Legalization of Cannabis: Exploring New Horizons

The public attitude to cannabis has changed drastically over the last twenty years. These changes can be traced to the legislation of various states. In such a manner, in November 2016, four states in the US joined other eight states, which legalized recreational cannabis. More than half of American states allow the usage of medical cannabis (“Drug Scheduling”). Despite the increasing popularity of the current legal drug, it remains a controversial issue. The difficulties with legal regulations are complicated by the fact that in the US, cannabis is federally illegal. However, separate states manage their laws individually. The positive and negative effects of cannabis both in medical and recreational fields are a relevant topic for discussion. Cannabis is the most popular and widely-used drug, which is taken for medical and recreational purposes; however, it is addictive and can constitute some danger to health.

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Research conducted in 2012 showed the shift in the public attitude to cannabis and, in particular, the opinion of the youth about drugs (Miech et al. 340). Thus, in 2012, in California, teenagers attending the twelfth grade were twenty-five percent more likely to use cannabis during the last month than teenagers of the same age in other states (Miech et al. 340). Moreover, twenty percent of participants were less likely to understand the adverse health effect of marijuana fully, as well as disapprove the marijuana use in general. More than half of participating teenagers supposed that they would use cannabis in the next five years (Miech et al. 340). These results demonstrate the current tendency in marijuana use, as well as changes in the attitude towards the drug. In some way, the decriminalization of cannabis will eventually lead to even a more widely-spread acceptance and use of marijuana.

The Attitude towards Marijuana

Concerning the opinion of the adult population in the United States, fifty-seven percent of them agree that marijuana should be legalized, while thirty-seven percent are against it. It is interesting to compare these data to the one, which was gathered ten years ago and which was almost reversed. Back then, sixty percent of adults were against cannabis legalization, and only thirty-two percent supported this initiative. Thus, the increase in the number of marijuana legalization supporters is significant, and it continues to grow with each year (Geiger).

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It is indeed difficult to state whether cannabis is harmful or not, while it is known that it has both positive and negative effects. Primarily, these effects are individual and can be both beneficial and detrimental depending on the person, who uses them. It is suggested that the positive effects of marijuana usage appear to be more significant than the negative ones. Cannabis is the most commonly used drug, which contributes to relaxation, openness, talkativeness, increased sensory perception, and euphoria (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). Aside from recreational use, it is widely utilized in healthcare for treating a variety of symptoms and diseases. Marijuana reduces pain and nausea, as well as stimulates appetite. Moreover, it can be used for the treatment of such diseases and conditions as multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, cancer, and its symptoms, insomnia, epilepsy, eczema, seizures, and anxiety. Furthermore, it improves lung health and helps metabolism (Krishan et al. 5; Yada 1090; Russo; Russo and Hohmann 181).

The increased attention to the marijuana issue may lead to the possibility of conducting more profound research concerning its influence on human health; as of today, only six percent of studies about cannabis focused on its usage in the medical field (Gupta). Despite all the mentioned properties and medical benefits of marijuana, it should be stated that it is not indispensable and there are drugs, which are more effective in the treatment of the mentioned diseases.

It is impossible to discard the positive effects of cannabis. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that it is a drug, which is only on the way to its legalization. It is suggested that cannabis use has no catastrophic results (Fong 433). That is the reason why cannabis addiction lacks research and has not been fully measured yet. However, despite the prolonged argument concerning the addictiveness of cannabis, it was explicitly identified that people, who have been using marijuana for a long time, can become addicts (Volkow et al. 2221). Cannabis is a gateway drug to other drugs; in addition, it can lead to the development of addiction on its own. Almost sixteen percent of adults older than twenty-six years old, who used to take marijuana, tried cocaine later in their life (Hasin 1240). Nine percent of those people started using heroin after cannabis (Hasin 1240). Finally, more than a half of people that use marijuana utilized mind-altering prescription substances, not for medical purposes (Hasin 1240).

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In such a manner, nine percent of people who try marijuana become addicts (Hasin 1240). Approximately half of the individuals, who smoke pot daily become addicted to it (Hasin 1240). According to a 2012 survey, more than two and a half million teenagers over the age of twelve years were addicted to marijuana (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality). Another research suggests that thirty percent of people using marijuana can potentially become addicts (Hasin 1240). In addition, teenagers that start using cannabis before they turn eighteen years of age have a greater likelihood of developing an addiction than adults do (Winters and Lee 241). Furthermore, according to the research by Winters and Lee, 32 respondents, who have ever tried using cannabis, stated that they felt a type of necessity to take it again (241). 25 respondents have decided on trying some harder drugs. Almost all of them were not about to stop consuming hard drugs (Winters and Lee 241). Thus, the earlier a person starts using cannabis, the greater the chance that it will result in addiction and lead to the use of other drugs. Furthermore, the data make an emphasis the fact that the usage of cannabis (even if not daily) can hypothetically result in the development of a habit, which would be connected with the utilization of harder drugs.

