Debate: Should Marijuana be Legalized Around the World?


marijuanaState by state, the marijuana laws in this country are changing, but this isn’t the only place reconsidering pot prohibition. Marijuana legalization support is growing around the world. Recently, Uruguay became the latest to “edge toward” a government owned and regulated marijuana industry.

Medical marijuana in Canada is similarly making significant strides towards making this healing herb a legal choice for millions. A recent debate at the Economist suggested legalization should be a global endeavor, with thousands weighing in.

Economist debates put two high profile experts against each other, arguing different sides of an issue. Readers are invited to weigh in and vote for the arguments that are most convincing.

On the side of global legalization was Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. On the other side, founding director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research Neil McKeganey was against marijuana legalization. With marijuana being a hot button issue no matter how you look at it, both had to bring some convincing arguments to the table.

McKeganey, as most opponents do, focused on the belief that marijuana legalization would increase marijuana usage, and with studies linking consumption to schizophrenia, he argued, this could create a sad state of affairs. For fear of minimizing the issue of adults being able to choose whether or not to consume a plant in their day-to-day life, McKeganey characterized legalization as a form of “extremism.

With a long list of arguments for the elimination of pot prohibition, Nadelmann hit them all in his opening remarks—from the discriminatory foundations of prohibition (initially crafted to keep Mexican migrants and Black Americans “in their place”), to the fact that prohibition has made marijuana more popular than ever—Nadelmann set up numerous arguments for global marijuana legalization.

“Marijuana prohibition is unique among criminal laws. No other law is enforced so widely and harshly yet deemed unnecessary by such a substantial portion of the populace.”

Marijuana is a plant which can have psychoactive effects when consumed by certain methods, but it also has a laundry list of beneficial health effects—many of which have yet to be explored fully simply due to prohibition and a lack of funding. Even more than its health effects, however, marijuana legalization is an issue of liberty and freedom.

As Nadelmann said in his opening remarks:

“But when all is said and done, the principal, and most principled, argument in favour of ending marijuana prohibition is this: whether or not I or anyone else consumes marijuana should be none of the government’s business—so long as I’m not behind the wheel of a car or otherwise putting others at risk. It’s time to get the government off my property and out of both my pockets and my body when it comes to marijuana. Enough is enough.”

So, who won the debate? While Economist debates are hardly scientific surveys or polls, Nadelmann won with 92% of readers supporting his arguments. Yes, most people support marijuana legalization. If this kind of debate can be recreated in a well-publicized forum, there’s no telling where it could go and the ultimate effect it could have.