The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
8 Points

Recreational Marijuana Legalization

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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/19/2011 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,408 times Debate No: 14847
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)




I'm new here, so I decided to start a debate and leave the position of Contender open.

I'm arguing in support of the legalization of the Cannabis sativa plant for any purpose the user wishes, medical or recreational.

Marijuana was made illegal in the 1930's due to propaganda by Harry J. Anslinger [1]. It was seen as something only minorities used, but its use was spreading to America's youth. Because of his very conservative beliefs, he desired to eradicate it from America. The hemp industry was also a heated competitor with textile, paper, and oil industries [2]. For these reasons, its possession and use was made criminal.

It has still not been proven that one single death in history has been caused by the direct or indirect effects of smoking this herb. It has many uses, and is perceived as harmless by many. I invite any contender to argue in support of the position that it should not be decriminalized and/or made legal.



Hey, welcome!

I'm going to run a very simple argument today. The burden of proof is clearly on my opponent to show one good reason why cannabis use is acceptable. I claim that my opponent cannot meet that burden. In other words, there is no good reason to legalize it, so let's just stick with the status quo.

So let's critically examine what my erudite opponent has written already:

1) "It has still not been proven that one single death in history has been caused by the direct or indirect effects of smoking this herb"

It has also not been proven that smoking tobacco is related to lung cancer. Why? Because tobacco studies are, by nature, observational. However, after 30 years of studies showing a link between the two time and time again, the chance that there is no link is so unfathomably small that it can be safely discounted. As it so happens, you'll find every single scrap of evidence points to marijuana use leading to a shorter lifespan. Believe me, there is plenty of evidence. What, you don't believe me?

In 2004, Labour decided to downgrade cannabis in Great Britain, from a class B to a class C drug. Deaths due to drug overdoses soared 15% in that year. An internal Downing street report showed that the downgrading of cannabis had lead young people to use it more frequently. As a result, many of them became lured to "harder" drugs (the so-called "gateway drug" effect) and eventually died of overdoses (you can read all about it here:

Another UK study extrapolated figures from a less harmful drug, tobacco (yes, tobacco is far less harmful - I can expand on this point later, but here's the report: They found 30,000 deaths every year were directly attributable to cannabis (it doesn't make for nice reading, but here's the link:

So we can see that there very probably is a link between death and cannabis use.

But that's not really the right question, is it? The question is not "how many idiots who use this drug will legalisation kill off for us?" but rather "how many idiots will it leave in our hospital system where we'll need to pay for them with our taxes?" The fact is, cannabis is highly addictive, does terrible things to people's lungs and causes mental illness, even where it does not cause death (see There is also a string of cardiovascular problems strongly linked to long-term marijuana use ( This essentially equates to a huge drain on society.

But even this isn't really a good reason for legalization, even if my opponent is right. After all, bulletproof vests won't kill me, but that doesn't mean you can get them without a license. The point is, the argument doesn't stand.

2) It has many uses, and is perceived as harmless by many
Here my opponent is really saying this: "because I hold such and such subjective opinion about marijuana, it should be legalized." Heroin also has many uses and is percieved as harmless by the many heroin addicts in the world. That's not a good reason to allow heroin. Equally, no good reason for dope.

So there you have it. My opponent's support is groundless, and his burden of proof is not yet met. I wish him luck in round two.
Debate Round No. 1


First of all, I'll start by addressing the burden of proof issue. I believe the burden of proof lies upon the one who wants something to stay legal. Every responsible adult should have the personal freedom to put whatever substance into their body they wish, harmful or not. This choice should not be criminal in the eyes of the government.

My opponent states "there is no good reason to legalize it." The reason it should be legal is because there is no good reason people should be imprisoned for such a non-violent crime; it is akin to imprisonment for things such as illegal file sharing or jaywalking. Many teens and adults are forced to live in juvenile detention centers or prisons because of current marijuana policy [1].

