Marijuana: Illegal, Recreational, or Medical?

cannabis-sativa-plantThe marijuana debate has been raging for decades, and it seems as though there is great division in the republican party over this issue. Today we will look at this debate from all angles, and as you may have deduced from this post’s title, there are three main views; criminalize it, decriminalize it, or have it exclusively for medical purposes.


Those on this side of the debate mainly point to the detrimental effects marijuana has on the body. Smoking and inhaling almost anything is detrimental, and smoking marijuana produces toxins that can cause lung cancer, emphysema, and various other diseases. They state that it is potentially addictive, that it hinders judgment and decision-making, and more. Some proponents even jokingly remark that recreational marijuana would effectively be raising a population of “zombies”.

“Marijuana use can lead to the development of problem use, known as a marijuana use disorder, which in severe cases takes the form of addiction. Recent data suggest that 30 percent of marijuana users may have some degree of marijuana use disorder17. People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are 4 to 7 times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.” (National Institute on Drug Abuse)

“Marijuana use disorders are often associated with dependence—in which a user feels withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. Frequent marijuana users often report irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or various forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and last up to 2 weeks. Marijuana dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug by reducing production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.” (National Institute on Drug Abuse)


Proponents of recreational marijuana present a strong case, and my inner social libertarian leans toward this side of the debate. However, you will see my personal stance on the issue later on. Those in favor of decriminalizing the drug usually state that keeping it illegal hurts the economy. Why? When marijuana is criminalized, the only profit from the drug goes to drug dealers and criminals. Although, this raises another problem. When drug dealers sell cocaine, heroin, and other undeniably harmful substances, they are the only ones making a profit (from those substances). Does that mean they should be legal? As you can see, this point breaks down.

Proponents of recreational marijuana also state that the United States government has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and countless hours on fighting the war on drugs, particularly fighting marijuana. They say that it’s completely wrong that a big portion of those in prison are there because they simply used a harmless plant.

“We arrest three-quarters of a million adults every year, 87% for simple possession rather than production or sales of marijuana. Courtrooms turn into assembly lines churning out probationers — mostly minorities — with convictions that will make it virtually impossible to find employment.” (Dan Riffle, CNN)

Those on this side of the debate also point to how alcohol is legal, which clearly impairs judgement and decision-making, and how marijuana is far safer.

Dan Riffle of CNN continued, saying:

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive alcohol use is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death. In a typical year, there are roughly 25,000 alcohol-induced deaths in the United States, most from long-term consequences like liver disease and some from acute alcohol poisoning brought on by binge drinking. Marijuana, on the other hand, does not cause overdose deaths and comes with far fewer long-term health consequences. A 2009 Canadian study determined the annual health-related costs associated with alcohol are more than eight times greater per user than with marijuana. And, according to the Institute of Medicine, people who use marijuana are far less likely to become dependent than those who drink alcohol.” (Dan Riffle, CNN)



Proponents of medical marijuana usually point to the detrimental effects of recreational marijuana while simultaneously showing the positive and proven medical benefits. Personally, I am in favor of medical marijuana. You can see all the members’ political views on this link:

“Research suggests that there are conditions for which medical marijuana may be an effective treatment:

  • Cancer – Relieves nausea during chemotherapy treatment, may prevent the spread of some cancers.
  • HIV/AIDS – Increases appetite in patients experiencing severe weight loss, eases neurological symptoms.
  • Neurological disorders (including spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis) – Reduces pain and spasticity resulting from nerve damage.
  • Inflammatory pain – Cannabinoids seem to be more effective than opiates in treating long-term, chronic pain. (Opiates are better for treating short-term acute pain.)
  • Autoimmune diseases (such as arthritis) – Suppresses the immune system, decreasing pain and inflammation.” (Genetic Science Learning Center, University of Utah Health Sciences)

Despite my personal stance on this issue, the purpose of this post is for you to make your own decision and do your own research. It may not be the most pressing issue our country is facing currently, but it does have a substantial impact on the economy, on the war on drugs, and on our citizens.

Author: Joe Schmid

Questions? Ask away at

Works Cited

“Is Marijuana Addictive?” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIH, n.d. Web. 14 July 2016. <;.

Riffle, Dan. “Marijuana Is Safer than Alcohol.” CNN. Cable News Network, 24 Oct. 2013. Web. 14 July 2016. <;.

“Cannabis in the Clinic: The Medical Marijuana Debate.” Cannabis in the Clinic: The Medical Marijuana Debate. University of Utah Health Sciences, n.d. Web. 14 July 2016. <;.

Picture is labeled “free to use, share or modify, even commercially”. This is not our own picture, and the website does not endorse ours in any way. No changes were made to the picture. “Cannabis Sativa Plant” by “Lode Van de Velde” URL:



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