33 states and the District of Columbia have made marijuana legal. (Photo courtesy of Vox.)
33 states and the District of Columbia have made marijuana legal.

Photo courtesy of Vox.

Editorial: Should marijuana be legal?

January 9, 2019

The controversy over the legality of marijuana in the United States has risen dramatically since the state of Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2014. So far, 33 states and the District of Columbia have made marijuana legal, at least to a point.

While some states like Colorado have legalized marijuana for recreational use, the majority of states with some form of legalized marijuana, such as Illinois, have only gone so far as to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. The staff of This is York is in full support of the passage of a law in Illinois and in the entire United States to make both medical and recreational marijuana legal for consumption. Here are some examples of why our staff believes this.

With regards to medical marijuana, our staff had an overwhelming belief that medical marijuana should be allowed to be used by those suffering from diseases. Marijuana is mostly classified as a depressant drug, a drug that causes relaxation. For this reason, marijuana has been found to be a decent relaxing drug that allows patients to experience less pain. In the medical profession, marijuana has been prescribed to patients with different types of pain or diseases that cause pain. Relief for pain sufferers is one of the largest arguments made by those who want to legalize medical marijuana, and our staff agrees with this sentiment.

However, those who caution against making medical marijuana legal warn that it could become a gateway drug. Although marijuana can lead to other drugs, the same has also been found to be true with substances like alcohol, which is legal for consumption at the age of 21, and prescription drugs, which are prescribed by doctors. Therefore, marijuana consumption for medical purposes wouldn’t pose any more threat to other drugs than do prescription drugs such as painkillers.

Now, this also helps the case for making recreational marijuana legal across the United States. But, there are more practical and reasonable reasons for its legalization. For instance in the state of Illinois, if marijuana was made legal the state could pass a tax to go along with it. This tax could be implemented in different ways depending on what legislators feel is appropriate. The most popular tax for states to impose is a sales tax on the product. A sales tax would cause the price of marijuana to increase, but it would also increase the taxable revenue from a marijuana dispensary, therefore bringing in more revenue for a state to use. Other states have also made use of excise taxes, which usually regulate the price of products such as liquor.

Another reason some supporters of recreational marijuana advocate for its legalization is the current state of America’s prison system. The United States currently has the largest population of incarcerated people in the world, the majority of whom are in prison for low-level, non-violent drug offenses. Most of these prisoners were sentenced during the reign of “mandatory minimum” sentencing laws that mandated certain sentences for the possession of a drug regardless of the circumstances. These laws have since been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans, and even some of the writers of the laws that passed in the 80s and 90s. While some have been repealed, those who live in an area that had the law removed will likely need to serve the entirety of their sentence, even though others commit the same crime and go in for far less time. Therefore proponents of recreational marijuana say that making it legal will reduce the prison population, and help ease the logjam in the justice system by removing some low-level, non-violent drug offenses.

Some of these sentiments have been echoed by our Governor-Elect J.B. Pritzker (D), who supported the legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois during his campaign against incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner (R). With the state likely to undergo some significant changes with the arrival of Pritzker, we’ll have to wait and see if one day there will be a marijuana dispensary on Spring Road.

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