The United States is ill-prepared to legalize and regulate drugs, some experts said. It tends to resist regulation and favor free-market solutions more than other developed nations. It is one of two countries that allow direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertisements. The First Amendment protects some commercial discourses, making it difficult to regulate drug marketing.
Let's take a closer look at the drug legalization debate, the pros and cons of drug legalization, and what research says about how drug decriminalization will affect young adults in particular. However, let's look at what has happened in Colorado, which legalized marijuana, apparently benign. Nadelmann explained that, while he does not support what he describes as a “libertarian libertarian model of drug legalization (in which drug sales are freely legalized and regulated, similar to alcohol), nothing he has seen in the opioid crisis has given him pause over another type of drug policy reform. But are these increases due to the decriminalization of drugs? Studies show that drug legalization has increased marijuana use among adults, but not among adolescents, as many feared would be the case.
Ultimately, mental health professionals are concerned that an increase in marijuana use among young adults due to drug legalization will lead to an increase in what is known as cannabis use disorder. Supporters of drug legalization argue that incarceration is not an effective deterrent to drug use, and that decriminalization makes it possible to regulate the marijuana industry, such as tobacco and alcohol. They also believe that marijuana is an entry drug and, consequently, an increase in marijuana use would lead to an increase in the use of harder drugs. In addition, they say, more people can receive treatment if income and taxes from the legal sale of marijuana are channeled to prevention and recovery programs, such as in Oregon and Arizona.
With a growing number of states legalizing marijuana and other drugs, the debate continues over whether the negative effects of drug decriminalization outweigh the positive ones. Supporters also argue that legalizing and regulating drugs would make marijuana and other drugs safer for consumers. But 20 or 30 years ago, it was hard to imagine a society in which we legalized marijuana and let a big industry flourish.