The debate over the legalization of marijuana centers on two primary and related questions:
Marijuana is increasingly being made legal for medicinal and/or recreational purposes in states and cities through the U.S. This spotlights the divergent view of marijuana advocates and marijuana prohibitionists. Advocates view cannabis use as a personal choice and argue that laws infringing upon that choice infringe upon personal liberties. Advocates also argue that prohibition prevents those in need from receiving valid medical treatment and that enforcement often targets minorities and other at-risk populations unfairly.
Those who argue for the continued prohibition of marijuana question the validity of its medical use and believe that the risks to public health, safety, and civic order outweigh any potential benefits. Those who oppose the legalization of marijuana contend that chronic usage undermines physical and psychological health, and that legalization for recreational purposes would burden the health care and insurance systems while also leading to the use of harder and more hazardous substances.
Today, key subtopics within this debate include the use of our prison system to retain nonviolent offenders, the impact of marijuana arrests in minority communities, and the economic importance of marijuana cultivation in certain agricultural communities.