Cannabis hurts human health and especially the youth’s health. Marijuana addiction causes even greater adverse effects on young bodies because they are more vulnerable to drugs. It is not useful for the brain and other organs, which develop actively at this age. Moreover, addiction leads to anxiety, problems with sleeping, and irritability; often, it results in relapse.

There are some signs, which may indicate addiction. Addiction is already developed when an individual cannot stop marijuana usage even if it causes difficulties and has a negative influence on a person’s life. Thus, a person does not control the situation even if he or she knows the consequences (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). A warning sign includes escaping reality with the help of cannabis. It also includes tolerance, which gradually develops after long-term drug usage. Finally, it is more difficult to stop smoking pot if a person has an addiction. It does not sound surprising that marijuana addicts will not always be able to define whether they are addicted to using drugs or not (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). Because addiction is developed after long-term usage of the drug, a person will be capable of identifying where the point when the addiction starts is. Even if they notice it, these changes are more noticeable to those, who communicate with them.

Withdrawal symptoms attempts to stop using the drug, decreased performance, and problems with social life and relationships are the main signs of dependency. Even if people who experience the marijuana use disorder notice their addiction, they are not always able to overcome it on their own. Primarily, the people who can help marijuana addicts are those who are close to them. Those individuals should be aware of the signs of marijuana addiction and use, as well as notice the changes in their behavior. Moreover, these people should make a step for the discussion and help to confront this issue (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). It is important to understand that a person would like to go through therapy for it to be successful. Only in this case, it is the right time to attend a medical establishment and seek for the most appropriate treatment.

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The Use of Marijuana by the Youth and Its Legalization

The greatest concern connected with the legalization of cannabis is associated with the influence it would possibly have on the youth. Many people are worried about the fact that free legal access for adults starting at the age of twenty-one years old will increase marijuana use in teenagers. In addition, it is expected that the use of cannabis will impact the behavior, educational performance, and intellectual skills of young individuals. The rise in marijuana use by teenagers was reported in 2009; however, after legalization, the increase in the rates was not significant (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). Also, the opening of retail stores did not have an impact on the same. A potential negative influence on academic outcomes is considered, as well (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). The studies conducted with the help of standard tests in eighth and tenth graders did not show any negative shifts in their academic achievements after cannabis became legal. The lack of significant change in studying suggests that no significant change in the use of the drug took place. The currently available results do not provide any reasons for concern. However, the situation should be under strict control as far as the potential risk of a decrease in performance is quite possible due to the progressing acceptance of cannabis. Moreover, the effects of marijuana listed above, including the lack of concentration, will not make academic results better (Dills, Goffard, and Miron).

It is not difficult to understand that the majority of young people will try it out of curiosity or would follow their friends’ example. Moreover, they can use it as a means of gratification or escaping boredom. It can be even perceived as a kind of rebellion. Marijuana use may be associated with low self-esteem and as a way to escape problems and insecurities (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). However, the source of influence may be more global than anyone expects. Nowadays, people depend on social media (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). Films and TV shows, in which drug use is shown, make teenagers think that it is a positive practice. The same may be said about the music industry, which endues marijuana with an aura of coolness (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). The ideas and goods promoted by celebrities and youth idols are always going to find a great number of followers even if these ideas are rather destructive (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). Fans tend to believe their idols, and celebrities often appear to be role models for teenagers, who desire to act in a way famous people do without thinking twice about these activities and their consequences.

A lot of celebrities show their tolerant attitude towards cannabis legalization, while others openly state that they use it and support such changes. Examples of those people include Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber. For instance, Justin Bieber and Zayn Malik even include some scenes in their music videos where they are smoking pot (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). There is no need to mention that these musicians have a large fan base, which consists mostly of teenagers (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). As many young people are obsessed with them, these singers have no problems with reaching the point of one hundred million views for their music video. Thus, a scene of smoking pot turns into a sort of advertisement and becomes a popular trend. It is a luring factor, which directly suggests to teenagers what they should do at parties as a way of entertainment and having fun (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). It is not true that all teenagers would become interested in using drugs after watching a video or listening to a song. However, this celebrity role model, who sometimes appears to be more significant for teenagers than their relatives and friends, often makes young individuals more liable to using marijuana and eventually mixing them with hard drugs and alcohol.

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Marijuana Is a Gateway Drug

Cannabis is often referred to as a gateway drug for teenagers. Various studies suggest that marijuana usage at a young age can have an impact on addictions in adulthood. This connection is explained by the lack of dopamine reaction in the brain reward zone, which is caused by cannabis intake during adolescence. In the case this lack of the dopamine reaction is a result of marijuana usage at a young age, it explains the person’s future susceptibility to various drugs in adulthood. These data explicitly explain why cannabis is characterized as a gateway drug. Nevertheless, some other substances can be referred to as gateway drugs, including nicotine and alcohol (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). These drugs also result in the person’s increased susceptibility to other drugs later in life. The theories suggested above are based on the evidence from numerous studies. However, the ultimate explanation is simpler than it might seem (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). Individuals that are liable to the influence of different substances are more likely to use marijuana as a gateway drug because it is easy to get. Moreover, people, with whom they interact during this experience and who use drugs or sell them, increase the possibility that a person that only tries marijuana will use other drugs in the future (Volkow et al. 2221).

