Legalizing Marijuana

In this lesson you will read about the legalization of marijuana. You will consider the health effects of marijuana in comparison to alcohol and other drugs, and debate whether or not recreational marijuana should be legal.

“Doesn’t the idea of making nature against the law seem a bit... unnatural?”—Bill Hicks, comedian

Pre-Reading Questions

  1. Why do you think marijuana is illegal in most countries?
  2. What similarities and differences do marijuana, tobacco, coffee, and alcohol have? Which do you think is most harmful to humans?
  3. Is it necessary for a government to regulate the consumption of natural products? Who benefits from these regulations?

Vocabulary Preview

  • turn a blind eye: to pretend not to notice something that is against the rules, to ignore
  • banned: not allowed, prohibited
  • possession: the act of owning or having control of something
  • regulation: a rule or restriction
  • registry: a record of information
  • trafficking: buying and selling illegally
  • gateway drug: a drug that leads to the use of a more harmful drug
  • recreational: for the purpose of fun or entertainment
  • prohibition: a ban of a substance by law (e.g., alcohol)
  • decriminalize: to make something less of a crime (i.e., you may be fined but not jailed)

Practice these new vocabulary words here: Legalizing Marijuana

Legalizing Marijuana

Planting the Seed

  1. Many people think marijuana should be a legal substance. Unlike tobacco and alcohol, which are both legal in most countries, marijuana rarely leads to death or serious health problems. In many parts of the world, marijuana is legally used for medicinal purposes. In some countries, it is illegal to buy and sell marijuana, though authorities turn a blind eye to its usage. In much of the world, marijuana is a banned substance, and possession results in fines or jail time. While some people think marijuana is harmless, others fear that legalizing it will send a bad message to young people about drug use in general.
  2. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growing, selling, and smoking of marijuana. The government put a few regulations in place. First, tourists are not allowed to buy marijuana in Uruguay. Second, legal marijuana is sold by the government. Next, buyers have to join a special registry. Lastly, Uruguayans are legally allowed to grow six personal marijuana plants each year.
  3. Statisticians are watching Uruguay to see what will happen. Will drug trafficking become less of a problem? Will people switch from smoking tobacco to smoking marijuana? If they do, will the population become healthier? And lastly, will marijuana prove to be a gateway drug as many fear, or not?
  4. In the US, the War on Drugs is a government effort to prevent recreational drug use. As history has shown, however, prohibition does not prevent drug use. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are charged every year for possession of illegal marijuana, and many face jail time. This is extremely costly for the taxpayer. A high percentage of the American public and some politicians are shifting in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. In 2012, Washington State and Colorado decided to legalize recreational marijuana use. A number of other US states are expected to follow in their footsteps. Time will tell whether consumers are willing to pay high taxes on legal marijuana, or whether they will continue to use illegal sources for their recreational drugs.

Additional Resources