How Marijuana Could Change America

Hillary G's picture

 Hillary Godwin

October 26, 2010

How Marijuana Could Change America

Historically, the United States has experienced several cultural shifts due to changing attitudes toward socially deviant behavior. As each generation leaves its mark on American culture, our society changes to accommodate evolving interpretations of personal liberty and social norms. Fifty years ago, the idea of marijuana being legalized would have seemed outrageous and impossible to most citizens. But now, in 2010, there are politicians in Washington D.C. fighting to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. If marijuana is legalized, it will dramatically influence the future of American culture, particularly regarding its economic, social, and medical structures. 

Marijuana is considered being legalized primarily because of its medicinal value. Research has shown that marijuana helps reduce pain in cancer patients and those with chronic illnesses. But if marijuana is legalized, it may change more than just the medical system in the United States.

Many people have predictions about the future of America with regard to the other effects of marijuana legalization. Some believe that it will reduce capital productivity and increase use of the drug among both children and adults. But if one calculates the economic effect of legally regulating marijuana and taxing it, it becomes apparent that it could ideally get the United States out of debt within a decade. By federally taxing marijuana, the government would significantly reduce the number of drug dealers on the streets, and deter young people from selling marijuana for personal profit. If marijuana becomes a culturally recognized legal activity, the government would be able to spend more federal funding on improving education, healthcare, and public safety for future generations.

Some believe that legalizing marijuana will begin a domino effect that will, over time, lead our culture to being more accepting of reckless behavior and substance abuse. This stems from the common belief that marijuana is harmful to the health of both the person using it and those around them; legalizing it would advocate use of a dangerous substance. However, these concerns fail to make a distinction between marijuana and other legal drugs.

The primary reason for legalizing marijuana, to any degree, is because of its medicinal benefits. Marijuana has been proven to have painkilling properties while lacking the negative physical and psychological effects of legal drugs such as Morphine, Vicodin, and Oxycontin, which are extremely hard on the body, and are also highly addictive. For cancer patients, as well as those with other chronic diseases, marijuana is something of a miracle drug. If used responsibly under controlled conditions for its intended purpose, it is unlikely that its use will cause harm to anyone, including the user. If people in need of its medical uses have legal access to it in the future, the rates of drug addiction would likely decline, and many Americans would not have to sacrifice more of their health for the sake of legality.

            An interesting phenomenon here is that although many people fear the future cultural implications of legalizing marijuana, we have already legalized the use of substances that have had significant impacts on our culture. Tobacco use, for example, has become a culturally acceptable practice, despite its close connection to health problems and addiction. Some prescription drugs have high abuse rates and can even lead to suicide. Alcohol is perhaps the most widely accepted legal drug that has permeated our culture; it directly correlates to America’s high collision rates on the road, widespread alcohol abuse and addiction, and expectations of intoxication at parties and social gatherings. Despite this, we as a culture accept its role in society as being a normal part of social interaction.

Marijuana, however, would not have such drastic, negative effects on society. Although it would be legalized for its medicinal benefits, it is likely that it would slowly become recognized as a relatively harmless activity (as it is not physically addictive or harmful to one’s health). This could create a cultural shift in attitude toward substance use. People who drink alcohol or use other drugs because of their availability may instead begin using marijuana. As opposed to alcohol, which impairs responsible decision-making and can even lead to violence, marijuana usually provides the user with feelings of calmness and/or well-being. Therefore, as it becomes integrated into our culture, the society may begin to see a decline in drunk driving deaths, violent crime, and unwanted pregnancies, and instead see a change in the structure of social expectations and behavior.

            These cultural changes will depend largely on individual intentionality. Legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes is likely to set it on the path toward legalizing it for recreational use (while still under strict federal regulation). People will always have the personal choice of whether or not to use the drug, regardless of its legal status. But its progress toward changing American culture relies on each individual’s attitude and behavior. Organizations such as the National Organization of the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) were formed to help perpetuate a cultural shift in attitude toward the drug, and to fight for the individual freedoms the laws impede upon.

