Legalization Of Marijuana

American legislators are trying their hardest to keep marijuana, the product of a plant that’s found all over the world, outlawed, and are spending billions of dollars and millions of man hours in this vain attempt. One would think they would have learned a lesson after the disastrous national experiment with outlawing a substance back in the 20s and early 30s of the 20th century. Clearly, though, they have not.

In 1919, Congress enacted the Volstead Act, and the US began a struggle of more than a decade, which is now known as the era of Prohibition. It was the result of the temperance movement, which had become a prohibition movement. These prohibitionists thought that free individuals could not be trusted to consume alcohol in moderation, and they argued that this substance was the beginning of a moral slide into chaos and social upheaval. This view of alcohol became accepted by the esteemed members of Congress, who put a federal ban on the act of producing and selling alcohol. This, they argued, would reduce crime and have a positive effect on society as a whole.A decade later, though, it was clear that this view was entirely and utterly mistaken. The law of unintended (or were they?) consequences had struck once again, and black markets and organized crime reared its ugly face in a manner theretofore unseen. Moreover, the rise of criminal organizations had led to mass bribery and heavy influencing of local governments in many of America’s largest cities, leading to a reality in which minors were now given easy access to bootlegged alcohol of bad, and potentially unsafe, quality, exactly the opposite of what the supporters of the early prohibitionists had intended. The disaster that was Prohibition finally ended in 1933, when the Volstead Act was repealed. With its repeal, alcohol-fueled problems did not go away, but were massively alleviated, because now only the irresponsible user is targeted by law enforcement, and crime no longer has a foot in the production and distribution of alcohol.

In view of this history, one would think legislators would have learned their lesson, but exactly the opposite is true. Marijuana laws regard all users as drug abusers, which has led to them becoming classified as criminals. According to the FBI’s statistics, more than 734,000 people were arrested for marijuana, in the year 2000 alone! This is more than the total number of all violent crimes combined. So there are more marijuana “criminals” in this country, than there are murderers, rapists, robbers and “assaulters”. 88% of those arrested for marijuana were charged with possession only, and those who are convicted are then denied student aid, welfare, food stamps and public housing. Often they are also stripped of their driving license, and sometimes, offenders even get life in prison! The cost of all this? Over $10 billion every year.And what of the racial character of this so-called “War or Drugs”? According to information released by the National Household Survey, the difference in drug use differs only slightly between white and black individuals. But when we consider those who are arrested for marijuana-related “crimes”, it turns out that African Americans are arrested at a much higher rate than whites are. In 64% of the cases, the arrest rate of blacks was over twice as high as that for whites! This obviously begs, or should beg, the question of racial bias in the whole criminalization of marijuana debacle. Such clearly unequal disparities between races can in no way be considered an acceptable outcome for the American justice system.

Legalizing marijuana – an uphill battle

And why is this combination of unintended consequences of public policy and draconian punishments continued to the present day? Most struggle to find an explanation for this. There is plenty of statistical evidence that marijuana use is very similar to alcohol use. Most users consumer the substance in a responsible way, and enjoy the effects safely and in a recreational context. The average marijuana user is a normal person with a regular job, family and house like we all have. They are not the kind of social outcasts propaganda attempts to lead us to believe.

Cannabis also has numerous benefits in treating a variety of diseases, as well as providing pain relief for patients who are terminally ill. It just doesn’t seem that the way the government responds to marijuana can be explained rationally. The only effect of the policy is the increased crowdedness of prisons, straining of the judicial system and a continual distraction of law enforcement from the pursuit of actual violent crime and terror.

According to New Mexico’s Drug Policy Advisory Group, marijuana decriminalization would “result in greater availability of resources to respond to more serious crimes without any increased risks to public safety.” And this finding is supported by empirical observation of the states which have implemented such a policy (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon). Moreover, there is overwhelming public support for this policy as well. For example, according to recent polls, 72% of Americans would favor fines as the highest penalty for minor offenses related to growing or possession of cannabis. 80% support the use of medical marijuana.

It is clear that the War on Drug is not only a failure but a severe problem for the American justice system. It is of the utmost necessity that a drug policy is implemented which no longer creates criminals out of recreational and medical users of this plant. Instead of all the money and time that is wasted on this, law enforcement should concentrate on those who provide marijuana to minors and those who endanger others by irresponsible use. They should develop programs which focus on rehabilitation instead of incarceration and come up with an innovative approach to drug policy. They should emphasize education and information, instead of the all too common scare tactics. And lastly, they should immediately release everyone who has been unjustly convicted for nonviolent offenses related to marijuana.