A customer shops for marijuana at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, Calif., January 2, 2018. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
States where recreational weed is legal have seen more drug crime, not less.
At the outset, I’d like to lay my cards out on the table: I despise weed. I think that it reeks, that it’s a waste of money and time. I dislike cheap euphoria, and I think getting high promotes escapism. Forever a nudnik, I do not, and do not plan to, partake in the devil’s lettuce.
Nevertheless, many people whom I respect and consider my friends are more open to Miss Mary Jane than I. So I take their arguments seriously when we discuss the issue of legalization. Some of the most common ones, which I’ll discuss at more length below, appear tenable on the surface, if not particularly convincing. Others that have tended to exist on the periphery of the debate — e.g., concerns about a nanny state and the problems of disproportionate sentencing — are much more compelling.
That said, the old-fashioned, party-pooper folk with whom I find myself sympathizing tend to fall back on one point: Weed is unhealthy. Since 2002, the proportion of Americans twelve and older who reported having used marijuana in the last year has increased by over 60 percent. Recently, the American Lung Association has been trying to reduce the ever-increasing number of marijuana users, many of whom consume the drug via inhalation. Pot smoke can cause lung cancer in the same way tobacco can, and secondhand marijuana smoke may have even more carcinogens than cigarettes. Marijuana smoke can also compromise the immune system, and there’s a growing amount of scientific literature indicating a significant correlation between any form of cannabis consumption and psychosis.
To their credit, many marijuana users (both medicinal and recreational) are well aware of the risks. They simply believe they should be entitled to make their own health decisions. Unfortunately for them, however, not everyone can be swayed by appeals to liberty.
Generally speaking, things in the United States aren’t just legalized for laissez-faire reasons. The Leviathan is as slow as it is large, so those angling for major reforms usually can’t rely on ideological arguments alone to build political will; they need tangible benefits to point to, or at least evidence that the tangible harms can be mitigated, before politicians will risk supporting them. The support for ending Prohibition, to take one famous example, was sparked in part by antipathy toward the mobsters who had accumulated wealth and power from bootlegging.
Published: August 16, 2021
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News