Legalizing marijuana will open the door not only to an improved healthcare system, but also to an improved economic situation and social structure. We are standing on the edge of a major cultural shift that could be very beneficial to American culture as a whole. The only question is whether the American people will have the courage to take the risk. 

Comments

JLR's picture

Think about this...

Let me give you a little background, then try to see yourself from my point of view. I never used a "drug" in my first 30 years. Those first 30 were very hard on me. Working two to three jobs since the age of 17 just to afford the basics. Have been sick with some kind of disorder, disease, condition almost constantly since I was a child. Some of these include Fibromyalgia, endometriosis, cancer, IBD, arthritis in the ankle & foot that was decapitated then re-attached using metal pins & screws leaving me disabled for life two weeks before my 35th birthday, a few bleeding ulcers, a birth defect shutting off my nasal passages, I could go on but I think you get the picture. I've had over twenty surgeries in my almost 37 years. I have had a variety of jobs due to moving a lot, one of the best was when I worked at State Police HQ where I was drug tested & even had to take lie detector tests. I still have a stack of commendations on my behalf from higher ranking officers. I was raised by the most straight-laced, christian, Republican, still married after forty years, parents. Point is, I was raised in a sheltered, middle class, normal as it gets type of home. After my husband of five years(who was also a Baptist preacher's son) admitted he was bi & I got divorced, I crawled into a bottle of Crown. Wasn't a drinker until that point. I stayed drunk for three solid years trying to kill that pain. I ended up murdering my Pancreas. Now if I have one alcoholic drink at a holiday party I'm in the hospital for a week with all of my vital organs shutting down. Not even able to have a chip of ice to wet my whistle because the body can't process it. Thanks to alcohol. We're all big enough to also understand all of the other things that go with alcoholism, so I'll refrain from the rest of that story. Oh, & the cancer; my (then)boyfriend wouldn't quit smoking around me when they found it at the age of 17 the first time. It started in my uterus, traveled into my ovaries & caused me to have a surgery every five months for almost three years, a few over the years, then to finally have a hysterectomy at the age of 28 w/o having any kids. The doctors asked him repeatedly to stop smoking around me that it was the cause of the cancer being so aggressive. My parents have never smoked & I had to wear an eye-patch as a little girl when my uncle accidentally stuck his cig right in my eye, so I never smoked either. But I had to suffer from second hand smoke in the worst way, causing me to have "the most aggressive kind of cancer", thanks to cigarettes I wasn't even smoking. Now I have never been pro-pot, but I've always thought if it grows out of the ground, who cares what people do with it as long as it was never done around me. Not by my friends, not in my house, not in a house where I was visiting, nowhere around me and only because it was illegal. When I became permanently disabled I moved to a small town where I thought I could afford to live independently on just disability & live by some family in case I needed a little help. I was dating a guy who begged me to smoke some weed for months, saying it would make me feel so much better. I flat-out refused. I was also taking over 28 different meds at the time & couldn't hardly walk across the floor from the pain. But I didn't realize what he actually meant when he kept insisting I would feel better. One night while we were home alone watching movies I gave in. I'm not going to say it was love at first toke, because I didn't even smoke cigarettes so I didn't learn how to inhale properly for a few more tries. But once I did!! I could go on & on about what it could do for our economy, our health, our farmers, our green initiatives, but instead I'm going to tell you what it's done for me. I've been smoking it for medicinal & recreational use for about five years now. I take three pills per day now; an estrogen pill, a stomach pill, and an allergy pill. That's it! I feel so good some days I don't even have to use my cane. I'm more relaxed, happier, healthier than I've ever felt. Since I can't work I could smoke 24/7 if I wanted to, but I don't. I use it when needed, but don't have withdrawals if I can't get any either. If I go too long w/o any I can feel the old sickness creeping its way back in. It is illegal, at the moment, in the state I live in. So you mean to tell me, a decent, hard-working woman, who has been struck down by unfortunate illnesses & accidents, does what she can to help anyone in need(including any stray animal I see), has tried conventional medicine her whole life only to have it cause other very painful diseases(like IBD) and they don't even help, can't smoke or drink like anyone else with a vice, you would rather see me rot in jail without having the proper medical care I need than to see me smoke a bowl in my own house & not live off the taxpayers money? Is that what you want? I deserve to be incarcerated for using an herb/weed medicinally that grows from the ground, planted by God himself, because of things out of my control? Some things were caused by your prescribed drugs to begin with! And it's okay with you that a drink of legal alcohol could potentially kill me when I could smoke a field of pot & it wouldn't do anything besides make me happy, hungry or sleepy? By all means, if anything man-made can cause you to die, make it illegal. Oh wait a minute, then the medical industry would go under over night. And wait, yes sir - there goes the cigarettes & alcohol too. Coke, crack, meth - should be taken off the streets & sought out with a vengeance to keep people from ruining & losing their lives to, yes. Pill-pushing doctors who don't care that their patients are walking around like zombies after they reach there Rx quota for the month & the patients still have the same problem they went to the doctor for - arrest them! But this a weed we are talking about people. It has many qualities that we could use besides the medicinal, clothing, paper, toiletries, etc. It has changed the quality & reality of my life from suicidal with manic tendencies to a much more relaxed, peaceful, as pain-free as I'll ever be state. And you would have me locked up for it? Put yourself in our shoes. Debilitating pain every second of every day, one thing that grows from the earth can help you, but no one wants you to be able to get it. They would see you arrested before they see you almost pain-free & happy. Answer me this, why is it that you should live a full life but I should not?

