Arguments for Legalization
Marijuana should be removed from criminal statutes and be placed under a system of civil regulation.
There are two basic reasons for this. The first is that marijuana was erroneously placed in the same category as dangerous substances. The second is that the regulations are far more harmful to both society and the individual than the behavior that it is meant to regulate.
When the effects of the prohibition laws are compared with the use of marijuana, we see that the laws have cut a swath of destruction through society. We can look at the effects through eight different perspectives: criminal, economic, sociological, health, medical, industrial, constitutional and national security.
First let’s look at marijuana, the most widely used substance that the government has criminalized. As compared with all drugs it has the lowest rate of ER visits, no deaths, little implication in psychological problems and is not controlled by a “mob” type of organization. It is less risky than many other common behaviors such as use of certain legal substances and risky behavior such as traveling in a car, participating in sports, unprotected sex, or sunbathing.
On the other hand the effect of the laws on society is profoundly negative. Here are some of the problems from each of the perspectives mentioned above.
Criminal- There are 800,000 useless arrests every year and 150,000-200,000 people in jail today. These arrests and incarcerations serve no purpose since they have been ineffective at meeting their goal- reducing marijuana use. Meanwhile, lives are ruined.
Economic- Prohibition directly costs the government approximately $30 billion a year in direct costs. This is at least five percent of the entire criminal justice budget that cannot be spent on real crime. In addition it creates a $40 billion a year black market that goes completely untaxed.
Sociological- The laws cause disruption of people’s lives, loss of careers, break-up of families due to arrest and incarceration, and create a dangerous milieu for both adults and children.
Health- Because marijuana is illegal, it is unregulated and un-inspected. There is no way of determine that the marijuana meets food criteria and is free from organisms and contaminants.
Medical- Under the current federal regulatory system marijuana is not considered medicine. Scientists and medical researchers have determined that it is a very effective medicine. The current regulatory system prevents patient access to a useful medicine and precludes serious research on developing new medicines based on cannabinoids.
Industrial- The marijuana laws also outlaw hemp, marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin plant. Hemp could be a valuable resource in our economy if it were legal for American farmers to grow it. In addition, hemp could prove to be a valuable resource in the search for greener alternatives to everyday items such as paper and clothing.
Constitutional- The marijuana laws and the means used to enforce them stretch police and government powers. The reason is that these laws create crimes without victims. In order to find and arrest violators the police need to use undercover, secretive methods that deny protections to citizens and society.