English ****-Composition and Rhetoric
Marijuana in America
The debate about whether or not Marijuana should be legalized in America is an ongoing
discussion in news outlets, internet, and within people. America’s outlook on the topic has
changed throughout the years. In 2013, 58% of the population favored the legalization of
marijuana which has dramatically risen from 1969 when 12% of the population said they did.
Medical research from over the years has contributed to this rise, which has shown that
marijuana can be used for more good than bad. We believe marijuana should be legalized and
regulated just like alcohol and tobacco.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan announced the ‘War on Drugs’. He signed the Anti-
Drug Abuse Act which gave longer and harsher sentences for things, such as marijuana
possession and dealing. 100 grams of heroin would be classified as the same as 100 grams of
marijuana. Since then America’s incarceration rate has skyrocketed and is now the biggest in the
world. In 2013, the U.S. prison population was 2.4 million which has quadrupled since the
1980’s. 51% of the prison population is incarcerated for drug related incidents compared to
robbery which is only 4%. Author Harry Levin goes into details the increase number of
marijuana arrest since the ‘War on Drugs’: “Arrest for marijuana possession climbed from a
crack-era low of 260,000 in 1990, to 500,000 in 1995, to 640,000 in 2000, to 690,000 in 2005, to
750,000 in 2010” (20). Too many American’s are going to jail for too long for things such as
marijuana. Legalizing marijuana could decrease some of the jail population America has. Once
you are sent to prison there is a chance that you will return in the near future.
The legalization of marijuana could put a stop to some of the private owned prisons.
These businesses make their money on the amount of people they bring into their jails. Putting
people behind bars has now become a business in America. Instead of seeking the rehabilitation
of individuals who are incarcerated their focus is too make profit off them. These business
owners need to be stop and legalizing marijuana would be a good step because it’d decrease the
incarceration rate. For numerous investors it’s been almost like a pot of gold for them. All of
their workers are always on time, never late or absent for work and if they refuse to do the task at
hand can be thrown into isolation cells. Many of these prisons go against various human rights
Recently president Obama acknowledged the fact that the prohibition of marijuana is
unfairly imposed against minority groups such as Latino’s and African Americans. National
Institute of Drug Abuse found that blacks were less likely to use marijuana than whites.
However, African American’s are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Author Harry Levine writes, some of the reasons why he thinks this epidemic is happening:
“Police departments concentrate their patrols only in certain neighborhoods, usually ones
designated as “high crime”. These are mainly places where low-income whites and people of
color live” (19). Legalizing marijuana could end the inconsistencies between the two groups.
Even though legalization won’t get rid of systematic injustices within the criminal system, it is a
way we can address it. Marijuana arrests on your record can be devastating when trying to build
a future for yourself. It can stop one from receiving jobs, loans, and public benefits. Author Maia
Szalavitz depicts the numbers behind marijuana use among kids:
“In fact, research shows that kids who are arrested and put into the juvenile justice system
for any type of crime, including marijuana possession, are almost seven times more likely
to have criminal records as adults than kids with similar levels of youthful misbehavior
who are not arrested” (1).
In 2012, marijuana arrests as a percentage was 48.3%. This equals to 749,825 arrests as a total
that year. 87% of those were for simple possession, which is calculated as 658,231 arrests. Only
91,593 of the arrest were for manufacturing and dealing marijuana. Every 48 seconds someone is
arrested for possession, meaning by the time you’re done reading this paragraph it would have
happened somewhere. The United States spends 42 billion a year on reinforcing their marijuana
laws. That’s an astounding amount of money spent that could be used for other things such as
health insurance, education, and towards the poor.
There is a business that can be made in the legalization of marijuana which could help
pump money into the economy. Legalizing marijuana could bring in $8.7 billion in federal and
state tax revenue annually. Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana in 2012. There
are now more marijuana dispensaries than Starbuck’s in Colorado. On the first day of business
they brought in more than 1 million dollars. Colorado has planned to use some of the revenue for
the construction of new schools. The rest of the revenue will be put towards health care and
public health. Since the legalization of marijuana crime has dropped. Violent crimes have been
down by 2.4 percent compared to last year at this time period. Marijuana legalization will reduce
the black market of marijuana within America. In a poll it showed that 61 percent of Colorado’s
marijuana user prefers to buy from dispensaries opposed to a street dealer. In fact, only 5 percent
of the marijuana users felt loyal to the black market.
Medical research has propelled Americans outlook on marijuana over the years.
Countless amounts of studies have shown that marijuana is less harmful than things such as
tobacco, cigarettes, and caffeine. Many old myths about the plant are now being thrown out the
window and told to be false. Author Itai Danovitch writes that marijuana has its medical benefits,
“… The symptoms for which there is the most substantial evidence include nausea and vomiting,
anorexia and wasting, neuropathic pain and muscle spasticity” (94).
Even though some of the good listed that could help with the legalization, there is still
some who are opposed to it happening. Author David Frum depicts some of his issues with the
legalization of marijuana “After all, persistent and heavy marijuana use among adolescents has
been shown to reduce their IQ as adults by 6 to 8 points” (24). That’s a bold statement to make
especially when you don’t factor in things such as economic class and home life. With that
statement it’s almost like he’s trying to make a justification for idiots out here. That very same
statement could be used for alcohol use among adolescents. He continues on by stating detailing
his issues with people who drive while high:
“Nobody ever died from tobacco over-dose either, but that doesn’t prove tobacco to be
safe. Of all the dangers connected to marijuana, the most lethal is the risk of automobile
accident. Marijuana-related fatal car crashes have nearly tripled across the United States
in the past decade” (26).
I’m sure most drivers drink coffee while driving, or have had it in their system, but no one says
that coffee causes accidents. There is no correlation between the two. Studies have shown that
marijuana causes little to no outcome when it comes to car handling impairment. In comparisons
to alcohol, which influences risky car driving, marijuana tends to make users more cautious of
In conclusion, let me say that marijuana isn’t intending to be used for everyone. It’s
something that should be taken with precaution before use. Pros of legalizing marijuana
outweigh the cons. We can generate capital, but also fix the incarceration rate this country has.
The legalization of marijuana would mean the end of ‘the War on Drugs’, something that should
have been addressed and fixed a long time ago.
Danovitch, Itai. “The Road to Legitimizing Marijuana: What Benefit at What Cost?:
Sorting Through the Science on Marijuana: Facts, Fallacies, and Implications for Legalization.”
McGeorge Law Review 43 (2012): 91-94. Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 April. 2014.
Frum, David. “Don’t go to pot.” Commentary 13 (2014) no. 4: 23-27. ProQuest Diversity
Database. Web. 27 April. 2014.
Levine, Harry, “The Scandal of Racist Marijuana Arrests.” Nation 297 (2013): 18-22.
ProQuest Diversity Database. Web. 27 April. 2014.
Szalavitz, Maia. “The Search for the Real Numbers Behind Marijuana Use.”(2014). 1+.
Business Source Complete. Web. 27 April. 2014.