Common Sense's picture

Think about it...

Rather than following the trend in supporting the legalization of marijuana in hopes that it will benefit our society, I would like you to consider that the costs of legalizing marijuana might be far more than the costs of prohibiting it. I believe that the expected massive increase in use of marijuana would have increased regulatory costs such as arrests and enforcement of new underage marijuana laws. Also, the drop in price and resulting massive increase in use of marijuana after legalization would have disturbing effects in our society. Legalizing marijuana would provide new tax revenue, but assuming that there would even be a surplus of funds in the first place, it is likely that money would have to be used for the increasing social costs of more use.

Those in favor claim that legalizing marijuana would boost our economy through adjusted regulation costs and taxation; that it would disrupt illegal trafficking of marijuana in the black market; and that marijuana is far less dangerous than legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco.  Fact, legalizing marijuana would provide revenue in two ways, reduced expenditures in enforcing the prohibition and new tax revenue. Inherently, this would generate tremendous savings for taxpayers.  Collectively, the reduced costs in expenditures and new tax revenue would have the potential to solve the budget crisis.  Legalizing marijuana would drop the price of marijuana through commercialization; disrupting the illegal trafficking of marijuana in the black market.  Because marijuana is the largest cash crop in America, if it becomes legal then companies would capitalize on its financial benefits; dropping the price of marijuana tremendously due to price wars between its competitors. Legalizing marijuana would eradicate its current illegality premium; drug dealers will have no profit incentives. It would put drug dealers out of business and create a safer system for minors.

If marijuana is legalized then it is safe to say that companies will commercialize it to capitalize on its financial benefits; the glamorization and more visible promotion of a product lead to massive increases in the use of that product. Although legalizing marijuana might imply the reduction of incarceration and law enforcement costs, it would only slightly reduce incarceration costs, but law enforcement would still have to tend to new underage marijuana laws. If marijuana was legalized then to regulate it there would be an age restriction, but that doesn’t stop those that are underage from consuming it, of course; hence, law enforcement would still have to tend to new underage marijuana laws. If marijuana was legalized then the price of marijuana would drop; the black market would be able to purchase marijuana at a cheaper price and compete with legal distributors; hence, law enforcement would still have to tend to the black market. 

