On Balance, Legalizing Marijuana Makes Sense

by Ashley Bidne

Widener University Political Science/Criminal Justice Major

Washington is now the second state to legalize the possession of marijuana. The new law decriminalizes possession of up to an ounce. However, users must be at least 21 and selling it still remains illegal. For a long time I have been against legalizing marijuana, but with more states legalizing it I feel that now is a great time to reexamine the issue.

Colorado’s Representative Jared Polis and Oregon’s Representative Earl Blumenauer are fighting to get marijuana legalized federally. In addition, economists are claiming that Washington and Colorado could receive an economic boost of up $550 million a year. According to the FBI, possession of marijuana is the cause of 43.3% of drug related arrests. With this in mind a majority of these criminals are being sent to prison along with our tax dollars. Incarcerating one inmate could cost between $30,000 and $60,000 a year depending on the state.

However, many people are not convinced that this is a sufficient reason to legalize marijuana. Therefore, I researched further into the side effects of smoking. The health effects of marijuana include, but are not limited to mental illnesses such as depression, lung irritation, and an increased heart rate. However, many of these side effects are common with drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.

If the federal government chooses to legalize marijuana, the US will be capable of regulating it and will no longer be paying to incarcerate 1000’s of inmates. Overall, the benefits seem to outweigh the cost of legalizing marijuana and my decision about legalizing marijuana has been changed with Washington’s legalization.