It's one of the weirdest issues out there: to legalize marijuana or not. It's weird because support for it does not follow the simple party line, but seems to pop up in just about every group. The debate is also interesting, because it seems pretty clear to me as I listen to it that the decision has already been made, and now all that's left is the formality of argument.
I think it's inevitable that marijuana will be legalized. This could even happen sometime in the next decade, or even in the next two years. The reasons people are opposed to it are that it is currently illegal, it is a mind-altering substance, it has health risks, and it can impair people who use it. The reasons people support it are that it is not as impairing as alcohol, not as addictive or harmful as cigarettes, already widely used, and is controlled by criminals.
Here is my list of reasons why marijuana should be legalized.
1) legalizing marijuana would cut down on misdemeanor charges, saving law enforcement and tax payers money.
2) There would be no more money in smuggling marijuana, so the drug cartels would see a drop in their income
3) It could mean huge amounts of money for the government. First, you sell permits to growers, then tax their income from selling the product. You tax the individual at purchase at the same rate as cigarettes.
4) The same regulations that are placed on cigarettes and alcohol can be placed on marijuana: must be 18+, can't drive or operate machinery while under the influence, can't be used in public places, can't be furnished to minors, can't be in possession if on probation. You can also pass regulations for health and safety standards, making it safer to use.
5) legalizing marijuana does NOT mean legalizing other drugs that are more harmful/addictive and less pervasive. People who use one drug do not tend to move on to "harder drugs" as is often toted by opponents of this. They stick with what they use. However, if you legalize marijuana, that frees up resources to investigate and prosecute other drug crimes that are potentially more dangerous to people's health and safety.
6) It's still a personal choice, like cigarettes and alcohol. In this case, though, marijuana is tried at least once by 98% of teens (at least, it used to be. Not sure the exact numbers anymore). Legalizing makes it safer to test something that will be tested anyway. If you don't agree with marijuana use, don't use it.
There are a lot of benefits to legalizing marijuana, and as far as I can tell very few good reasons not to. I believe this is the inevitable move that America will make in the next few years, if for no other reason than it will mean money saved and money gained for local, state, and federal governments.