It’s a topic that gets a considerable amount of attention from politicians, but not many results to show for it.
The support for the legalization of marijuana has never been stronger than it is today. According to a poll conducted by CBS in April of 2019, sixty five percent of Americans support its legalization, whether it be for medicinal or recreational use. Additionally, thirty-three states and D.C have legalized cannabis in some form, with eleven of those states allowing recreational consumption. However, despite the clear majority in favor of legalization, little has been done on the federal level.
This inaction presents Republicans with a unique opportunity to potentially broaden their appeal, by turning popular support of an issue into actual results.
Take the First Step Act for example, a bill signed into law by President Trump, which reduced the mandatory minimum sentence for thousands of Americans convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. After years of talk in support of reforming the criminal justice system, primarily by politicians of the Democratic party, a Republican president was the one who took the ‘first step’ in producing visible results on the problem. This same approach can be taken towards legalizing marijuana nationally, which could go even further than the First Step Act by decreasing the amount of people convicted for nonviolent marijuana possession, helping to cutdown the already-massive prison population.
In addition to potentially broadening their appeal, the economic benefits that the legalization of marijuana can bring is a significant incentive for Republicans to get behind. According to an article from Forbes, the seven states that tax the sale of recreational marijuana generated millions of dollars in revenue, with the top three reporting over $265 million taxed in 2018 alone.
States have used this money to help solve budgetary issues by directing the funds towards public schools, attempts to combat homelessness, medical research, and more. With government spending becoming an increasingly alarming issue, the legalization of marijuana nationwide can help offset the costs of these expenditures by providing a new source of taxes for the federal government.
While there are far more advantages to the legalization of marijuana than disadvantages, there remains a stigma associated with it. The primary argument of those who attach this stigma to the consumption of marijuana is that it is somehow more dangerous than the use of cigarettes or alcohol. However, this belief is far from the truth.
A Business Insider article reported on the findings of several studies and reviews concerning the consumption of alcohol versus marijuana, in which it was observed that drinking alcohol was in fact more dangerous than smoking marijuana. For example, over ninety thousand Americans died from alcohol-related causes in 2014, whereas, in that same year, there were zero documented cases of deaths solely related to marijuana. To add on further, a study reported on in that same article found that healthy marijuana users were not more likely to die at a younger age than non-users.
This is not to say that drinking alcohol is inherently bad, nor is smoking marijuana inherently good either. In fact, marijuana consumption is more dangerous for Americans by not being fully legalized nationwide. Since a great number of individuals can’t visit a local dispensary given that their state has yet to legalize cannabis, they end up turning to unregulated, third party dealers. This in effect increases the probability that what they buy is laced with harmful drugs such as fentanyl, putting the lives of those users at risk.
It’s long overdue for marijuana to be legalized, if not because of its relative safety compared to alcohol, economic incentives, or political benefits, then for the lives of Americans which are either ruined for simple non-violent possession or ended by unsafe and unregulated dealers. In not only supporting the legalization of marijuana but also producing results to show for it, Republicans could only help their chances of winning the 2020 election and beyond by showing their commitment to not only making promises, but most importantly in keeping them.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.