The legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational use is highly contested. Most Liberals support the legalization of marijuana, while the majority of Conservatives believe marijuana should remain illegal. In this blog post I will focus on the Liberal perspective; I will discuss the Conservative’s viewpoint in my next post. I will be focusing my thoughts on the legalization of medical marijuana. Liberals claim that the support for legalizing medical marijuana continues to rise and has a potential to offer thousands of people a better quality of life, reduces the demand for narcotics and accidental painkiller overdoses, and has many other benefits to society.
According to a 2016 Pew Research Center report, 57% of U.S. adults support the legalization of (recreational) marijuana while 37% of U.S. adults believe it should be illegal. Just ten years ago, only 32% favored legalization, while 60% were opposed. This stark contrast demonstrates a shift in public opinion about this issue. 77% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. 1* This shift is driven by several demographic groups including young adults, Millennials, and Baby Boomers. 2*
Legalizing medical marijuana potentially offers symptom relief and may completely eliminate symptoms. Jen Christensen, CNN journalist emphasizes, “…ten diseases where medical marijuana could have an impact.” Results from animal studies show that some marijuana extracts may destroy certain cancer cells and stop cancer growth. THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) was also shown to improve radiation effectiveness on destroying cancer cells. Medical marijuana also helped to reduce side effects of chemo therapy treatments. In fact, a study involving 56 patients found that medical marijuana helped to reduce 30% of their pain. Other studies involving animals, lab tests, and some human patients have shown that medical marijuana can help prevent symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, including muscle spasms, pain, tremors, and stiffness. For Epilepsy, medical marijuana extract was found to reduce seizure frequency by 50% in a study conducted on 213 children and adults at the NYU Langone Medical Center. Liberals claim the medical breakthroughs are only beginning. 3*
Medical cannabis (marijuana) is also a safe solution for chronic pain. Dr. Gregory T. Carter states, “Cannabis has no known lethal dose, minimal drug interactions, is easily dosed via orally ingestion, vaporization, or topical absorption, thereby avoiding the potential risks associated with smoking completely….” 4* According to the Washington Post, 92% of patients say medical marijuana works. Also, nearly 8-in-10 doctors approved the use of medical marijuana. 5*
Legalizing medical marijuana also serves as a solution to the pain and overdose epidemic. Research reveals that the enactment of medical marijuana laws reduce overdose deaths involving heroin and pharmaceutical opioids. Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance states, “The most likely reason [for the increase of marijuana use] is that people are finding marijuana more helpful than opioids in managing different types of pain.” 4*
Dr. Sanjay Gupta claims, “With regard to pain alone, marijuana could simultaneously decrease the number of accidental painkiller overdoses, which are the greatest cause of preventable death in this country…” 4* The legalization of medical marijuana would provide millions of people effective pain relief and save many lives.
Finally, legalizing medical marijuana would reduce crime, decrease mass incarceration rates, and save the government billions of dollars. According to the ACLU, 52% of all drug arrests in 2010 were for marijuana. 6* Also, according to Drug Policy.org, 89% of those charged with marijuana law violations in 2015 were arrested for possession only. 7* The most common use of marijuana is for medical purposes, especially pain relief. Why are we arresting people for trying to reduce their chronic pain? Instead, we should be focusing on the violent criminals that escape punishment because valuable police resources are being used to incarcerate non-violent marijuana users. The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. 8* Drug Policy.org claims that the U.S. spent more than $51 billion dollars on the war on drugs. 7* Economists at The Huffington Post claim that by legalizing medical marijuana the government would save $13.7 billion dollars per year. 9*
To conclude, Liberals fully support the legalization of medical marijuana. The research demonstrates that medical marijuana can help reduce symptoms of diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. Medical marijuana is also proving to be an effective solution for chronic pain. Liberals argue that we should not punish people for trying to reduce their pain. Prison incarceration rates would decrease, billions of dollars would be saved, and many lives would be enhanced if medical marijuana was legalized.