"...the chance that there is no link is so unfathomably small that it can be safely discounted." I do not deny the possible connection between marijuana smoking and the dangers associated with smoking any substance. However, it has been proven that alternatives such as vaporization [2] and consuming cooked edibles are much safer ways to consume it, and are preferred by any user who values his/her health.

"...the downgrading of cannabis had led to...many of them became lured to 'harder' drugs". The "gateway drug" theory exists simply because it is still illegal, on an illegal market. People (mainly kids) who are exposed to the illegal market are more likely to be exposed to illegal drugs. When marijuana is legal, and accepted as "normal", in a legal market, while "hard" drugs are still frowned upon (i.e. the policy in Amsterdam), it has little to no effect on hard drug use [3].

I have read the source presented [4], and I fail to see the results of an actual study. This appears to be a mere calculation based on the number of regular marijuana smokers compared to the number of deaths attributed to tobacco. Again, I do not deny the dangers of marijuana smoking, but as I've said, there are safer alternatives.

The mental illness statistics my opponent presented are based on TEEN use. Use of any drug as a teen is irresponsible and has ill effects on the developing brains of teens. This is not related to the legality of the drug, but the quality of the kids' parenting.

Yes, there is evidence of the harms of its use, but that is no reason to criminalize it. Alcohol and tobacco are legal drugs for those of age, with many dangers accompanying their use. Yet these drugs remain legal, as I believe they should be. As I've said, the use of such substances and the acceptance of their harm is a personal freedom; if it is used responsibly, in a safe manner, hospital bills need not be an issue.

My opponent accuses me of holding a subjective view, and relates the perception of marijuana to heroin. Heroin is easily proven to be a much more harmful drug to one's health, family, and society [5]. My position on marijuana acceptance in society is based much more on fact than the position of acceptance of heroin.

Con calls my argument "groundless", but I find a position which believes innocent people should be imprisoned for the use of cannabis much harder to stomach.



I'd like to thank my opponent for his prompt response and excellent rebuttal.

If somebody wants to effect a change, that person need bring forward evidence. I do not want to effect a change, thus I do not need evidence. My opponent does, and so he needs evidence. As I will go on to demonstrate, he has none. I will deal with his five bits of non-evidence (for want of a better word) in order, below.

First, my opponent makes the standard libertarian case - every adult should have the personal freedom to put substances into their body. This fails for three reasons. First, it ignores the fact that many substances are addictive, therefore removing the choices of the user. It is illogical to use choice as a ground for legalizing something that removes choice. Second, it ignores the cost of that liberty. Non-marijuana smokers do not want to pay for the medical bills of marijuana smokers, and that problem is compounded if cannabis is legalized. Third, why? Why should adults have the "personal freedom" to do harm to themselves? This is probably the most important causal link that my opponent needs to demonstrate in order to complete this argument, yet it is never made!

Fraud is a non-violent crime, yet it is frequently associated with very high punishments. My opponent's (second) argument that non-violence is a good measure of whether something should be legal or not is quite silly. He then links this with the emotional appeal that people are jailed for simply smoking a joint. The punishment is irrelevant to the legal status.

Next my opponent concedes the health risks of using cannabis. While there are safer alternatives, the fact is that people do not use them. Looking to countries with legal cannabis, smoking still remains the most popular form of cannabis use. My opponent later criticizes a few of my sources, but if he isn't doubting their overall message I guess there is no point in arguing over them.

However, he denies gateway drugs are gateway drugs if they are legal. So let us take the Amsterdam scenario - legal cannabis, illegal most harder things. Amsterdam is only a small country, yet it has about 7000 addicts. Not one dollar has been raised in taxes from drug sales - indeed, with all the law enforcement costs, the drug policy is causing the Dutch a great deficit. Over the same period that drug use worldwide fell (a 75% decrease in reported cannabis use in the USA) drug use in the Netherlands increased widely (from 30 to 300 "cannabis coffee shops"). Similar statistics are obtained from almost every source. An overview of the subject is given here:

What's really interesting, though, is that in Amsterdam there is still a large and thriving "black market." As David Raynes puts it: "There is the big lie that legalising drugs will take the criminality out of supply. What nonsense. Illegal traders who pay no taxes of any sort can always undercut legitimate traders" (see Crazy fact, but it is still a gateway drug. No wonder that more arrests are made each year for drug trafficking in Amsterdam than any other European state - even among only the "hard drugs!"

