Should the Federal Government Legalize Medical Cannabis?
You can’t get Americans to agree on much of anything these days. But one exception is medical cannabis. Recent surveys indicate that almost 9 out of 10 Americans think medical cannabis should be legal for everyone. Yet it remains illegal in 11 states, and legal only for a short list of certain medical conditions in many other states.
Why can’t the federal government, which seems stalled on making all types of cannabis legal at the national level, simply focus on medical cannabis legalization as a first step? It’s an issue that many different publications have brought up repeatedly. Even the Supreme Court has mentioned the idea of focusing on medical cannabis legalization.
Public opinion is certainly on the side of legalizing medical cannabis. Surveys repeatedly show that people favor legalization. Those favorable numbers get even higher when people are asked only about medical cannabis. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 89 percent of respondents said medical cannabis should be legal.
Reasons Why Federal Legalization of Medical Cannabis Makes Sense
The primary argument for why federal leaders should take this step are the many potential health and wellness benefits of medical cannabis. For example, studies have found medical cannabis effective in treating many conditions, including chronic pain, stress and anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy and glaucoma.
Legalizing medical cannabis gives patients access to a viable, alternative treatment option. This not only can improve their quality of life, but also reduce their dependance on potentially harmful prescription drugs.
Proponents also offer other strong arguments for legalizing medical cannabis.
Legal medical cannabis opens the door to the generation of significant tax revenue, as well as creating more jobs. It can also reduce or even eliminate the money spent by law enforcement on enforcing marijuana prohibition, opening up the possibility of law enforcement leaders focusing resources on more serious crimes.
Right now, in some states, people must resort to either the black market for medical cannabis or travel to a state where it is legal to treat their specific condition. Legalizing medical cannabis at the federal level eliminates those issues and ensures that patients use safe and pure cannabis products. It also puts a regulatory framework into place, including oversight of the cannabis industry.
Social justice issues permeate every discussion of cannabis legalization, whether it’s for medical or recreational use. That’s because Black and Hispanic Americans saw the worst outcomes during the many decades of the War on Drugs, including higher rates of arrest and incarceration. Legal medical cannabis could eliminate that issue nationwide, at least for those who use cannabis for medical purposes.
Roadblocks to Federal Medical Cannabis Legalization
One of the foremost issues blocking federal medical cannabis legalization involves the difficulty in keeping people from using medical marijuana cards to get cannabis for recreational purposes, a problem that every state with legal medical cannabis already is dealing with. However, requiring cards and close monitoring of the system has led to better enforcement.
Other roadblocks include the lack of enough scientific research on potential medical cannabis health benefits. Cannabis remains a controversial and politically charged issue. In many parts of the country, there still is not a consensus among policymakers and medical experts about the risks and benefits of cannabis.
Another reason cited by many politicians, especially those on the conservative side of the aisle, is that legalized medical cannabis could potentially conflict with international drug treaties the United States has signed. However, Canada, which also signed many of those same treaties, apparently has had limited difficulties since making all types of cannabis legal at the federal level in 2018.