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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Many people argue that [marijuana] should be legal for medical purposes” because certain chemicals in the marijuana plant have been seen to be helpful in treating a number of symptoms and medical problems. “In fact, a growing number of states have legalized marijuana for medical use,” and others have also done so for recreational use. But what does legalization mean for those who are already addicted to the drug?
Marijuana’s Addiction Syndrome
It is important to ask about the issue of addiction when making a case for marijuana legalization. The Office of National Drug Control Policy states, “We know that marijuana use, particularly long-term, chronic use or use starting at a young age, can lead to dependence and addiction,” and we are also aware that the drug itself can be harmful, causing an intense high, problems with concentration and memory, and a severe increase in a person’s risk of heart attack. Though many individuals do consider the drug itself to be harmless, it can cause a number of issues, especially for those who abuse it frequently and are already addicted.
Legalization and Marijuana Addicts
The assumed scenario is that those who are already addicted to marijuana will only obtain more of the drug and abuse it more often and more severely than before. However, the concept of legalizing marijuana opens up many new changes, some of which are likely to help avoid the possibility of increased abuse.
For example, the possibility for taxation and the decline of illegal selling and purchasing of the drug would be part of the legalization change. This would cause many individuals to possibly reconsider the amount of their budget that is actually going to marijuana use and whether or not they might want to cut back. The instances of crime will likely decrease, but while it is unlikely that the addiction or abuse rates will drop with legalization, it is also not very likely that they will increase dramatically.
Alcohol and tobacco are two addictive substances that are both legal and taxed, and it is difficult to view marijuana as much different if it were to be legalized. However, the lack of evidence does make it difficult to point to one clear answer for certain. Though certain states have legalized the drug for specific uses, there has not been enough data to support either theory that marijuana legalization creates more addiction or less.
Here is what is likely: there is a possibility that the legalization of the drug could lead to the government’s focus switching from cracking down on marijuana abuse, distribution, and other current issues to finding better addiction treatments, creating medications for dependent marijuana users for the treatment of withdrawal, and other necessary care for addicts.
Currently, the government still “continues to oppose legalization of marijuana,” as stated by the ONDCP, but there could possibly be both negative and positive results for addicts if the drug itself became legalized.