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Health Impact: The Legalization of Marijuana in California

The fight to legalize marijuana has been going on for decades. As of today, only 10 countries in the world have tolerated the personal usage of marijuana in limited quantities, while many more allow the medicinal usage, including Canada, Australia, and 14 states in the United States. However, Proposition 19, otherwise known as the “Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010”, has been proposed for the state of California. If passed, it would legalize a variety of personal marijuana related activities. Also if Prop 19 was to pass, then there would also be a massive impact on the state’s health care status.


Effects of Marijuana

Even by itself, marijuana has a pretty negative connotation these days. To better understand the effects of passing Prop 19, it would be crucial to actually know what Marijuana can do to one’s body. The substance that causes the main effects of marijuana is THC, or delta-9-hydrocannabinol.

When THC begins to kick in, the user will usually experience a distorted perception from your senses, memory loss, loss of coordination, the inability to think straight, increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and mood swings. After using marijuana, there are also lasting negative effects on the brain (hallucinations and impaired memory), the lung (infections and obstructed airways), and the heart (increased risk for a heart attack). There has also been a study where it was shown that with the carcinogens found in marijuana, there has been a possible increase in risk for cancer.

Obviously, the legalization of marijuana wouldn’t be even considered if it weren’t for a few distinct positives either. The euphoria is one of the main lures for marijuana, and can help those in severe pain for example (ergo why some countries decided to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana). In addition, marijuana can increase one’s appetite, also good for medicinal use.

Impact on Healthcare

Among others, the healthcare industry will be severely impacted if this proposition was to go through. Passing this proposition is a double edged sword, and one should look at both sides to truly understand the overall effect.

First off, passing this proposition will generate a lot of tax dollars. Not only will the state no longer need to enforce the taking of marijuana (or as heavily at least), but the proposition also states that the local governments will be able to collect marijuana related taxes and fees. Let’s be honest here. With the proposition passed, there will be an enormous increase in the amount of people who would take marijuana. That means a whole lot more money that’s taken in by the government. Although indirect, some of this money will flow into the healthcare system, helping its growth.

Then there’s the downside. Looking at the effects of marijuana, coupled with the fact that marijuana users will certainly increase (at least in the public’s eyes), there will be a drastic increase in those with negative effects due to the intake of marijuana. Indeed, there will be an increased number of people who need to be cared for. This will add even more stress on the health care system, and will most likely cause an overall decreased quality. More people to care for means less resources for the individual.

At first glance, the second consequence will most likely override the first. While the opposite is possible, it is just more likely that the massive increase in people needing care from marijuana effects will negate the improvements to the quality of the health care system created from more tax dollars collected.

As of now, the US government reports that over 102 million Americans have used marijuana in their lifetimes, and 15 million of those confessing to using it regularly. Obviously, there are probably a lot more people who would not willingly say that they are users. If this proposition is passed, then that number will jump. All I have to say to the health care system is, good luck.

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