Legalizing Marijuana: An Exit Strategy from the War on Drugs

by By COHA Research Associate Zoë Amerigian

• U.S. drug policy needs to be altered; legalization must be subject to serious debate
• Legalization could eliminate illegal demand for Mexican marijuana and curb drug-related violence
• Medical dangers of marijuana may be largely exaggerated
• Economic costs and benefits should be balanced; legalization could reduce financial burden on the U.S.

Few topics of debate are as stigmatizing and polarizing as the legalization of marijuana. For the majority of the U.S. population, the idea invokes one of two reactions: a firm guffaw at the ridiculousness of it, or a tenacious, almost blind, support of it. Regardless of their stance, most people derive their opinions from personal beliefs and unsubstantiated myth rather than unassailable fact.

Disinformation on marijuana is rampant and several U.S. presidents have been stubbornly opposed to any serious discussion about marijuana legalization. National interest in the subject is evidenced by the myriad of legalization-related questions directed at the White House, yet President Obama cannot stifle his laughter every time the topic is brought up.

Secretary of State Clinton brushes off the idea, vaguely dismissing the subject with “[T]here is just too much money in it,”1—the implication of this statement is uncertain—while countless lawmakers simply cite “morality” in disregarding it.

If the federal government is going to firmly oppose legalization, they must first establish that they have given significant consideration to the idea. Many Latin American nations, including Mexico and Colombia, the greatest victims of the drug trade, have already had serious debate about legalization. It is time for the U.S. to do the same.