PSY 6110 Assignment Prepare a Debate on the Legalization of Controlled Substances
PSY 6110 Assignment Prepare a Debate on the Legalization of Controlled Substances
The legalization of marijuana is one of the oldest debates in the country, attracting complex controversies over its exact benefits and harms. Opponents often clash about whether the substance should be legalized and made available over the counter. Proponents of legalization argue that marijuana has medicinal benefits and also making it legal has tax benefits and less burden on the criminal justice system. On the other hand, opponents stress that marijuana poses the risk of addiction, especially to young people who use it for recreational purposes, as well as negative health and social implications (Zellers et al., 2023). While the debate stands at an impasse, several states and countries around the world have decriminalized marijuana terming its medicinal value. Some health practitioners prescribe marijuana as an alternative and complementary treatment while most patients use it as alternative and complementary medicine without checking with their healthcare providers. Hence, there is a growing interest in the healthcare field on the implications of legalizing marijuana and maintaining its illegal and controlled status. The following debate between Kelly (opposer) and Brixton (proposer), tackles these implications.
Kelly: Ladies and gentlemen, my stance is that marijuana should be legalized because it has medicinal properties. Marijuana has proven effective in treating chronic and intense pain, cancer management, anxiety, and epilepsy. Given that marijuana is natural, allowing access would ensure that patients use safe and natural medicine for treatment. Marijuana is sold in the black-market generating millions for criminal gangs, legalizing would contribute to crime reduction and tax generation for the state. Therefore, I support the legalization of marijuana as a recreational substance that has beneficial medicinal properties.
Brixton: I strongly oppose the legalization of marijuana because of the following. One, marijuana is believed to have medicinal properties, but legalizing it for recreational purposes can lead to several harms because of the unintended side effects, negative effects on mental health, and addiction. Furthermore, if marijuana is legalized, it would compromise the efforts to protect the public against the harmful effects of the drug because it would not be possible to control how people use it, leading to overuse and misuse.
Kelly: I support the legalization of marijuana because of its pharmacological benefits. To understand this, let us look at the pharmacological properties of marijuana. Marijuana is made up of over 400 components out of which 60 are pharmacologically active cannabinoids such as the delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which are popularly studied (Oberbarnscheidt & Miller, 2016). These cannabinoids have been shown to modulate receptors, enzymes, and ionotropic channels containing ECS to produce therapeutic effects in individuals (Sampson, 2021). Studies have shown that marijuana has therapeutic potential for the treatment of epilepsy, certain cancer types, and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, research shows that marijuana stimulates appetite, and acts as a sedative, anxiolytic, and psychedelic (Kumar et al., 2021). In summation, marijuana causes many systemic effects in the body, leading to therapeutic benefits for various illnesses. Furthermore, as a drug, marijuana is extremely safe because of low acute toxicity and absence of death reports directly related to cannabis. Hence, legalizing marijuana is necessary to allow unrestricted access so that the public can enjoy the therapeutic benefits of this substance.
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Brixton: No doubt, as Kelly argues, marijuana seems to have certain medicinal properties. However, the same mode of action that you have described also causes changes in the brain that are detrimental to a person’s mental health. First, the cannabinoid components from marijuana bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are G-protein coupled proteins, leading to their activation through the inhibition of adenylate-cyclase (Oberbarnscheidt & Miller, 2016). In return, the receptors inhibit the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, glutamate, and acetylcholine, which are crucial in maintaining brain activity. As a result, various activities in the brain become altered including perception, learning, memory, and mood, while causing impaired judgement. Further studies note that marijuana causes psychosis, loss of time perception, and disruption of psychomotor behavior (Sampson, 2021). These are validated by its original classification as a hallucinogen (Bridgeman & Abazia, 2017).
Secondly, marijuana decreases the brain’s sensitivity to dopamine, which is the brain’s reward and pleasure center. Low levels of dopamine affect mood and are linked to various mental health illnesses including depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, psychosis, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and Parkinson’s disease (Oberbarnscheidt & Miller, 2016). Evidently, the diseases that marijuana supposedly cures are the same that its mode of action in the brain causes. Other side effects of marijuana include permanent IQ loss, negative effects on movement and coordination, impairment in daily performance including in education, work, and personal life, and poor health outcomes for the health and development of a baby. Additionally, marijuana is linked to impairments in the brain that alters psychomotor performance in train and car driving, performance in academics, and aeroplane piloting (Kumar et al., 2021). With this evidence, it is clear that legalizing marijuana can have catastrophic effects on the health system and population health outcomes.
Widespread Use and Addiction
Kelly: I hear your concerns. But, the widespread use of marijuana shows that there is nothing to worry about since no adverse effects have been reported. As shown in my previous points, it is used to cure a range of diseases, not just one condition. That is why several countries around the world and several states have legalized the drug because they understand the benefits. Already, it is the more commonly used drug in the country and the world. According to national statistics, 187% or 52.2 million Americans use marijuana in comparison to 0.8% or 1.9 million who use cocaine (CDC, 2021). Furthermore, unlike other illegal drugs, marijuana’s wide use has social, historical, and social significance to many communities. For example, Indians have used it for years as a sacred medicine, and social religious, and ritualistic customs. Historically, it was used in other Asian countries and China for its healing properties (Yu et al., 2020). Marijuana is also widely used because it can be administered in various forms, giving people an opportunity to choose the root they are comfortable with (Yu et al., 2020). Given that marijuana is already popular and widely used, it means that it has potential and there is no point in keeping it illegal yet people are openly using it for various reasons. Hence, it can be potentially beneficial if our state too can legalize marijuana.