So drugs have been a failure when legalized.

My opponent's fourth argument is comparing marijuana to tobacco and alcohol. My opponent doesn't seem to grasp the fact that marijuana is a whole order of magnitude removed in terms of the severity of effects. However, both of these are really irrelevant. That's because I actually oppose the sale of cigarettes and believe alcohol should be more heavily restricted. Obviously, arguing that would be outside the scope of a cannabis debate. In the same way, tobacco and alcohol may be legal (in some jurisdictions). However, arguing that is another debate entirely. Ultimately what it comes down to is my opponent arguing that because they are legal, they should be legal, and thus cannabis should be legal. I deny, however, that everything that is legal should be legal.

My opponent's fifth and final argument was to say that it is not the user's perception of the drug that is important, but society's. All I can say to that is that society's opinion is just as subjective as any individual member of that society. It's no surprise that more people support cannabis than heroin - largely because there are more cannabis smokers in society! After all, heroin users have a tendency to die much faster than cannabis users, as my opponent eloquently argues. Does this mean that society's subjective judgment is the best way of arriving at decisions? No! Again we see my opponent missing the most crucial part of his argument and beautifully stating the rest. What this case is really about is whether society's decisions are always justified, or if, as I argue, they may be harmfully biased.

In conclusion, my opponent continues to fail to prove his claim that marijuana should be legalized. I wish him luck as we head into the final round of this competition.
Debate Round No. 2


Thanks Con,

True, if someone wants to change, they must present evidence, which the government has done in the past to prompt the criminalization of marijuana. My evidence for desiring that change is my views on personal freedom.

Legalization is the only sensible option (in my opinion) because I view personal freedom as an unalienable human right, as do many others[1]. In this source, it is explained that each person has the right to liberty, freedom of thought, and freedom of expression. Unlike things such as coca plants and opium plants (heroin and cocaine), marijuana is much safer for the individual and society (I've cited sources for this in previous entries). Therefore, the right to grow and/or use this plant falls under the same heading of "personal expression" that would allow one to grow his/her own organic garden, or other such things.

Drug education is very well known by the public and drug users, the problem is that they (unfortunately) choose to ignore the risks when knowledge is possessed [2]. A very small amount of people claim dependance on cannabis [3], and users report no symptoms of physical addiction (I can also attest to this based on personal experience). Unlike harder drugs, which would be much more harmful if deemed "acceptable", marijuana would not cause the same harms. My opponent seems to ignore the healthy alternatives to smoking, and while this would not apply for every single user, public knowledge of these methods would drastically reduce potential hospitalization. Aside from this, Con disregards the current cost of prohibition that would disappear if it were legal [4].

"Fraud is a non-violent crime," however, it hurts one or more individuals involved. Cannabis use only (potentially) harms the individual, and/or the user's lives or the lives around him/her if the user has no sense of personal responsibility. This is why the use of any recreational drug is unacceptable when it interferes with one's responsibilities to him/herself or others, but with a drug that isn't physically addictive (and only slightly mentally addictive), this outcome lies entirely on the user (again referring to personal freedom/responsibility).

The punishment is extremely relevant to the legal status. Would anyone prescribe the death penalty for shoplifting? This would be outrageously unfair. I am lenient toward parts of the world that have decriminalized possession of small amounts, but it is still abhorrent for those who aren't in those parts of the world to suffer severe punishment for a harmless and victimless "crime".

I concede to my opponent's facts about the dangers of smoking, however, this does not change my position on the relative harm of this drug being directly related to the ethics of its criminalization.

