Should Cannabis be Legalized?

Close up of cannabis plant, Sebastapol, California, USA
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The cannabis legalization debate had gone on for years, although it is only recently that the legalization of pot has been a real possibility. Here are the main arguments, for and against pot legalization.


Many of the pro-legalization arguments are based on the idea that marijuana use cannot really be controlled, and that efforts to control marijuana use cause more problems than they solve. These arguments are pragmatic -- they don't necessarily state that marijuana use is a good thing, but that it is not going away so we may as well benefit from it as a society.

These arguments include:

  • Legalizing marijuana will reduce the strain on the legal and criminal justice systems by cutting out or massively reducing relatively petty marijuana-related crime, such as possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
  • Production and sales of marijuana by the government, rather than by criminals, will save lives, create jobs, and generate money which can be used for social programs, education, and healthcare.
  • Crime related to marijuana production, trafficking and dealing will be reduced or eliminated.
  • By setting an age limit on marijuana use, there can be stricter controls on whether younger people can access marijuana.
  • Other arguments are more positive and are focused on free will and the potential benefits of marijuana use. These arguments include:
  • The right of every individual to determine what they consume, and how they influence their own state of consciousness.
  • Freedom for anyone, regardless of medical status, to use marijuana for therapeutic reasons without the approval of a physician or diagnosis of a specific medical condition.
  • The recreational potential of marijuana -- similar to the recreational use of alcohol, with arguably fewer and/or less severe consequences.
  • The positive effects of marijuana on creativity.


Many of the arguments against the legalization of marijuana are based on the idea that any softening of the government's position of drugs is dangerous, and will lead to an increase in drug-related problems. These arguments include:

  • The inability of employers to ensure a drug-free workplace since they will no longer be able to give their employees drug tests for marijuana.
  • A permissive message being sent to young people that drug use is acceptable.
  • Creating the public perception that marijuana is not a serious or harmful drug, when in fact, it leads to numerous mental and physical harms, including use of other illicit drug, health problems, driving while ability is impaired by cannabis and cannabis use problems among early onset marijuana users who start using the drug before age 15.
  • Loss of control over medical marijuana by physicians.
  • Inconsistency with other laws: for example, if a state legalizes marijuana, this conflicts with federal drug laws. This leads to confusion in the public and among law enforcers.

    Divided Opinions

    The world is divided, both in opinion and in law, over cannabis legalization.

    It is well known that marijuana has been legal in Holland for decades, and the open sale and smoking of cannabis in the coffee shops of Amsterdam is a major tourist attraction. Yet violent crime typically associated with drug use is rare, and Amsterdam is one of the safest cities in the world.

    And Portugal successfully decriminalized all drugs in 2001. Follow up research has indicated positive health outcomes, such as reduction in STDs and drug-related deaths, and no increase in youth drug use or drug tourism.

    Canada was one of the first countries to regulate medical marijuana, in 2001. Canada is also home to the only safe injection site in North America, which does not allow marijuana or other inhalable drugs, but does allow injectable drugs such as heroin. More and more US states have made medical marijuana legal, although the UK, with its long tradition in prescribing drugs such as heroin and methadone, has not.

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