Is smoking pot legal in the United States? Yes and no. The confusion stems from the fact that although 18 states (led by Washington and Colorado) and the District of Colombia have legalized pot (within their jurisdictions), the federal government is yet to deem the production, possession, and consumption of marijuana as legal. So, you may smoke pot if you live in Colorado or Washington, the two states that have legalized marijuana for recreational usage, but may still be arrested under federal laws (the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classifies marijuana as a highly dangerous substance with no legal medicinal usage).
The crux of the matter is that there are two sides to the marijuana coin. Marijuana has proven medicinal benefits and arguably by some a less dangerous drug than alcohol. Thus, some state governments have legalized its use. On the other hand, the federal government’s fears that legalizing pot might lead to uncontrolled and thus harmful uses is also not entirely whistling in the wind.
The Case for Marijuana
A landmark vote in Washington and Colorado saw citizens (and not just teenagers and those elderly hippies who rue the passing away of the Age of Flower Power) voting in overwhelming numbers for legalizing marijuana for recreational usage. Soon other states were inspired and they made the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes legal. In this context, it is worth noting that that there exists an extensive body of research on the medicinal properties of marijuana. Doctors since ages have been known use marijuana to alleviate the pain and suffering of terminally ill patients. Additionally, marijuana is given to patients suffering from ADHD, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, and some other chronic medical ailments. These proven medical benefits of marijuana just go on to strengthen the case for liberalizing marijuana laws.
Proponents argue that legalizing marijuana will drastically decrease law enforcement costs. The costs spared would stem from the law enforcement and court resources not spent on arresting, prosecuting and/or defending those using or possessing marijuana. Decriminalization will eliminate individuals from losing their livelihoods because they have a criminal record.
The Case Against Marijuana
Opponents to legalization argue that it is evident that marijuana is a harmful substance. They claim that legalization will trigger an increase in crime, drug dependency and also a rise in the use of harder drugs with their ensuing ill-effects on individuals, families, and on the society as a whole.
Time will tell. Were there lessons learned from Prohibition? Will decriminalization further deteriorate the moral fabric of our nation? What have other countries done about this? Will we become a nation of drug addicts? Did the hippies of the 60’s find redemption when they had to find real jobs and quit their nasty habit? Is the biggest drug problem in this country marijuana or pain killers? So many questions, but few clear answers.