My opponent's sources are correct about the state of the Amsterdam scenario, but what many people (including my opponent) fail to realize is that, if legal, there would be a much reduced law enforcement cost, and cannabis sales would be completely taxable by that country's government. As I've said before, proper drug education is readily available to my knowledge (at least in my country), as it should be everywhere. The decision to use any substance (legal or illegal) still lies solely upon the user. In places such as Amsterdam the punishment is still severe for hard drugs use/sale [5], deterring potential users. It is also my view that those who will choose move on to harder drugs are not affected by the legality or illegality of a certain, different substance.

Con presents a very valid point as far as legality of other substances goes. I am simply trying to point out that it is ironic that a government would sell such dangerous substances while condemning the use of a much less dangerous substance. My thoughts on personal freedom lead me to believe that these substances are currently ingrained in society, and as a result, legal and should stay that way (albeit, with stricter limitations), including cannabis.

"...society's opinion is just as subjective as any individual member..." Ironically (in my country's form of government), it is indirectly the subjective view of society that decides the state of the nation's laws. While not always entirely correct, it is the responsibility of each voter to become educated on the issues. Anyone who is properly educated on drug facts and/or has had experience with them will tell you that heroin and other hard drugs are much less acceptable for many reasons (i.e. the popular quote, "have you ever sucked d**k for weed?").

My arguments for ending marijuana prohibition are at times similar to arguments against alcohol prohibition. It is my view that the prohibition of these substances does much more harm than legalization would. If an individual accepts recreational alcohol use in any way, he/she has no basis for the continuation of cannabis prohibition.

Good luck in your last response, Con.



OK, so this is our present position: pro concedes that cannabis is dangerous but believes education will solve the problem. Pro also concedes that cannabis legalization hasn't worked so well in the past, but he thinks the law enforcement cost would be reduced. Pro's major two ways in which he believes he has met his burden of proof is in his analysis that the harm does not correspond to the punishment, and in his resolute belief in personal liberty. In this final round, I will answer all of pro's arguments. Because I'm a bit strange, I'll do so in reverse order from that listed above.

Personal liberty
People's personal liberty is restricted by government all the time. Seat-belts or bicycle helmets also harm nobody but the user, but they are (often) restricted by the government. Why? Because ultimately, it's in the government's interest not to have people die. I gave three good points of analysis in round two as to why personal liberty must often be restricted. The first was that marijuana removes personal liberty because it is addictive. While my opponent may assert that it is only mentally addictive, this doesn't matter. The liberty is still removed. Second, I said that all liberties must be weighed against the price of that liberty. My opponent ignored this analysis. Third, I said that there is no reason why any particular liberty should be a fundamental right. My opponent still has offered no reason. Overall, my opponent ignored two out of three pieces of my counter-analysis, and didn't really engage with the third. Therefore, I think I can safely claim that this point falls to me.

Harm vs Punishment
My overall argument is that we're not talking about the punishment at all - rather, this is a debate about legalization. Nonetheless, my opponent writes: "Would anyone prescribe the death penalty for shoplifting? This would be outrageously unfair." I agree that it would be. Ultimately I think the punishment should be proportional to how big a problem marijuana is in that particular country. However, I think most countries have the balance right. Most countries currently impose a small fine. This can hardly be called a "severe" punishment. My opponent claims that there is no harm to others. This would only be true if medical care was completely privatized, because the cost of medical care is bourne by all of society. Medical care costs increase when Marijuana smokers increase. Thus there is a harm to others. Thus my opponent has not met this facet of his burden of proof either.

Reduced Costs
My opponent claims cost of policing would decrease, and taxes would increase. First, taxes would not increase. Many places, like Amsterdam, have been unable to raise any taxes at all. Further, look at cigarette taxes. Do they completely offset the extra medical costs incurred by smokers? Of course not! They never do. The net effect on the governments books would be a clear decrease. The cost of policing is about the same. People under the influence of cannabis are more likely to commit other crimes, such as damage property. Police must therefore transfer to doing other duties instead of cannabis policing. The reduced costs argument therefore doesn't stack up.

Education can only go so far. We teach kids about safe sex, yet we still have HIV. Most countries already do have education about cannabis, but people use it anyway. Most people are aware of safer alternative methods, but then again, the most frequent form of use is the joint. I think it is a little silly to say that education will really mitigate the danger of cannabis any more than it already does.

