Top Pro & Con Arguments


Recreational marijuana only should be decriminalized while researchers properly study the medicinal effects of the drug.

Decriminalizing recreational marijuana means possession of a small amount for personal use does not carry the risk of arrest, jail time, or a criminal record, but instead are ticketed like a minor traffic violation, according to NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), which reports 26 states have partially or fully decriminalized recreational marijuana. [46]

However, the medical benefits and safety of marijuana have not been studied enough to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks associated with the drug. Additional study also allows more specific-use analysis (for example, does a particular marijuana derivative help a particular ailment, and does marijuana treat a condition not yet associated with the drug?). [38]

Sarah C. Hull, cardiologist at Yale School of Medicine, explains why we should not rush into legalization of medical marijuana: “Decriminalization of marijuana will create significant opportunities to conduct this research, but common-sense regulation based on science must be implemented simultaneously to create an ethical policy framework. This should aim to promote public health through comprehensive education programs and protection of vulnerable populations such as adolescents, while recognizing the right of autonomous adults to make decisions about their own health but not to act in a way that might compromise the health of others. [38]

Hull argues further that “significant criminal penalties” should not be attached to adult possession or use of marijuana as such punishments have “entrench[ed] systemic racism.” [38]

She concludes, “There is substantial need for more research to guide specific policy development going forward, and in the meantime, recreational use (though not medicinal use) should be generously taxed to fund research efforts as well as addiction treatment in order to enhance benefits to society.” [38]

As with any drug, marijuana should be thoroughly studied for medical applications before being widely used as medicine. “Once we understand on the brain level what effect it is having on cognition, then we can see how it can be applied for all sorts of purposes, but first we need to know exactly what it’s doing. If it’s going to be introduced to society in a big way, we need to know what the potential harms and benefits are,” argues Earl Miller, cognitive neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. [44]

Read More