Also, according to Jonathan Caulkins, the former co-director of Rand's drug policy research center, "an implication of the new figure is that marijuana decriminalization would have almost no impact on prison populations." Caulkins found that, “more than 85% of people in prison for all drug-law violations were clearly involved in drug distribution.”  Caulkins also found that, “only about half a percent of the total prison population was there for marijuana possession.” 

Clifton Middletonm's picture

Free Market Hemp

A New Economic Foundation,
Renewable Energy and the Social Contract

We have an opportunity to create a new economic foundation based on renewable natural resources, yielding thousands of green jobs, producing a sustainable replacement for oil and the restoration of social consent and confidence in the body politic. All of that and more made manifest by a stroke of the pen, simply by properly classifying hemp as the medicine and beneficial resource that over 100,000,000 Americans already know it is. Hemp, cannabis is good.

The social benefit of a rational hemp policy would be to restore social consent and confidence in the body politic. Currently, over 100,000,000 Americans have used marijuana and have decided that it is a good thing, not dangerous and should be free, not used to ruin peoples lives by arrest, confiscation and disenfranchisement. Thinking people do their own research and many times conclude that the laws against marijuana are arbitrary, unjust, wrong and that the only people who support them are either uninformed or their jobs depend upon the mandatory acceptance of marijuana prohibition. This is the true silent majority, citizens who think that the marijuana laws are irrational and are afraid of persecution and discrimination if they express their opinions publicly.

Industrial hemp production could provide a domestic and renewable source of fuel, fiber and jobs. Hemp can be grown, produced and processed all across the land by thousands of urban farmers using land, lots, parks and public lands lying fallow and unused. These green jobs are about the growing, harvesting and processing of locally grown organics for food and fuel and could constitute the bedrock of a truly independent economy, intrinsically secure, renewable and stable, sustainable and most importantly doable.

The benefits of a rational hemp policy are financial, social and moral.
The economic impact of is three fold; first is the creation of Jobs based on a sustainable, clean source of fuel, fiber and medicine, estimated at over One Trillion dollars. Good jobs that produce energy and tax revenue that can not be exported.
The second is the savings to taxpayers by eliminating the money spent on law enforcement, the courts and prisons, estimated at over 8 billion a year. The third is the cost to individuals and families who are criminalized by a system that encourages law enforcement to arrest people, fine them, confiscate their property, and disenfranchise them from the vote, healthcare, professional licenses and credit. This cost is measured in the billions of dollars. All totaled the war on marijuana and the lost opportunities to develop hemp; combined with the needless suffering of those persecuted is over 2 Trillion dollars a year.
The moral benefit is simple; the truth will set us free.

We need to decriminalize marijuana and repel the effects of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act to restore the production, development and use of the most sustainable, renewable natural resource recorded in history. Hemp production can replace the use of oil as a fuel quickly, efficiently and at low cost. Hemp is a renewable crop that can be grown on land not used for food, improving the land and providing a carbon neutral source of fuel. Hemp production and processing will create jobs all across the land while providing a local and domestic source of energy.
The use of marijuana for medical purposes is the oldest and most universally documented use of any substance in medical history. 13 states have decided that marijuana is a beneficial plant and it is time allow and encourage the use and investigation of medical marijuana and industrial hemp.

Hemp production was the economic foundation of colonial America because it was readily grown and used for over 25,000 different purposes; Hemp was grown for sails, rope, oil for lamps, clothing and high quality paper. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper by Thomas Jefferson, an advocate of hemp for commerce, medicine and recreation. George Washington was one of the largest hemp growers in the colonies and the renewable income produced by this plant sustained our first president and his family before, during and after the revolution. It is fair to say that the spirit to be free and independent was made possible by the ability of our fore fathers to be economically independent and free. Hemp production was the backbone of liberty, freedom and economic independence for colonial America and could once again be the keystone of a renewable, sustainable and yes, Independent economy.

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