract that was used to relieve pains like the one women experience while giving birth. Nevertheless, the influx of Mexicans into the U.S in 1910 made the natives to start using the drug for recreational purposes (Evans, 2013). This was termed as the Mexican revolution. The use of this drug for pleasure is what led the Congress to pass strict laws that illegalized the use of cannabis-related drugs. Currently, the cultivation of cannabis is typically indoors since the legislation of the country illegalizes outdoor gardening. 

Effects of Legalizing Marijuana 

As mentioned earlier, the topic on whether marijuana ought to be legalized is still controversial. Some perceive that the move would have positive effects while others believe that it would lead to more devastating consequences in a country. Nevertheless, this article will examine both sides of the argument in order to ascertain whether legalizing marijuana is beneficial or harmful to a country. 

Social Effects 

Improves the Health and Wellbeing of Societal Members 

As mentioned earlier, marijuana has medicinal value. Studies have indicated that cannabis can be used to address certain medical conditions like depression, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety and epilepsy among others. In the U.S, marijuana extracts have been used to stop nausea and improve the appetite of patients who are suffering from HIV/AIDS and cancer. Research has also shown that cannabis has anti-bacterial properties. Besides, it can inhibit the growth of tumors. Furthermore, marijuana can reduce the effects of asthma attacks since it has the potential to enlarge the airways (Caulkins et al., 2015). Apparently, this is a clear indication that marijuana would help a country to address the health conditions of her citizens if it is legalized. 

Reduces Drug Related Offences 

Many individuals perceive that legalizing marijuana would elevate the rates of crime and domestic violence in the society. There have been reports that drug users are often violent towards their families. As such, if a country would opt to legalize cannabis, cases of domestic violence would rise. Besides, some researchers have noted that legalizing the use of marijuana would flourish drug trade which on the other hand would increase instances of crimes since drug lords will be fighting one another over fame (Sullivan & Elkus, 2010). They quote examples of Mexico where over twenty drug cartels are fighting for power in the country. These groups end up robbing and killing one another in their quest for fame. 

Nevertheless, the proponents of marijuana legalization argue that such cases are experienced because of the strict laws that have been set. In Portugal and Amsterdam for instance, legalization of marijuana has reduced offenses which are drug related. Studies indicate that in Portugal, about fourteen thousand people (41%) were sentenced in courts after committing drug-related crimes in 2000. Nonetheless, after the drug was legalized, the number of annual arrests declined to six thousand in 2012 (21%). 

Reduces the Rates of Drug Use 

Researchers have also shown that legalizing marijuana would reduce the rate of drug use in a country. Reinarman, Cohen & Kaal, (2004) noted that Amsterdam reported a decrease in drug use after the implementation of policies that rendered marijuana a soft drug. Hughes & Alex, 2007) also said that reforms that saw drugs being legalized in Portugal aided in reducing drug the use of marijuana among the Portuguese. 

Economic Effects 

Increase Savings 

From an economic point of view, legalizing cannabis would help a country to increase its savings and focus on activities that would better the living standards of its citizens (Evans, 2013). According to Miron, (2003), legalizing marijuana is more viable than illegalizing the drug. He added that legalizing marijuana would have benefits that would appeal to both smokers and non-smokers. Miron noted that the arm that deals with drug prevention in the U.S. spends many resources in fighting drug-related problems (2003). The funds are devoted to arresting, prosecuting, and sentencing cannabis users and traffickers. In his study, Miron (2003) indicated that Massachusetts could save up to 50 million dollars if marijuana were not illegalized. He suggested that the criminal justice system, courts, corrections units and the police could save $120.6, $68.5, $13.6 and $40.3 million respectively if the use of marijuana would be legalized. This money could be used to initiate other projects that would benefit all citizens irrespective of their smoking status (Miron, 2003). 

Source of Raw Materials For industries 

Legalizing marijuana would be beneficial to different categories of industries. These include pharmaceutical and textile industries among others. In ancient times, the U.S. used to cultivate marijuana for to make use of its fibers. Notably, before cotton gin was discovered, cannabis fibers were used to manufacture textiles (Evans, 2013). The products from these fibers were robust and durable. As such, the plant can offer similar merits that cotton plant is currently providing industries. 

Compared to other plants, the marijuana plant is peculiar. The plant can grow rapidly, and a variety of products such as body products, biofuel, biodegradable plastics, and papers among others can be extracted from it. This is an implication that marijuana has the potential of increasing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a firm as well as ensuring that environmentally friendly products are manufactured. Notably, biodegradable plastics (generated from marijuana) can decompose naturally. As such, legalization of marijuana would reduce overdependence on fossil fuels and pollution caused by the existence of non-biodegradable materials in the environment. 

As per the information gathered in this article, legalizing marijuana has plenty of merits to offer. It serves as one of the ways in which cases of drug use, drug-related crimes, and homicides that are drug related can be reduced in the society. Notably, the best way to address the drug problem is not by prohibiting its use. Rather, the drug problem should be death with the same way other health issues such as obesity is addressed. This is the approach has given countries such as Holland positive results. Various researchers have indicated that embracing drug decriminalization policies play a role in deterring people from consuming illicit drugs. Such reports also state that it is economical for governments to engage in education that would give her citizens insight into the dangers that drugs pose to their health that fighting the consumers and traffickers of drugs. In so doing, individuals will shun consuming substances that would jeopardize their health. As the study by Miron (2003) indicated, countries spend a lot of money in criminal justice system, courts, corrections units and the police when addressing drug-related cases. Nonetheless, legalizing marijuana would help nations to save money and engage in activities that would better the knowledge of their citizens on this matter as well as improve their living standards. Therefore, the legalization of marijuana would be economically, industrially, and environmentally beneficial for a country in many aspects. 


Caulkins, J. P., Kilmer, B., Kleiman, M. A., MacCoun, R. J., Midgette, G., Oglesby, P., ... & Reuter, P. H. (2015). Considering marijuana legalization. Santa Monica, CA: RAND. Retrieved February 15 , 2017. 

Evans, D. G. (2013). The economic impacts of marijuana legalization. The Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice , 7 (4), 2-40. 

Hughes, C. E, & Alex, S. (2007). "The effects of decriminalization of drug use in Portugal." The Beckley Foundation Drug policy program: Briefing Paper Fourteen. Retrieved from http://www.tomfeiling.com/archive/decriminalisationinportugal.pdf. 

Miron, J.A. (2003). The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Legalization in Massachusetts. Report for Changing the Climate . Retrieved from http://www.ukcia.org/research/MassachusettsBudgetaryImplications.pdf. 

Reinarman, C., Cohen, P. D., & Kaal, H. L. (2004). The limited relevance of drug policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and in San Francisco. American Journal of Public Health , 94 (5), 836-842. 

Sullivan, J. P., & Elkus, A. (2010). Mexican Gangs and Cartels: Evolving Criminal Insurgencies. Mexidata.Info. 

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