How Marijuana Could Change America
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.