Brixton: I agree marijuana is popular and several states including Washington, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, California, and Alaska among others have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that marijuana is highly addictive and part of this wide popularity is attributed to its addictive nature (Sampson, 2021). For example, the more people start to use marijuana earlier in life, the higher the risk of addiction. In individuals who start to use marijuana before the age of 18 years, the risk of addiction, leading to marijuana use disorder is one in every six people. On the other hand, the risk of addiction for older adults is 1 out of 10 (CDC, 2021). Currently, the rate of illegal substance uses and alcohol abuse among youths and adolescents is very high and the trend is worrying. Making the use of marijuana legal will just compound the problem increasing the rates of addiction in young people to substances. Moreover, once they use marijuana, young people are likely to graduate to other dangerous drugs such as heroin (Montgomery et al., 2022). Hence, it is extremely dangerous to argue for the legalization of marijuana regardless of its social or cultural significance.
Kelly: I would like to stress that decriminalizing marijuana would prevent several issues. One, making marijuana legal would contribute to a reduction in crime rates. The black market trade of marijuana is associated with violence, theft, and trafficking crimes, as well as the flourishing of gangs in neighborhoods causing mayhem to the residents (Montgomery et al., 2022). With the legalization of marijuana, crime rates would drop as evident from states that have legalized the substance. For example, the state of Colorado has recorded a significant reduction in property crimes since it decriminalized marijuana in 2012 (Wu et al., 2020). Two, the decriminalization of marijuana would ease the pressure on the criminal justice system by reducing the rates of arrests and court causes associated with illegal substance use. Three, the legalization of marijuana would necessitate the introduction of guidelines for its use to prevent overuse and harm associated with the substance. On the other hand, the effects of criminalizing marijuana loss of civil liberties, increased implicit bias by the low enforcement leading to discrimination against the Black community, and the high burden of drug treatment.
Brixton: The cost of the problems caused by decriminalizing marijuana is greater than what the healthcare system would save from drug treatment. Apart from the mental health effects, marijuana is linked to a high risk of inflammatory lung disease, traffic deaths, functional impairment, and social issues that not only increases the healthcare burden but also negatively affect productivity and the economy (Evans, 2019). Moreover, studies show that decriminalizing marijuana would result in more crimes and violence associated with other illegal substances; hence, it may not be accurate to say that legalizing it reduces crime (Montgomery et al., 2022). Furthermore, the problem with the justice system including overcrowding in courts and police discrimination is a massive issue that requires effective reforms, decriminalizing marijuana would not have a significant improvement in the system.
Kelly: I want to add that when marijuana purchase becomes legal people can benefit from easy access to use it for various ailments including pain management, appetite stimulation, and improved sleep (Montgomery et al., 2022). When it becomes available, people will use it responsibly as humans tend to abuse something that they perceive is illegal more than when it is legal.
Brixton: I disagree, legalizing marijuana and making it available over the counter without a prescription is highly dangerous. Youths who are experimenting with drugs can easily access them and become addicted (Zellers et al., 2023). Moreover, using marijuana for medicinal purposes requires close monitoring by a practitioner to identify and address side effects.
Kelly: Most importantly, decriminalization of marijuana would have positive social implications by eliminating the element of stigma and discrimination against people who use marijuana even for medicinal purposes alone.
Brixton: Because the legalization of marijuana is likely to increase crime and violence, it has negative implications on family life and functioning. For example, increased family violence and abuse lead to dysfunctional families, separations, and divorce.
Kelly: To recap my arguments, I would like to stress the benefits of legalizing marijuana including numerous medicinal benefits, crime reduction, improved access, decongestion of the court and less work for the criminal justice system, and elimination of stigma. As my opponent has noted, there are certain concerns over control. However, making it legal will also create an opportunity to develop policies, measures, and guidelines to ensure safe and responsible use.
Brixton: I have listened to my opponent’s arguments and agree that marijuana could be having potential benefits. However, legalizing poses the risk of adverse side effects, increased crime, high healthcare burden associated with its effects, easy access and misuse by young people, and increased rates of addiction. Therefore, the dangers of legalizing marijuana outweigh the benefits; hence it should not be legalized.
Marijuana use has gained widespread use both for recreational and medicinal use. Being the most popularly used illegal substance, marijuana has drawn debate for years on whether it should be legalized and people allowed to access it without prescriptions. As the debate shows, decriminalizing marijuana has several benefits including access to safe medication, therapeutic benefits, reduction in crime and violence, lower pressure on the criminal justice system, and less stigma against people who use drugs. On the other hand, the negative factors associated with legalizing marijuana include its adverse side effects on mental and physical health, impaired driving, increased violence and crime, addition, increased use of other illegal drugs, and access by young people. Evidently, marijuana is beneficial but poses great negative effects, creating a challenge to the decision to legalize the substance.
Bridgeman, M., & Abazia, D. (2017). Medicinal Cannabis: History, Pharmacology, And Implications for the Acute Care Setting. Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 42(3):180-188.
CDC. (2021, June 8). Data and Statistics. Retrieved from Venters for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/data-statistics.htm
Evans, D. (2019 ). Marijuana Legalization Will Cause Many Problems for Missouri Law Enforcement and Schools. Mo Med, 16(3):164-167.
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