Regulation of Marijuana and abortion

Regulation of Marijuana and abortion

Between the Federal and State governments, which should have more powers to regulate Marijuana and abortion?

Historically, there has been an ongoing debate on the power balance between the federal and state levels of government. The concept of ‘federalism’ emerged in 1787 after it was determined that the first constitution, Articles of Confederation, had placed fewer powers on the congress, thus leading to a weak central government (Rozell & Wilcox, 2019). A new Constitution for the United States of America was established. It introduced the federal system of government that ensured a perfect power distribution between the two levels of government. Federalism allowed concurrent powers that are shared in all layers of government. Also, it created exclusive powers that are restricted only to the respective government. However, according toArticle VI of the US constitution, federal laws remain supreme to all state regulations.This has resulted in power overlaps between the two layers of government, especially when regulating controversial issues.

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Marijuana and abortion regulations constitute some of the most affected areas by power overlaps. The controversies surrounding these issues have resulted in varying ideas and perspectives, which in turn has led to conflicting laws in the two levels. A topic like abortion has divided the country into pro-life and pro-choice supporters. Pro-life supporters are mostly republicans who believe that a fetus is a human, and like all other people, it deserves to live. Pro-choice members argue that women have the right of their bodies and can remove any unwanted pregnancy through safe abortion. Most pro-choice members are democrats. The abortion debate has, therefore divided the country into two political sides. States that support the Republican Party tend to pass laws which are harsh to abortion. For instance, Alabama, a Republican state, has completely banned abortion. On the contrary, democratic states tend to be very lenient to abortion. Consider Oregon, which lacks a single law on restricting abortion. At the federal level, the Supreme Court ruling on Roe vs. Wade case in 1973, is used as the reference point to show the legality of abortionin the US. The law also allows states to limit or expand the legality of abortion. This has led to a wide range of inconsistent reproductive laws.

Significant legislative conflicts are also witnessed in the regulation of marijuana consumption in the US. The federal government uses the commerce clause as the basis of regulating Marijuana. In this clause, Marijuana is categorized as an illegal drug which is not only harmful but alsonon-medical (Adler, 2020). On the other hand, state governments regulate Marijuana using the tenth amendment and the public health powers. The tenth amendment acknowledges the existence of powers which may not have been delegated by the US constitution, nor denied to states. Such powers are reserved to the state governments or to the people themselves. Public health powers allow state governments to regulate any substance that has medicinal value to citizens. Consequently, Marijuana has been widely legalized for medicinal purposes in the country. Others have decriminalized it, while a few have legalized it for recreational purposes. Clearly, there is a huge disparity between the federal and states regulations on the Marijuana.

The regulations for both Marijuana and abortion are characterized by conflicting and inconsistent laws at the state and federal levels of government. There is a compelling need to establish a consistent form of regulation for each of the two controversial issues. In order to achieve this, more powers should be given to the layer of government, which has more capability to control the problem, and ensure that all American citizens receive equitable services depending on the needs of the region. Such services should reflect more on the needs of the people, rather than the interest of the parties affiliated with their leaders. In this regard, this paper argues that the federal government should take more control of the abortion laws, while states have a larger share of power for marijuana regulation.

Abortion Regulation

The federal government should take the mandate to regulate abortion. A federal statute on abortions should be established to guarantee and outline the reproductive rights of all citizens clearly. Currently, the US lack a constitutional statute for regulating abortion. As such, the larger percentage of abortion regulations have been done at the state level. This has resulted in a patchwork of differing abortion laws in the country. States such as California, New York, and Oregon have become extra permissive due to their affiliation to the Democratic Party. On the other side, republican states such as Alabama, Utah, Guam, and Pennsylvania have passed very restrictive abortion laws (Tavernise, 2019). Giving the federal government more powers will ensure that their uniformity in abortion laws and very minimal deviations.

National legislation will ensure that there is a standard abortion law for all American women. Currently, Women in America are affected differently by the existing state abortion laws. Some have easy access to abortion, while others find it extremely hard to have the same services. For upper- and middle-income women in pro-life states, they can at least afford to travel to nearby pro-choice regions, which are more permissive. However, for low-income earning women, this might seem like another obstacle. It is not fair if women in the same country are treated differently under the law. Through national legislation, all American women will at least expect a certain standard level of protection regardless of their state of origin.

