How Marijuana Legalization Could Equalize the Justice System
By Zack Macomber
For the past number of years, the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use has been on the ballot. As of now, 27 states have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. 
In the 2020 election year, New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana all made the decision to join Washington, Oregon, and Colorado to legalize marijuana use for adults 21 years of age or older. 
To fully understand what legalization of marijuana would mean for society, the topic must be understood. The technical name for marijuana is cannabis, and there are three main plants: cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis. Psychoactive properties in these plants make it a popular drug, but it can also be used for medicinal purposes. 
Cannabis is actually made up of more than 120 components known as cannabinoids, the main two being cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD contains many medicinal properties, as it helps reduce inflammation and pain, and has been used to treat epilepsy. THC is tied to the “high” that many people experience when using cannabis. 
In the debate on legalization, many supporters point to the dangers of drinking, arguing that cannabis is less dangerous. On the other hand, those opposed argue that it is still harmful to society and should be discouraged rather than legalized. 
This is an opinion article, so here is my stance on the subject: marijuana should be legalized. This would allow for more regulation, more research, and more equality in the justice system.
One argument that is often used by opponents of marijuana legalization (though I do think it is a strong one) is that people who want to use cannabis will find a way to use it whether or not it is legal. Unfortunately, when the source is unregulated, it can be laced with other substances that either alter the psychoactive effects or increase the weight of the cannabis to sell less product for more money. Legalization would allow the government to regulate the substance, greatly decreasing the likelihood of a person obtaining laced cannabis.
When a substance is illegal, it makes it hard for official research to be done. In 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin, or magic mushrooms. Recent studies have suggested that it can be incredibly helpful in treating depression and anxiety. Legalizing psilocybin allows more research to be done in the future.  Marijuana is following a similar track. While many studies have been done, there is much to be learned.
One of the strongest arguments for legalization is to increase equality in the justice system. NORML, a website dedicated to being the “voice for responsible marijuana consumers,” points out that African Americans are arrested for violating possession laws nearly four times more often than whites, despite both races using marijuana at roughly the same rate. 
In 2018, Canada, which had racial discrepancies with marijuana-related arrests, made the decision to legalize marijuana in order to combat this problem. In 2018, police recorded over 26,000 possession cases, of which Blacks made up about 30%, although they only represented 8% of the population. In 2019, when the law went into effect, that number dropped to 46 cases. 
Although marijuana legalization is not a comprehensive solution, it is still a step towards remedying systematic racism. If the past year is any reference, the United States has some major issues with racism and should address it in every setting, including marijuana and the justice system.
Whether or not you agree with my opinion is unimportant. What is important is for each of us to do our own research and to come to an educated opinion on the subject. As more and more states move towards legalization, the federal government will have to reevaluate their current position on the subject. Become an educated voter, and when the subject of legalization comes around, make an educated vote.
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- Feltman, R. (2020, November5). Oregon just voted to legalize magic mushrooms. Here’s what that actually means. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3eZQsBQ.
- Schwartzmann, P. (2020, September 15). DC legalized marijuana, but one thing didn’t change: almost everyone arrested on pot charges is black. Washinton Post. Retrieved from https://wapo.st/3vHaQhM.
- Austen, I. (2021, January 23). Two years after legalizing cannabis, has Canada kept its promises? Retrieved from https://nyti.ms/2SiNY9I.