At first glance I thought to myself no way this should be allowed in America. We would be on our way to looking like San Francisco or New Amsterdam. Yet perhaps, this movement is a happy medium for weed smokers in between legalization and incarceration.
Currently, 12 states passed legislation to make various cannabis offenses the lowest priority of law enforcement. A few other states have cities with voter passed referendums that enforce small civil infraction fines. That is the case in Ann Arbor, Michigan where city police charge violators under the local law rather than the more strict state law.
Essentially, these states enforce civil fines, drug education and treatment in place of incarceration or criminal charges for possession of small amounts of cannabis. These states classify possession of an ounce or more as a criminal offense. The courts stand with the traditional war on drugs. In Gonzales v Raich, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, Congress may ban the use of medical marijuana even where states approve its use for medicinal purposes. In 2005, Congress passed a federal law banning the use of cannabis.
Without going in depth legally, let’s take a look and see if decriminalization would be beneficial and justified in America. First lets compare marijuana to cigarettes and alcohol. Marijuana seems to be less detrimental to society. It is tough to compare the individual health risks but there is no doubt that cigarettes and alcohol have greater downfalls. Cigarettes are more addictive and as often as they are smoked lung cancer is more likely. For alcohol, the long term affects on the liver is dangerous and you can actually die from drinking too much. I’m no a big fan of Jimmy Carter but this quote can sum up the argument.
Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this clearer than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use.
Next is the problem of enforcing these marijuana laws. The DEA spends 1.3 billion “fighting” marijuana and that does not include the cost of prison management and construction. Overall, the government has spent 30 billion of the taxpayer’s money. There’s also the loss of sheer law enforcement manpower while prosecuting these citizens. This time could be better spent trying to bring up murder prosecution rates or patrolling for other hard crimes.
The Myth of the Gateway Drug
Looking at the evidence there is nothing that suggests smoking pot will lead to the subsequent use of other illicit drugs. For every 104 Americans who have tried marijuana, there is only one regular user of cocaine, and less than one user of heroin. The gigantic gap in population between marijuana users and other hard core drug users, suggests that marijuana is easily obtainable and drug addicts will likely take advantage of anything they can get a hold of. People who smoke weed are choosing not to use harder drugs.
Will decriminalizing marijuana cause an increased use?
The answer is not so clear, statistics from current decriminalized states are contested and unreliable. In the DOJ study 1979 they found that in the 11 decriminalized states marijuana use among 12th graders increased to 51 percent. By 1992, tougher laws and increased awareness reduced the number of users to 22 percent. Since then the numbers have risen and stabilized. I will attempt to use common sense, and agree with the DOJ and DEA findings which say that marijuana use is expected to up if you aren’t incarcerated for using it.
How will the mind qualities of marijuana effect our society? Consider first,decreased worker productivity, lower educational achievement, and an overall lazier society. Secondly consider an increased risk of traffic accidents and the impending medical care costs. One study in California found more emergency room trauma admissions were associated with pot than alcohol. They also found that pot smokers have a 30 percent more increased risk of traffic accidents.
There is no doubt marijuana is involved in plenty of reckless driving and fatal accidents. Stanford University conducted study of airline pilots who each consumed a low grade marijuana cigarette before entering a flight simulator involving a stressful, yet recoverable scenario. The test resulted in numerous crashes. More alarming was the fact that the pilots again crashed the simulator in the same scenario a full 24 hours after last consuming marijuana. They all showed no outward signs of intoxication and reported feeling “no residual effects” from the drug. Each pilot also stated they had “no reservations” about flying!
In my opinion marijuana may not necessarily cause people to commit other crimes. The fact is a very small percentage of people are in prison for just the use of marijuana use. Yet an overwhelming majority of prisoners are pot smokers. This says that pot smokers are more likely to lead a life of crime and increasing pot users will also increase other crimes.
In summary, I don’t mind it either way. I am afraid decriminalization will lead to legalization. The main reason I am against it is my perception of pot smokers and their lifestyles. All to often I associate weed with laziness and people in trouble. After some research, I’ve realized that pot is too harshly penalized. This tough enforcement is hardly fair and it doesn’t yield the results it should. It has caused this plant to become a cash crop where farmers can make $70,000 for a bushel of marijuana versus about $10 for a bushel of corn. Also, marijuana is the most widely used drug and is available to everyone, even kids.