legalization of marijuana
Sorry for my delay in responding to this debate, I first needed to do a load of whites and smoke a joint. I appreciate the chance to grapple with you on whether cannabis should be legalized and look forward to our back and forth discussion on the issue.
Your leading argument in favor of legalizing marijuana is the economic benefit the country will see due to increased tax revenue. We actually already have a model for taxation on a legal intoxicant that we can use to hypothesize how taxes on marijuana may work. It’s alcohol.
Currently, about 86% of the people over the age of 18 drink alcohol in the United States.  I’m not sure of the exact number but that clocks in somewhere between 130 and 170 million drinkers. State and local governments take in something north of $6 billion a year in tax revenues from alcohol.  But we have to balance the gross profit of $6 billion to state governments against the net cost of alcohol misuse, which costs the United States more than $223.5 billion annual.  It’s not a net wash.
But you may argue that marijuana is different! People don’t misuse marijuana in the same ways that they do alcohol. So I think it’s important to examine whether there is a legitimate problem with marijuana abuse. The facts show that a significant portion of the people who use marijuana are in fact experiencing clinical problems (defined in the DSM IV as marijuana use disorder) with their use of cannabis.  Specifically, as the use of marijuana in the United States has risen from 4.1% to around 9.5%, the percentage of people experiencing clinical signs of addiction has also risen. What the study said is that “… approximately 30 percent of people who used marijuana in the past year met criteria for marijuana use disorder during 2012-2013, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This includes symptoms such as taking the drug in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended by the user; the persistent desire to cut down or control use/unsuccessful efforts to do so; failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home as a result of marijuana use; and tolerance and/or withdrawal.” 
My point isn’t that marijuana is evil. But that the tax revenues you see as being the salvation of government come at a cost. This is true whether you’re talking about alcohol, the lottery, or marijuana. Yes, you can raise funds by taxing these items, but you are also going to be spending money to address the problems that are associated with the “drug of choice.” Gambling addiction, driving while impaired, lost work hours they all have to be taken into account. Keep in mind, you are not talking about legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, which requires a prescription and has built in controls and some arguable checks to deal with abuse, you are talking about flat out legalizing the drug for all purposes by all people.
As you concede, we know that alcohol impairs your ability to operate a motor vehicle. But studies also show that marijuana “significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.”  It’s the illicit drug most often found in the blood of people involved in accidents, including fatal ones. So let’s not give marijuana a complete pass. And as you list the number of people who have died for specific reasons, keep in mind that a reason we have limited statistics on marijuana is that it has been illegal. In Colorado, where marijuana use is now for the most part legal, we have already had our first series of deaths relating to the misuse of recreational marijuana. 
Look I’m not saying that marijuana is inherently dangerous or a gate way drug to heroin, but I am saying it’s a drug. And like any drug you need to be aware that it can have potent and powerful effects on the human body. If you were arguing for the legalization of marijuana for specific purposes such as medical use, I would be lining up with my picket sign to support you.
But I think marijuana needs to be controlled in the same way you would control any other prescription drug. And I don’t think increased revenue is a winning argument. Like all “sin” taxes, the increased revenue comes at a cost. The argument that locking someone up for “smoking a plant” is disingenuous. Opium is a plant. Alcohol comes from grain.
You ask, “What is the problem with smoking a plant that makes you happy?” If our sole criteria is happiness, there may be no problem. For that matter, Oxycontin and MDMA are better drugs if you want a quick euphoric high. But to determine whether as a matter of public policy we want to remove all legal barriers to the use of a substance, there are other criteria that come into play.
I also don’t find persuasive your argument that “if you don’t have self-control” don’t do drugs. A person who lacks self-control isn’t going to be able to abstain from using drug use if there are no controls whatsoever stopping that person. Mind you, if we are talking limited legalization (which we are not here), then the medical marijuana laws do provide some barriers to the uncontrolled use of marijuana via the requirement to obtain a prescription and the legal duties placed on people dispensing medical marijuana.
I also wouldn’t necessarily oppose “decriminalizing” as opposed to legalizing marijuana. Since marijuana has been legalized in marijuana, Colorado has seen increasing trends of poison center calls, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits related to marijuana in Colorado. This date is preliminary, but a three-fold increase in the hospitalization rates for children with possible marijuana exposures is a statistically significant fact. 
You point out that there are worse drugs. But we actually do have a tremendous series of programs dedicated to the use and abuse of other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. We have programs set up throughout the United States to deal with alcohol abuse. We have strict controls on the prescription of opiates and other pain killers. No one is giving a “pass” to other drugs. The question is whether the complete legalization of marijuana for use by anyone for any purpose serves society’s interests.
I would suggest not. Certainly, there is no support whatsoever for legalizing marijuana use by teens. The vast majority of public support focuses on the use of marijuana for medical purposes, which is different than the unlimited legalization you support. Don’t get me wrong. Marijuana can be used safely. It can be of great benefit when used to treat a variety of ailments. But it can also be abused. We need laws in place that will address and minimize the potential for abuse.
cimone0142 forfeited this round.