Furthermore, a federal statute will strike a balance between the pro-life and pro-choice arguments. Each wing will have to face the reality that an agreement between the two sides would require a certain level of compromise.For instance, pro-life supporters might be forced to compromise their persistent call for criminalization of abortion. This will allow pro-choice supporters to exercise their reproductive rights and have guaranteed access to licensed providers for safe abortions. Additionally, pro-choice supporters may have to accept some limitations. These limits may include mandatory parental consent, limited congressional funding, and limited abortion time (early-term). All these will form the minimum level of protection in the statute. States will then be allowed to adjust their laws depending on their needs.

Marijuana Regulation

States should be allowed to regulate the consumption of Marijuana. Unlike abortion, Marijuana has attracted significant support from the public. A 2018 survey by Pew research center revealed that 67% of Americans support the legalization of Marijuana(Daniller, 2019). Only 32% wanted the substance to remain illegal (Daniller, 2019). As such, Marijuana has minimal undivided opinions. The major obstacle to the regulation of Marijuana is the federal government. The federal government holds a very absurd position. First, Marijuana is categorized in schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance act. This means that the substance is harmful and cannot be used for medical reasons. It is ranked among dangerous substances such as heroin. Evencocaine is at a lower rank (schedule 2) compared to Marijuana. This legislation is thus termed as illogical and shows why several states are going against the federal ban.

Another reason why states should take the mantle of regulating Marijuana is the fact that the substance has some medicinal use. State governments have the majority responsibility when it comes to public health. As such, legalizing Marijuana for medical purposes is a task that 33 states in the US have not relented to do(Berke, 2019). In hospitals, Marijuana is used to reduce chronic pains, enhance appetite among AIDS patients, and decrease the risk of vomiting and nausea for individuals undergoing chemotherapy (Compton et al. 2017). Although there has been little considerable evidence to attest to the medical use of Marijuana, researchers have blamed the federal government for strict regulations that have resulted in limited studies. Due to the important role of state governments in public health, they should have more power in regulating the consumption of Marijuana.

Lastly, just like alcohol, decisions on the type of substances to be permitted should be made by state governments. Alcohol has been found to cause over 88,000 deaths each year, while Marijuana accounts for zero deaths (Villa, n.d.; Adler, 2020). For one to overdose weed, they will have to smoke at least 238 joints in a day which is practically impossible (Hall, 2014). Currently, a number of states are showing their weariness to prohibit a substances that is not only, loved by thousands of Americansbut alsoless destructive than alcohol. Already, 11 states have legalized the recreational use of Marijuana for adults over 21 years (Berke, 2019). State governments should be given more power to control marijuana consumption, just like they are allowed to regulate alcohol.


One way of avoiding the legislative overlaps is through establishing clear and distinct powers for both federal and state governments. In matters to do with abortion regulation, the federal government is in a considerably better position to manage the divisions and disparities that have resulted in conflicting state laws. Through national legislation, the government will be able to bring together the pro-choice and pro-life groups and ensure that all American women receive an equal right regardless of their state origin. In issues to do with marijuana regulation, state governments should have the majority share of power. This is because, first, the federal government is considered to have a weak stand on marijuana regulation. Secondly, due the medicinal use of the substance, states are technically in a better position to control is regulation since they are responsible for public health. Lastly, state governments are already controlling the consumption of alcohol, which is far much dangerous; there is absolutely no reason as to why they cannot regulate Marijuana.


Adler, J. (2020). Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Berke, J. (2019, April 01). This map shows every US state where pot is legal. Retrieved from Business Insider:

Compton, W., Han, B., Hughes, A., Jones, C., & Blanco, C. (2017). Use of Marijuana for Medical Purposes Among Adults in the United States. JAMA, 317(2), 209-211.

Daniller, A. (2019, November 14). Two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization. Retrieved from PEW Research Center:

Hall, W. (2014). What has research over the past two decades revealed about the adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use. Addiction, 110(1). doi:

McBride, D., & Keys, J. (2018). Abortion in the United States (2nd ed.). Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

Rozell, M., & Wilcox, C. (2019). Federalism: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tavernise, S. (2019, May 15). ‘The Time Is Now’: States Are Rushing to Restrict Abortion, or to Protect It. Retrieved from New York Times:

Villa, L. (n.d.). The Great Debate: Alcohol vs Marijuana. Retrieved from Drug Abuse:

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