“Hey, who’s that guy?”
“The leader of the Liberal Party. The one with the nice hair.”
“Oh, him. He’s Justin Trudeau, and if the Liberal Party wins, he’s going to be our next prime minister.”
It’s 2015, the year of the Canadian federal election. My seventh-grade English teacher has decided that we’re going to do a unit on politics, so we’re studying each of the political parties in Canada, their current leaders, and their political goals. We’re all very surprised that Trudeau says that if he becomes prime minister, he’ll legalize marijuana for recreational use. Didn’t they tell us that drugs were illegal for a reason?
Starting in fourth grade, every year we’re taught about the terrible effects that alcohol, tobacco, and various illegal drugs have on our bodies. All illegal drugs are harmful to our bodies in various ways; that’s the reason they are outlawed. However, recently, many states in the United States and countries such as Canada have started to legalize cannabis, also known as marijuana or weed.
Although some states and countries have already legalized the drug, there’s still a chance to prevent it from being legalized in other states. The state of New York, where I go to school now, is among the states that outlaw cannabis, and it should continue to do so. This is because marijuana has harmful social, economic, and moral effects, and there’s a reason to oppose legalization from any point of view.
From the social point of view, the most obvious harm from cannabis legalization is that the drug will become far easier to obtain, and so the effects of marijuana will be more prevalent among teens and preteens. This is a grounded concern, as a survey by the governmental Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed, “The percentage of 12- to 17-year-olds using marijuana is higher in every legal marijuana state than the national average.”
Legalizing the use of the drug naturally means it’ll be easier to access for most people, even those who are below the legal marijuana usage age—where marijuana is legal, it’s much easier for an adult to simply purchase the drug and give it to a minor. Use of cannabis is especially harmful for adolescents and preteens because they don’t have fully developed minds and bodies.
Another social concern is that the smoking of marijuana before driving results in a similar effect to drinking and driving, so making marijuana more accessible will result in more marijuana-related traffic accidents.
A 2017 study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded, “Cannabis use prior to driving increases the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident.”
As an illustration, after cannabis become legal in Colorado in 2013, traffic deaths relating to marijuana rose by 151 percent over the next four years, according to a law enforcement program known as the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
This is bad for society because it adds to the burden already created by drunk driving. Driving under the influence of alcohol already causes numerous accidents and deaths, affecting the drivers and their families. If cannabis is legalized, the number of accidents that occur due to marijuana usage is very likely to go up.
This will result in more devastating consequences for countless groups: drivers, their families, emergency workers, auto insurance companies, and communities in general.
From an economic point of view, the legalization of marijuana is also damaging. One of the strongest arguments for removing the prohibition on the drug is that supposedly there are many economic benefits.
Those who support legalization claim that it will benefit many different industries, that the drug will bring in tax revenue, and that it will take money away from the black market. Although this seems to be good on the surface, all of these arguments are flawed.
As with tobacco and alcohol, marijuana legalization comes with high costs—both for taxpayers and for society—that far exceed the benefits from the relatively small amount of tax money it brings in.
Affected sectors are doctors and other health care professionals, who would be responsible for treating the health problems of those who smoke cannabis; police, who would have to deal with more driving accidents, due to people driving under the influence; and addiction workers, who would have to deal with more people becoming dependent on the drug.
Businesses are hurt because, in addition to accidents being more likely to occur under the influence of the drug, workers are obviously affected mentally by the drug, resulting in lower productivity.
Further, although marijuana legalization should, in theory, take away money from the black market, it seems that instead, the black market is benefiting. A representative of the Colorado Attorney General’s office stated in 2016 that the legalization of cannabis “has inadvertently helped fuel the business of Mexican drug cartels.”
It’s easy to see how the black market can benefit from legalization—all the illegal dealers would have to do is cut prices below the legal vendors to make money, and legalization makes it less likely for an illegal buyer to be arrested for being in possession of the drug.
Thus, marijuana legalization is detrimental to the economy because the negative consequences to businesses and the government outweigh legalization’s benefits.
Additionally, the legalization of cannabis is an idea that isn’t morally justified. It would be immoral to legalize the drug because it harms both your body and those of others.
Marijuana is an addictive drug that has many adverse effects on your body. The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute of the University of Washington has conducted a study comparing marijuana smoke to tobacco smoke. It showed that smoking marijuana “results in approximately five times the carbon monoxide concentration, three times the tar, and the retention of one-third more tar in the respiratory tract.”
Those who support legalization argue that alcohol and tobacco are also harmful, and that they should have a right to decide what they can do with their bodies. This argument is not morally justified. Yes, alcohol and tobacco are legal, and yes, they too are addictive and destructive to the body.
What has been the result for our society? Alcoholism is a widespread problem: There are almost 14 million U.S. adults who abuse alcohol, and more people seek treatment for alcohol than any other substance, according to addiction treatment organization Project Know.
Meanwhile, there are about 50 million people in America who are addicted to some type of tobacco product; nicotine addiction is the most common addiction in the United States.
What would happen if marijuana was legalized in New York? How many more people would become addicted and struggle to break free of their dependency on drugs? If people can decide to do whatever they want with their bodies, then does that mean that other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, should be legal as well? The argument that one should be able to do what one wants with one’s body is a slippery slope, and could be applied to any number of dangerous drugs.
The reason that marijuana is illegal in many states is because it’s proven to be dangerous for your body. Secondhand smoke from cannabis, like tobacco, is harmful to those around the smoker.
Some argue that if marijuana is legalized, then this would free up police resources from arresting people for marijuana possession. Instead, the police could focus on more “serious crimes.” This argument is also flawed because they are arguing that in order to allow police to focus on other crimes, they should stop making this crime illegal. The problem with this logic is that this argument could easily be applied to any other drug, or really any other crime, and doing so is morally wrong.
It isn’t right to say that we should stop making things illegal so that police could focus on other illegal things. The law is based on what is right and wrong, what is harmful and what isn’t, and it shouldn’t be changed to cater to personal wants. Judgment of whether something is right or wrong should not be based on personal opinion, but on moral standards and how it affects yourself and others around you.
Chapter 10 of The Epoch Times’ series “How the Specter of Communism Is Ruling Our World” explains how laws have become degenerate and warped: “Traditional morality sees the human form as sacred and created in divine likeness. Western religions believe the body is the ‘temple of the Holy Ghost,’ while in the East, it was believed that the body could improve through cultivation to become a Buddha or a Tao.”
Therefore, from a religious point of view, using drugs like marijuana to damage your body could technically be considered an act of desecration.
No matter who you are or what your point of view is, there’s a substantial reason to oppose the legalization of marijuana.
It’s no coincidence that marijuana is nicknamed weed: it feeds off healthy life. You try to get rid of it, but it just doesn’t work. The only way to prevent it from spreading and taking over your lawn is to prevent its seeds from reaching you. Once it’s brought in and has taken root, it just spreads and can’t be controlled.
If marijuana is legalized in New York, then the future for the state looks bleak: Imagine a society where there are as many addicts of marijuana as there are of alcohol or tobacco. What would the Empire State be like then, and wouldn’t we regret the fact that we decided to make this harmful drug legal?
Matthew Zhang is a 12th-grade high school student in Orange County, New York.