Marijuana: Legalize It?

October 29, 2012 Karl Shallowhorn, MS, CASAC

Have you ever seen Reefer Madness (1936)? This (very) old school tale of marijuana-based debauchery leads viewers to believe that marijuana is truly a tool of the devil designed to lead our youth astray. Well, here we are in 2012 and has this argument remained true?

Implications for Marijuana Use

In 2010, there were 853,838 marijuana-related arrests in the United States according to the FBI annual Uniform Crime Report. According to the same report, marijuana arrests comprised more than one-half (52 percent) of all drug arrests in the U.S. There are many arguments that could be derived from these statistics but I’d like to discuss a couple of points.

First, these are my opinions and do not reflect those of HealthyPlace or my employer. For a moment, let's consider whether marijuana is harmful. For me, marijuana was a trigger for my mental illness - intense paranoia, delusional thinking, and high anxiety. But….I still used it. Why you ask? Because I’m an addict! Addiction usually involves some kind of behavior that is done despite negative consequences. Yes, there were times when marijuana provided a kind of chemically-induced sense of well-being but it usually came with a price. For me, it was manic-depressive periods and lengthy psych hospital stays.

Benefits of Marijuana Use

But enough about me. In recent times, marijuana has been used as a one form of pain management for cancer and multiple sclerosis, as well as helping those living with glaucoma and other medically-based illnesses. When used responsibly, it has helped individuals to cope with these conditions and improve the quality of their lives.

The question is, “Where do we draw the line?” Or do we have to? Legalizing marijuana has many implications. In one respect, I believe that it does have deleterious effects. Despite what some people say, I do believe it can be a “gateway” drug. Also, it has been shown to increase the risk of Schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals (read Marijuana and Schizophrenia). However, for others it has simply served as a relaxant, akin to alcohol.

In the end, honestly, I am still torn on the issue of marijuana legalization. While I believe that the money that goes into the enforcement of drug laws for marijuana possession is disproportionate, I do still think there needs to be some kind of regulation. On the other hand, if marijuana were to be legalized, then perhaps some of the money used for law enforcement could be used for drug treatment and prevention programs.

Where do you stand?

APA Reference
Shallowhorn, K. (2012, October 29). Marijuana: Legalize It?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Karl Shallowhorn, MS, CASAC

Cindy Zelman
April, 10 2013 at 1:52 pm

Thanks for a great post. Well done. Marijuana set off a life-long battle with panic disorder for me, and I appreciate that you point out some of the potential dangers of this drug. I see posts on FB with statements like, "Marijuana never hurt anyone." I asked one woman, how do you know it never hurt anyone? It hurt me and millions like me. One woman asked, "But would something else have set off your panic, anyway?" That's like asking someone who is pro cigarettes whether or not something else would have set off the lung cancer. It doesn't make ciigarettes any less dangerous just be wise there is more than one cause for cancer. Likewise with marijuana and the mental health issues it can trigger.
I find that most who want to legalize it have no idea of its potential harm. They want to walk into Starbucks with a joint because marijuana never hurt anyone.
I want marijuana to be available and covered by insurance for every medical condition it serves. But I don't want people blowing marijuana smoke up my nose at Starbucks.
Anyway, thanks for such a great blog. Cindy

November, 13 2012 at 6:47 am

I appreciate all sides of such a a recovering addict i am subjectively aware of the degradation which accompanied my chronic use. However, that is not everyones experience . As a citizen i beleive it clear that criminalizing human behavior has led to a gross disconnect between resource allocation and meaningful results and additionally been cause to innumerable and sadly unnecessary pains. The temperance movement which led to the constitutional prohibition of alcohol was a sincere and well intentioned campaign meant to address a real social problem..but my read of history would suggest that alcohol like marijuana is an issue of public health not criminality.

Shannon LC Cate
November, 3 2012 at 9:29 am

Legalize it.
You say you're an addict and it had terrible effects for you. That's exactly the case with alcohol for numerous people.
Legalizing marijuana would open the gate for regulating it and making is *safer* for those who can use it without deleterious effects.
Meanwhile, not only would money be saved in the Drug War, but money would be made opening up this industry to the daylight and allowing for taxation and a whole new labor market.
Can't you just see the "marijuana country" tours and vacation packages a la the "wine country" ones we have now?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

November, 3 2012 at 3:09 pm

I guess that's why I chose a "?" at the end of the title. I'm truly torn on the issue. I do recognize that just because I had negative experriences from marijuana use not everyone does. On the other hand, sometimes we just don't know before we try it.
There are correlations that can be drawn from cannabis and alcohol use. Addiction is addiction, no matter how you look at it.

October, 31 2012 at 2:01 am

I beleive that it should be regulated, taxed, and enforced as alcohol is (including driving under the influence) and finally legalize it and lets get the rest of the terrible drugs out of our country and gone for good that are runing lives, families, and bank accounts. I can say that for me it is a take it or leave it kind of thing. I have never been addicted to it and stopped many times just because "I wasn't in the mood to get high". Truly this would save millions of taxpayer dollars to prosecute current weed smokers and lets go after the problem dealers like meth, pcp, coke, crack, heroin, etc. and get the dealers in jail and the users into rehab. Then the users could use the weed as a means to help them come off the other horrible drugs without getting so sick and maintain an appetite. IMHO.

Tom McNulty
October, 30 2012 at 4:01 pm

We've known each other for 5 years now and your blogs are well-done. Like you, I have been asked this question since I started as a therapist in 1979 and I truly have not changed my view. Other than the demonstrated medical benefits for those desperate for relief, I have never witnessed any value of being a regular marijuana smoker. In fact, I have only seen more pain and suffering. I fully agree and research supports the "gateway" drug position, but so does early onset of alcohol use. I will never see any redeeming value in legalizing pot. Instead, I believe to do so is to give up on the issue...cave to the ridiculous arguments often stated about "controlling" it - not in America. My 11 years working at BryLin Hospitals, and more recently at UBMD Addiction Medicine, further confirms what I believed in 1979. Tom

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 31 2012 at 1:43 am

Thanks Natalie - Your article makes a good point as well. The jury is still out.

October, 30 2012 at 7:49 am

I'm torn on this issue as well. Part of me thinks that legalizing it would take the fun out of it, and make people less likely to try it. However, this might just encourage more people to try it. I guess I lean more towards decriminalization rather than legalization. Make it so that those with small amounts of marijuana are not penalized. Entering into the prison system can sometimes do more harm than the drug itself!
Marijuana is seen as a gateway drug, but really a lot of other drugs, specifically alcohol (in my opinion), can be gateway drugs.
It's a very tough balance.

Leave a reply