Why is it so Difficult to Legalize Marijuana?
A law reform in favour of legalizing marijuana has gained more and more public support all over the country. This year’s Election Day has proven how so many citizens approve of such reform with legalization initiatives dominating in four states out of five. Rumours have even spread that the federal government may lift the marijuana ban soon, yet just last August, the Drug Enforcement Administration made an announcement to still keep marijuana illegal.
Although a lot of advocates have sworn to its therapeutic benefits, marijuana continues to fall under the Controlled Substances Act, classified as a Schedule 1 substance, which is defined as having no medical use. This means that states allowing marijuana for its medical or recreational use continue to defy federal law. But what makes it so hard to legalize marijuana? Seeing as a lot of people right now needs to go through marijuana drug testing just to get a job, it seems that it’s still considered dangerous.
Lack of scientific evidence
According to DEA, an evaluation by the Health and Human Services depicts that marijuana currently has no accepted medical use for a number of reasons: its chemistry is unknown and non-reproducible; it doesn’t have enough safety and efficacy studies; it is currently not accepted by experts; and there is not enough scientific evidence available. In conclusion, there is simply not enough proof from qualified experts regarding the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in treating a certain specific disorder. On the contrary, the DEA further explained that clinical trials have not shown that the risks of marijuana use outweigh the drug’s specific benefits.
“Potential” for abuse
In another report from the DEA, marijuana shows to have a “high potential” for psychological dependence. According to studies, about 4.3 million out of 19 million monthly marijuana users in 2012 have shown dependence to marijuana based on its diagnostic criteria. However, it did not classify marijuana as a “gateway drug”, or a drug that leads the user to abuse other substances.
This finding, along with the lack of solid medical evidence has made it harder for legalization efforts in the U.S. to push through. Companies in favour of the medical use of marijuana may still need to conduct further scientific evaluation just as much as they do with conventional pharmaceutical drugs.
Limitations in a federal country
Even if the federal government lifts its ban on marijuana, prohibitions on its use may still remain in the U.S. due to federalism. A nationwide legalization would require the decisions from both the federal government and the governments of each state. Repealing the criminal prohibitions of marijuana does not affect the laws of every state that forbids any form of marijuana use and distribution. In turn, the federal law also does not change if any state government repeals its marijuana laws.
Simply put, states can choose whether or not to create any laws with regard to marijuana. This situation has led many states to implement a variety of laws concerning the drug, such as allowing it for medical use or for possession in small amounts. While the legalization of marijuana in the U.S. is now just a question of when, federalism in the country will continue to make its possibility much harder.