I predicted, right from the start of this debate, that my opponent could not meet the burden of proof: to show one good reason why cannabis should be legal. My opponent has failed in this respect. Therefore I should win this debate. Vote con for a drug-free society!
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by monstrous15005 7 years ago
The conclusion of the argument that I have chosen to critique is, "the legalization of the Cannibas Sativa plant for any purpose the user wishes, medicinal or recreational." This in my opinion is a bad argument. The arguer states the conclusion clearly but doesn't give any premises that support this argument. The person who wrote this argument just gives his opinion. Bias doesn't necessarily make an argument bad but he doesn't give any statements that support this claim. The person arguing lists some statements, such as, "Marijuana was made illegal in the 1930's…It was seen as something that only minorities use…The hemp industry was a heated competitor with textile, paper and oil and for these reasons it remains criminal." Can we really say that these are the reasons that marijuana is still illegal, without taking into account the criminal element that goes along with marijuana sales? Even if marijuana was legal there will always be competition and as a result the possibility of criminal activity. One of the premises that the person arguing lists is the fact that no deaths have been attributed to a direct or indirect effect of marijuana but what about those who have died or have caused the death of others while driving under the influence? Wouldn't marijuana be an indirect cause of a death? I just find it hard to believe that not one time in history can we find an example of a death attributed to the use of marijuana. The person arguing also says that it is perceived by many as harmless, but can we actually say that? I'm sure there are many who do view it as harmless but the fact that it is illegal in all 50 states shows that there are just as many, if not more, of those people who do not believe that marijuana is harmless. It obviously alters your perception and in some cases alters decision making ability and in many situations that isn't safe. Many of the statements made by the arguer are just opinions without fact based information to further the argument or bac
Posted by travelinman 7 years ago
I'm very pro marijuana, but con won this one. But I would like to point out a few things. First, Marijuana is illegal in ever country (one country allows it to be legal for one day of the year to give to shamans), so learn what you are talking about before you talk about it. Amsterdam is a city where marijuana is decriminalized like 14 states in the United States, that means it is illegal but the cops don't in force the law. If it was legalized and regulated like alcohol(150,000 deaths per year) or cigarettes (450,0000 deaths per year), which by the way cause way more then your supposed 30,000 marijuana deaths a year are attributed to smoking(carbon monoxide). Everyone should know that lighting something on fire and inhaling the smoke is not good for your health. But if it was regulated then you could do like many medical marijuana despensaries and make edibles and many other ways of getting the effects without smoking. Also thanks to Obama care if you are unhealthy like if you smoke or are fat you have to pay more for health insurance so don't bring up the we have to pay for their unhealthyness up. And lastly, for the mental illness that marijuana causes, it isn't a fact and never will be. The only mental illness that can be associated with marijuana is schizophrenia. What the article doesn't tell you is that schizo normally comes up between 24-29. One of the symptoms of schizo is paranoia, in the actual study they say that this is probably caused because they don't want to get caught, not because of the marijuana giving them schizo. Check out the truth of, the only website that tells the whole truth of all drugs, the pro, the con, and the government look on the substance.
Posted by 01010110 7 years ago
simply put the only reason I need for the legalization of any kind of illegal drug is this.
Prohibition doesn't work making anything illegal only makes it more risky to produce, and consume.
if the government was regulating the currently illegal drugs the way that alcohol or tobacco are, which could use a little more government perview, but if the government was looking in on the conditions of how those products were made purchasing it would not be as risky, you would be less likely to get a bad batch that was damaging in a way that was not intended.
Posted by badger 7 years ago
allah says no weed!
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Ore_Ele 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Con used better arguements, while Pro did more stating of opinions, such as the liberties for all, without justifying why that ought be the case. Pro also went off topic several times with the punishment and tobacco/alcohol. I also found that Pro referenced more interest groups and less legitiment cources, so that goes to Con.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Clearly con, pro was defensive from cons first response.