Rebuttal to ‘Decriminalization & The Golden Mean’
Lizzy Jaramillo (Liberal)
Gregory Zink (Center-Right)
I would argue that our initial divergence in opinion starts in your categorization of marijuana as an “indulgence”. In your piece you reference the societal health effects of other “indulgences” such as tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs. All three of these substances are some of the most highly addictive substances in the world and marijuana has been scientifically proven to be less addictive than all three of these, however, marijuana is illegal. It is interesting to note that David Nutt (who is the former chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to the UK Government) was forced to resign from his position for advocating for the therapeutic and medicinal benefits of marijuana.
Professor Nutt extensively researched marijuana and other substances and published a harm rating for each. Substances were ranked and some types of pharmaceutical drugs were given the number 3, alcohol the number 5, and tobacco number 9, as the most harmful substances in the world. Marijuana is ranked number 11. Other studies have concluded that alcohol, barbiturates, and tobacco are all among the top 5 most addictive substances in the world. Virtually no study would conclude that marijuana is one of the most addictive substances in the world – yet the others are not only decriminalized but completely legal.
I would suggest that your decriminalization argument does not go far enough. Legalization would not necessarily lead to “indulgence” as we have seen that the rates of use, and addiction to, marijuana is relatively low comparable to other legal substances such as alcohol and prescription drugs. Counterintuitively, in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized, use of marijuana amongst teenagers has gone down. Furthermore, the difference between legalization and decriminalization would be that legalization would allow for regulation of marijuana. Users could measure the amount of THC content in the substance they are about to consume and make an informed, and safer, decision about their consumption. Without legalization, marijuana supply would still be relegated to the black market where there is no regulation and consumers have virtually no control over the quality of the product or the THC content therein.
It would not be for national government’s ability to “peddle vice”, it would be for entrepreneurs who choose to go into this new industry. It is certainly a benefit that the government would be able to generate tax revenue through legalization as previously all revenue in this industry had gone to support drug dealers and cartels. With legalization comes transparency and this is not brought about through decriminalization. The economic benefits have already been proven in states where this market has become legalized, such as Colorado, which is now the number one economy of any state in the US just years after legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Businesses are flocking to this new market with little impact on the society as a whole, which is shown with crime rates going down, and even a sharp decline in opioid deaths. This is a strong argument for legalization instead of just decriminalization.