Marijuana has become a more and more acceptable drug over the past few years despite its many side effects, not only on the user, but also on society as a whole. Due to these side effects on society and the marijuana user, it would be in the best interest of everyone that marijuana remains an illegal substance. On one side of the issue you have marijuana users saying that it is their choice on whether or not they should be allowed to smoke marijuana. The question we have to ask ourselves is, are individual freedoms so important that we are willing to allow these individual freedoms to continue without consequence, even if their actions are harmful. The purpose of this essay will be to put forth a strong argument that will prove that marijuana should remain an illegal substance.
Before I go any further I want to clear up a few things. When I say that marijuana should remain illegal I mean that in Canada marijuana use and trafficking should be treating exactly the way it is now under the Criminal Code of Canada. I dont mean that there should be anymore restrictions placed upon marijuana. I also mean that the exceptions where marijuana use is allowed should remain the same. Secondly when I refer to marijuana use and marijuana users I am only talking about when the substance is smoked I am not talking about any other methods in which marijuana is used.
The most obvious reason it keep marijuana use illegal is the harmful effects it has on the smoker. Some of the short term effects of marijuana use include: problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of co-ordination, and increased heart rate (due to possible anxiety). The long-term effects include cancer; damages to the lungs and airways; and finally damages to the immune system. Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as much cancer causing chemicals as someone whom smokes fifteen cigarettes daily. As well people who smoke marijuana often develop coughing and wheezing. They tend to have more chest colds than nonusers do. They are also at a higher risk of getting lung infections like pneumonia. Different studies on animals have found that marijuana can damage the cells and tissues in the body that help protect people from disease. When the immune cells are weakened, you are more likely to get sick.
Then there is the most serious effect of all in which marijuana inflects upon the user and that is its effect upon the brain. Studies show that when people have smoked large amounts of marijuana for years, the drug takes its toll on mental functions. Heavy or daily use of marijuana effects the parts of the brain that control memory, attention, and learning. A working short-term memory is needed to learn and perform tasks that call for more than one or two steps. Smoking marijuana causes some changes in the brain that are like those caused by cocaine and heroin (these changes are not healthy ones).
With all the health side effects presented here it is amazing to find out just how many people use marijuana. Avid users claim that it is not only a lifestyle choice but also it is a matter of liberty and freedom (personal choice). Lobbyists for the legalization of marijuana would say that because Canada is a free country, which gives people the right to free choice that it is morally wrong to make marijuana illegal. These lobbyists would point out that people make choices everyday that go against their healths best interest. Take the example miners who go down into the mines everyday exposing themselves to fumes which they know are bad for their health, yet they choose to go down and mine with the governments permission.
When the lobbyist argues that the use of marijuana is a right that all people should have the ability to make by themselves, they are forgetting that peoples rights are restricted. Even in this great country in which we live peoples rights are confined. Take the example of going to school. The government has made the decision that all parents must send their children to school when the reaches a certain age (age five). The child is to continue to go to school until he or she is old enough to make the decision on their own (age 16). The government has made the decision to make this law because they feel it is in the best interest of the country for all children to have the same basic opportunity at an education. This example of how are choices are restricted is very similar to that of the use of marijuana. The theory the government is using is that the consequences to society outweigh the individuals rights. So therefore the substance should be illegal because the government has to be concerned with the well being of society as a whole not on a one to one basis.
As for the example of the miner and the marijuana user, the miner is only causing health problems to himself. The marijuana user effects the health of everyone around him or her due to the serious health effects of second hand smoke. On the other side of the coin there is also the health benefits that marijuana provides like a cure of nausea.
How come we cannot allow people who are feeling a little bit queasy to use marijuana? We cannot let them use marijuana in this case because the health problems they would have from marijuana would be more severe than the benefits, if they used the substance whenever they felt nauseous. What about a cancer patient who is on their deathbed and is suffering from nausea due to the treatment they were given? Yes in that case they would be allowed to use the drug because the health benefits because in this case the benefits outweigh the problems. So as stated earlier in the essay there are certain situations in which the health of a person can be made better due to the use of marijuana. In these situations the person should be granted full legal rights to the use of the drug.
Since marijuana use causes so many long and short-term health problems will the use of marijuana put even more strain on the health care system? Of coarse it will. Since the marijuana lobbyist argues that marijuana use is a freedom of choice, then to me it would make sense for the marijuana user to pay for his or her own health expenses. They indirectly chose to have health problems, so they should pay for it.
The marijuana lobbyist would say that if we examined the economics of the situation that the legalization of marijuana would only put a boost on the economy and government revenue. If we look at the sales of other similar drugs i.e. alcohol and cigarettes, we would see that they provide the government with a huge source of income. The government could tax marijuana heavily just like it does to alcohol and cigarettes and therefore have another massive source of revenue for the country. Then the government could use this extra revenue to help fix the health care crisis and maybe even have enough money left over to help out other programs such as education.
Well the lobbyist is probably right in that the marijuana industry would be a huge source of income for the government, maybe even as big as the alcohol and cigarette industries. However should we really be making moral decisions such as this one based upon how much money is involved? If we were to make this moral decision based upon economics then where would it stop? Consider prostitution, it to could be a huge revenue source for the government. So shouldnt we legalize it as well? If we legalized marijuana on the fact that it would be a good source of government revenue then we would have to legalize everything that was a good source of government revenue and not on whether or not it was right or wrong. I know my morals are not for sale and I don not think that the moral values of our country are either.
What about the increase damages to society. We already know the effects that drinking and driving has. What about driving under the influence of marijuana? Marijuana has serious harmful effects on the skills required to drive safely. It effects alertness, the ability to concentrate, co-ordination, and the ability to react quickly. These effects can last up to twenty-four hours after using the drug. Marijuana may play a role in car accidents. In one study conducted in Memphis, TN, researchers found that, of 150 reckless drivers who were tested for drugs at the arrest scene, thirty three percent tested positive for marijuana.
Data has also shown that while smoking marijuana, people show the same lack of co-ordination on standard drunk driver tests as do people who have had too much to drink. Since we already know the bad effects of drinking and driving do we really want to make another substance legal which as the potential to cause the same problem?
Where is the proof? Just because marijuana is legalized there is no proof that this would cause more damage to society. In fact in some countries where marijuana has been made legal the damage to society has actually gone down.
Can we really compare different countries like this? Typically speaking no two countries are alike therefore two different countries may react differently to the same laws. Just because one countries damages to society went down due to the legalization of marijuana does not mean that another country will have the same outcome. They may in fact have the exact same outcome, however they could also have the exact opposite outcome. The question I ask is, do we want to take the chance of the outcome in this situation being the wrong one when there is so much at stake? I do not feel that we can risk something such as many more frequent fatal car accidents on an assumption.
I feel that it is a good thing that the moral use of marijuana is being questioned today. We should be reminded that yes throughout history cultures have had concepts, ideas, and practices that for long periods of time have been considered morally permissible even though they may not be. However just because something has been considered moral or in this case immoral for a long period of time this does not make that decision right. That is why I am happy that so many people today are questioning the decision of morality as it relates to marijuana. It helps our society really look at why we feel the use of this drug is wrong.
I have presented many arguments that do not even remotely hint that marijuana use is wrong because it has been banned for a long period of time. Instead I looked at the situation in a way that it was as if marijuana was a newly discovered drug and we were trying to decide whether or not its use was morally permissible. With all the facts presented it should be a natural decision to make that marijuana should be an illegal substance.