Legalization of marijuana

As one of the most used illicit substances, marijuana receives a lot of popular and legislative attention. The main factor drawing this attention is represented by the potential effect it has in managing a wide area of medical problems, different studies indicating its medical usefulness, especially for pain treatment. Still, there is a lot of research linking marijuana to crime, the probability of marijuana users offending being 1.5 higher than the probability of non-users offending. In addition, prevention of heavy use among adolescents can reduce crime in adulthood, the need for laws accurately managing marijuana use being an important aspect that can influence large groups of individuals.

Since 1985, the public opinion has an increasing favorable attitude concerning marijuana legalization. As a results, in 2011, 16 states allowed medical use, the specific conditions and the process of obtaining, possessing and using varying from state to state. However the laws are consistent on what concerns a series of aspects such as: i) patient must have specific conditions to qualify; ii) a physician must approve and sign a form which is then submitted to the state; iii) a verification card is provided by the state to the patient qualifying as medical marijuana user; iv) method of obtaining small amounts of marijuana is either growing or buying from a “caregiver”; v) renewal of card on a periodic bases to ensure validity.

Where marijuana is legal, there is a greater prevalence of use, fact also suggested by various studies. Although the tendency is to relate the favorable law with use increase, Harper et al. He found little evidence to support this, the estimates suggesting that after passing the law, adolescent marijuana use may decrease.

Since the results do not necessarily show a causal effect between legalization and use/abuse/dependence, there is need for considering other mechanism and possible explanations. Some factors that can be taken into account are represented by level of support, community attitude, medical endorsement and availability.

Considering that marijuana legalization has the potential of leading to approximately a 4% use increase, special attention must be given to all aspect related to marijuana (recreational or heavy use at individual/group level; proposing or approving favorable laws). Also, a good flow of information from the scientific studies to the general public can ensure a better choice for each individual when deciding to or not to use marijuana.