Can We Avoid Dumb Marijuana Legalization?

Posted on August 8, 2014


By Laura Chapman

Controlling drug abuse: is legalization really the right answer?

After plummeting crime rates in Washington and Colorado, the legalization of marijuana in the US is looking increasingly likely by the year. Over half the American public believe the change in law will have positive results and are pushing for personal use of the Schedule 1 drug to be made completely legal. However, although legalizing the drug could have numerous benefits, are we being too hasty in following in the likes of the Netherland’s footsteps?

Why shouldn’t we legalize marijuana?

The legalization of marijuana could be helpful; statistics in Colorado have shown a decrease in crime and the taxing of the substance has led to millions of dollars in revenue for the state. However, if the drug is to be legalized in the same manner as alcohol, this is where problems may arise. Making the so drug readily available may just increase people’s consumption and encourage them to use it under the impression that, just because it’s now legal, it’s not dangerous or harmful to our health. When in fact, marijuana is still heavily linked to mental illness and memory loss.

How should marijuana be legalized?

When looking at the success of other countries where marijuana use is legal, it’s important to look at the laws themselves. For example, in the Netherlands, marijuana is still technically illegal. The difference is, their drug laws are split into two types: soft drugs and hard drugs. Marijuana is classed as a soft drug, for which there are no prosecuting laws. Possession and location of the drug use is also limited, and the substance is controlled and contained in the form of coffee shops.

When compared with the US, the Netherlands has almost half the amount of lifetime use of marijuana and a third of the heroin use. In addition, their prison population is significantly lower and their homicide rate is drastically reduced. Many link these lower crime rates to their laws regarding marijuana use.

The statistics are clear that the legalization of marijuana can be beneficial when enforced in the right way; controlling and containing its use has worked for the Dutch. However, after the recent experiment in Colorado where the legalization of marijuana was treated as somewhat of a commercial campaign, what’s unclear is the way in which the US plans to legalize the substance and, if it’s legalized in the same manner alcohol was, whether this could spell the beginning of increased drug use.


Laura Chapman has studied and worked with Professor Mark Kleiman of UCLA Larkin School of Public Affairs on the subject of marijuana legalization in the United States, its implications and effects.