Marijuana and Drivers

Marijuana is considered the most common illegal drug found in impaired drivers. However, the effects of cannabis on driving have still not been fully researched (Hartman and Huestis 480). For instance, the national study in Colorado conducted in 2016 showed no increase in the crash risks from cannabis. Marijuana-impaired drivers were not tracked before 2014; this fact makes it impossible to compare crash rates caused by cannabis use before and after marijuana became legal (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). In 2014 and 2015, fifteen percent of car crashes were caused by cannabis (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). The majority of car accidents are still a result of alcohol and other drugs, despite legal access to cannabis. The number of cases of driving under the influence of marijuana even shows a tendency to decrease. However, more research is needed to prove this pattern (“Cannabis DUI Statistics and Trends in Colorado” 1). On the other hand, it is known that 50% of cases of marijuana usage when driving led to accidents on the road (“Cannabis DUI Statistics and Trends in Colorado” 1). The other half of such cases were more successful, and the car accidents have not happened; however, this probability could have been reduced (“Cannabis DUI Statistics and Trends in Colorado” 1). Nevertheless, marijuana appears to be the second most common substance (after alcohol) found in drivers, who died in car accidents. There is a clear explanation of the reason why marijuana results in crashes. The abilities to drive responsibly and safely include fast reaction, coordination, and judgment of the situation. All these skills are impaired under the influence of drugs. It is even suggested that individuals, who use marijuana are three times more likely to be involved in a car accident. In 2014, cannabis-associated car crashes increased to seventeen percent as compared to eight percent in 2013 (“Is Marijuana Medicine”). The increase in fatality rates was reported in Washington, Colorado, and California (“Is Marijuana Medicine”).

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Policies on the Marijuana Use

According to the data presented by numerous researchers, marijuana can indeed be dangerous to a person’s health because it is addictive and can interfere with personal achievements and relationships. In 100 cases of the marijuana usage, approximately 25% were reported to be extremely harmful as marijuana was used daily (“Is Marijuana Medicine”). 20% of cases of the daily usage of marijuana led to the development of the constant habit that, in its turn, resulted in the usage of harder drugs (“Is Marijuana Medicine”). Only 3% of respondents in the research stated that they could overcome their habit of drug abuse on their own (“Is Marijuana Medicine”). Thus, the government must create a policy, which will help people understand the negative effects of marijuana on human health. Furthermore, educating the society about signs of the addiction and ways of its treatment, as well as a free helpline for individuals that realize they have an addiction, are other ways to help. The government’s main goal should be the fast spread of information about cannabis and associated health issues. Potentially, this strategy can result in the prevention of drug addiction and help people make decisions about their treatment. To educate the public, the government should encourage the spread of research results and data about the harm which the substance causes to health. Various placards, information sheets, and any other accessible paper products should be spread in medical and educational establishments.

The information, which is to be included, may vary. For example, it can inform parents about behavioral changes in teenagers, who use cannabis, as well as about popular attitudes to marijuana among the youth. Moreover, it should explain the effect that marijuana has on the human brain and other organs. One of the relevant topics is driving under the influence of cannabis and other drugs and the ways of the medical treatment of the addiction (Dills, Goffard, and Miron). Finally, it should contain the information concerning the influence of marijuana on personal life and problems, which an individual may face because of the drug while communicating with other people. One of the options for the government’s policy is providing some information about the label, for instance, the data about short and long-term side effects of the use of cannabis. These labels may be similar to those, which are present on cigarette packaging; they warn people about lung cancer and other diseases in smokers.

Conclusion

In conclusion, cannabis remains a controversial topic from both political and medical perspectives. The legalization of cannabis in some U.S. states and other countries worldwide is associated with serious concerns. Nevertheless, drug legalization has numerous supporters. Even though the use of marijuana is legal only for adults, there is a potential increase in teenagers that will take this drug. In comparison to other drugs, cannabis has no acute side effects, at least at the beginning. It is used in healthcare mainly for decreasing pain, as well as treating glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. However, advantages of the marijuana use are overweighed by the fact that it is a drug, which is still illegal in the vast majority of countries. It is addictive, and it influences a person’s perception, coordination, and judgment; thus, it may cause problems with intellectual activity, relationships with other people, and even catastrophes, for example, car accidents. The government needs to make people aware of the effects of the long-term use of cannabis to prevent addiction and severe health conditions.

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