Congress should hash Legalizing Marijuana


Photo Coby Berg

by Liv Allen, Staff Reporter

If you’re caught with any amount of recreational marijuana in Iowa, you may face up to six months in jail, a fine up to $1,000 or both, assuming you’re a first offender.

In Colorado, it is legal to purchase retail marijuana and get a license to sell as long as you’re 21 years of age or older. 

Why the stark difference?

Well, anyone who has taken a basic U.S. government course knows that this is a prime example of federalism. Individual states can make their own laws regulating the usage and criminalization of marijuana 

Still, the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies marijuana as having a high potential for abuse, is not yet legal under federal law. This needs to change. Legalizing both recreational and medical marijuana will help our country in numerous ways. 

Economically, criminalizing marijuana is actually more expensive than legalizing it. Enforcing marijuana laws costs our country as much as $6 billion annually. 

This not only wastes money, but time. The time spent cracking down on marijuana arrests could be time law enforcement spends focusing on serious crimes—like rape or murder—and restoring public safety.

Legalizing marijuana would also bring in significant figures for U.S. revenue. For a country in crippling debt, this is very appealing. 

The marijuana industry in the U.S. would likely exceed $24 billion in revenue by 2025. Using Colorado as an example, we’ve seen that the state raised $78 million in the first fiscal year after legalizing recreational use of the drug. 

In taxing recreational marijuana as an excise, our country would bring in considerable revenue that could then be used to reduce the federal budget deficit or to fund government programs like education or infrastructure. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020 the legal marijuana market will create more than 250,000 jobs, which surpasses that of manufacturing or utilities. 

This influx of jobs will raise national employment rates and even further stimulate the economy. 

Many people who oppose federally legalizing marijuana are under the assumption that it is a gateway drug, meaning using marijuana correlates to using other, more harmful drugs. However, scientific studies have proven this to be false and sensationalized. 

It’s important to note that correlation does not mean causation. In fact, most drug use begins with two legal substances—alcohol and nicotine. 

A recent study actually showed that repeated administration of THC (the principal chemical component in marijuana) to rhesus monkeys does not increase, and possibly decreases, the appeal of heroin and opioids. 

Another concern for some Americans is that commercialized marijuana will mimic the “Big Tobacco” industry and target younger, more impressionable people. 

This is not likely to happen as the U.S. would put strong regulations around marijuana marketing and usage, much like Colorado or Washington, where you may only purchase or sell the drug at the age of 21 and are limited in the amount you can lawfully carry. 

There are many other potential benefits the U.S. could experience in legalizing marijuana, however, people may still have many concerns. 

Though the majority of Americans are actually in favor of recreational marijuana legalization, this issue is still being tossed around in Congress despite growing bipartisan support. 

The Iowa Legislature is likely to debate and adjust its state-run medical marijuana policies in 2020, however federal progress for recreational usage of the drug is continuing to be thwarted.

Perhaps it is up to the people to become informed on the many positive effects the legal marijuana industry will have on our country as well as why some of the opposing arguments demonizing the drug are fundamentally wrong. Public support may just be the key to pushing Congress forward in decriminalizing marijuana.