America’s real-world trials and tribulations with controlling marijuana has been a success. Currently, there are Twenty-six states that regulate marijuana’s therapeutic use, and four states and Washington, D.C., allow its use and sale to all adults. Opposed to the concerns of some, these policy changes are not connected with increased marijuana use or access by young adults, or with conflicting effects on traffic safety or in the workplace. cannabis regulations are also linked with less opioid abuse and death. In jurisdictions where this retail market is taxed, sales revenue has considerably exceeded initial anticipations.
The enforcement of marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil rights, which causes disrespect for the law and disproportionately affects young people and areas of color. It makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization of adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco. A majority stand behind this policy change. Voters have become weary of seeing their fellow citizens arrested nearly 600,000 times in a year in just marijuana possession cases. According to Gallup this month, 60% of adults endorse legalizing the marijuana market for adults — the highest percentage ever recorded in polls.
But legalization does not mean replacing criminalization with a marijuana free-for-all. Rather, it means the enactment of a pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the licensed commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults, but also restricts and discourages its use among young people. Such a regulated environment best reduces the risks associated with the plant’s use or abuse. By contrast, advocating marijuana’s continued criminalization does nothing to offset the plant’s potential risks to the individual user and to society; it only compounds them. Despite nearly a century of criminal prohibition, marijuana is here to stay. America’s laws should reflect this reality, and they should regulate the marijuana market accordingly.
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