Even if marijuana legalization is not directly on the ballot in their state, voters across the country will still face the question of whether marijuana should be legal. That’s because many candidates in federal, state and local races have differing views on the issue
Many candidates believe marijuana should be legal at the federal level. They include presidential candidates Amy Klobucher, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Others oppose national legalization, including President Donald Trump, Michael Bloomberg and Joe Biden.
And then there are the positions of candidates at the state and local level. Their opinions actually carry more weight, as state and local leaders will continue to make most of the decisions on marijuana legalization unless it’s legalized at the federal level.
Why should marijuana be legal? The following looks at the strongest arguments made by legalization proponents. To be clear, legalization in this article refers to adult-use marijuana, not just medical marijuana.
Reasons Why Marijuana Should Be Legal
Political candidates frequently mention the following reasons when discussing reasons why marijuana should be legal.
The War on Drugs hit people of color much harder than white people. For example, almost 80% of people in federal prison for drug offenses are either black or Latino. In some state prisons, that number rises to 90%. Legalization proponents see taking marijuana off the list of illegal drugs – and expunging past arrests for possession – as a social justice issue.
The Cost of Enforcement
In 2005, shortly before his death, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman joined 500 other economists in asking the federal government to legalize marijuana. One of the key reasons is that enforcement efforts nationwide cost about $7.7 billion a year.
Marijuana Laws Destroy Lives
Police arrest about 700,000 people each year on marijuana possession charges. It’s a crime that can destroy the life of the person arrested, who may have difficulty getting a job with a drug conviction on their record. They also are “driven from their jobs and families and pushed into a prison system that turns first-time offenders into hardened criminals,” according to Thought Co.
Unknown Health Benefits of Marijuana
With marijuana illegal at the federal level, it’s difficult for researchers in the United States to explore the health benefits of cannabis. The only cannabis available for research is substandard marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi. That’s left scientists with not nearly enough information on how marijuana can positively impact human health.
More Money For Government
Marijuana taxes bring in large amounts of money that states can use to fund needed projects. For example, Colorado uses marijuana tax revenue for education projects. The amount of money available is staggering. Illinois, in just one month of legalization, took in more than $10 million in marijuana taxes for 2020.
More Harmful Substances Are Legal
Decades of research has shown the harms of alcohol, which is legal everywhere. And tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death around the world. The fact that both remain legal in the U.S. makes the prohibition against marijuana harder to justify in the minds of many.
As the political season rolls on, expect to hear these points debated. The future of marijuana laws in the country may depend heavily on how people vote in November 2020, even if they are not directly voting on marijuana legalization.