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Marijuana Legalization: A Bad Idea

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2010
4 pages
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) under the Obama administration presents arguments against the legalization of marijuana use based on the best evidence available.
One argument against marijuana legalization is that chronic use is linked to respiratory problems, mental illness, poor motor performance, and impaired functioning of the cognitive and immune systems. Research has also shown marijuana smoke to contain carcinogens. A second argument against marijuana legalization is that the price for marijuana would be lowered, which would increase its use. A recent report from the RAND Corporation, "Altered State," presents evidence that legalization would cause the price of marijuana to be lowered significantly, triggering increases in its use, particularly among youth. A third argument against marijuana legalization is that any tax revenue gained from legalization would be offset by higher social costs related to the increased use of health care services, problem behaviors, and workplace loss of productivity. Another argument against marijuana legalization is that it would increase resources needed by the criminal justice system. The resulting increased use of marijuana would lead to behaviors that increase the number of contacts with the criminal justice system, thus requiring a greater use of criminal justice resources in processing cases related to marijuana intoxication. This report also argues that marijuana legalization would do little, if anything, to reduce violence related to the involvement of criminal organizations in marijuana cultivation and sales. Under the most commonly proposed legalization regime, high taxes would be imposed on marijuana sales. Violent drug cartels would focus on undercutting taxed sales through illegal "black market" marijuana enterprises. With increased demand for marijuana resulting from legalization, these groups would likely grow stronger. 14 notes