The legalization of marijuana has aroused strong opinions, both pro and con. Marijuana has been legalized in a few of the United States as well as in a number of countries around the world, so these can serve as a litmus test to determine what the consequences of wide-scale marijuana legalization might be.
One of the strongest arguments against legalization of marijuana is that in countries where it has been legalized or decriminalized, studies show that marijuana use has escalated tremendously. Marijuana was decriminalized in Switzerland, and that country now has the highest rate of alcohol and drug abuse in people under twenty in all of Europe (Hans).
Another argument against marijuana legalization is the fact that it is a ôÆgateway drugÆ that leads to the use of harder drugs and other high-risk behaviorsö (ôYou Decide: Marijuana Legalizationö). According to Rob Housman, assistant director of strategic planning at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP):
The first illegal drug most young people try is a gateway substance. An article in the March edition of the American Journal of Public Health Studies notes that marijuana use is an important precursor to the use of other drugs... Preventing marijuana is thus smart public-health policy (ôYou Decide: Marijuana Legalizationö).
According to this study, 48% of early marijuana users ôreported using cocaine and other stimulants as adults,ö 35% experimented with hallucinogens, 14% tried heroin and other opiates, 46% said they ôlater abused or became dependent on marijuana,ö and 43% became dependent on alcohol (ôYou Decide: Marijuana Legalizationö). Furthermore, other studies found that ôyoung people who have tried marijuana are 104 times more likely to use cocaine than if they had never tried marijuanaö and 15% of people in an emergency room trauma unit who had been driving when hurt had been using marijuana (ôYou Dec