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Project 4  ( Legalize It )

Page history last edited by dw5149@wayne.edu 12 years, 5 months ago




Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Is capitalism or communism more efficient forms of government?  Should marijuana be legal?  These questions, while all very different, are all very common questions that come up all the time.  More importantly to this discussion is the latter of the three questions.  Marijuana has been regulated as an illegal narcotic since the 1934 Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act was enacted (Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act).  Since then, marijuana has been a center of controversy.  In a sense, marijuana is the case in which prohibition has continued.  Powerful and steady smear campaigns have formed many opinions that marijuana is not only bad for you but on the same level as hard narcotics such as cocaine and heroine.  In the past decade there have been laws that have allowed for the use of marijuana as a prescribed medicinal herb for various conditions.  Couple that with the frantic search for economic relief in this country and you can quickly see where this argument is leading.  Legalizing marijuana is a good idea because it provides a huge economic potential, it will drastically improve our prison system and drug war conditions and is a safer alternative than both cigarettes and alcohol.

            Before the facts are presented in favor of this claim, it is important to briefly introduce cannabis to get a real idea of what we’re working with.  Cannabis is classified as a minor hallucinogen with depressant qualities (Cannabis Basics).  Cannabis is a plant and depending on how it is cultivated, it can be used for different things.  There are also different types of the plant, similar to how there a different breeds of dogs.  The most common used form is cannabis sativa.  This plant has been used throughout history for industrial fiber, seed oil, recreation, spiritual enlightenment and medicine (Cannabis sativa).  Cannabis sativa can be grown for both hemp and marijuana.  Hemp is the fibers that are cultivated from the plant.  Hemp has a variety of uses including fiber and oils.  The fibers are very useful and can be used to make clothing, building materials, plastics, as well as many other materials.  The oils can be used as anti-inflammatory medicine and even fuel (Hemp)!  Hemp is used all over the world for all of the formerly stated reasons.  Over 30 countries produce industrial hemp.  These countries include Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Spain and China.  Because of the relation between hemp and marijuana, hemp is illegal to grow in the United States.  There are some states including Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland and California that have made it legal for hemp cultivation but so far it has been grown nowhere because of the resistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration (Hemp).  Marijuana is the more commonly known element from cannabis.  Marijuana has been used throughout history for both recreation as well as spiritual enlightenment.  When ingested orally or smoked, it gives mild mind-expanding, painkilling and intoxicating effects (Cannabis Basics).  Marijuana has been negatively associated with harmful drugs that are considered too dangerous to be allowed for public use.  It has become a highlighted drug in the anti-drug campaigns such as Above the Influence.  Marijuana, similar to alcohol and tobacco, is commonly used as a social intoxicant.  It’s used around the country as a way to relax and unwind and even spark creative ideas.  Even though the drug is widely used, it is a constant struggle for law enforcement to deal with the enforcement of its illegal status.

            The war on drugs has really become a money pit.  A massive amount of money is spent each year on catching users and sellers, prosecuting the convicted, housing the jailed and rehabbing the “addicted”.  There is also a huge amount of potential revenue that is being neglected by keeping marijuana illegal.  If marijuana was legalized, the government would be able to place a tax on the purchase of marijuana in stores.  The tax could be similar to that of the tobacco tax.  According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the revenue earned from taxation of tobacco in 2010 was $3.26 billion (TTBGov 2010).  It’s hard to speculate the exact numbers considering limiting supply or an exact demand for the product if it were legalized since it is illegal.  Although, the idea that the demand for marijuana would go up due to legalization, it is not that farfetched.    Government studies show that about 1 in every 10 American has smoked marijuana in the last year (FAQ’s).  This current demand for marijuana is stifled by the possibility for legal actions against consumers.  People are reluctant to buy marijuana because of the ramifications that go along with getting caught.  With that threat lifted, it’s not hard to imagine that the demand would increase at least a little bit.  Coupling the legalization with a positive ad campaign, painting marijuana in a better light can also bump up the demand.  With the government desperate for economic answers, the potential of legalizing marijuana could help to alleviate some of the problems.

            Another pressing issue with the criminalization of marijuana, is all of the unnecessary arrests that crowd already overpopulated jails, tie up police officers from protecting the public on more pressing matters and ruining family lives across the country.  America’s jail system has been in a pretty bad state for quite some time now.  “From 1987 to 2007, the U.S. prison population nearly tripled” (Gleissner).  The United States carries 25% of the world’s prison population in its systems.  With 5% of the world’s total population, this number is quite staggering (Gleissner).  If you figure the world population is roughly 7 billion, then that means that 87.5 million American citizens are in prison!  In 2001, the total number of people arrested for marijuana far exceeded the total arrests for all violent crimes including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault (MARIJUANA ARREST & PRISON DATA).  That’s pretty disturbing.  This means that most of the people that are in our prison systems comprise of harmless people that are really no threat to society at all.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2001 the average annual cost per state inmate in 2001 was $22,632.  That’s a whopping $62 per day, per inmate (Expenditures/Employment)!  This seems like quite a large chunk of money being put into a system that is essentially babysitting these “perpetrators”.  Now strictly analyzing marijuana in relation to these statistics, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimated the federal bill to be about $2.4 billion annually on enforcing anti-marijuana laws.  Add that number to the $5.3 billion annually spent by the local and state legislatures.  Then take that and add the amount of money, $1 billion since 1998, which the government has spent on slanderous anti-drug ads that are overwhelmingly anti-marijuana heavy.  To add more to the pot, consider the money that is put towards conducting and publicizing research that is specifically tilted towards the justification on the anti-marijuana laws.  More recently you can also point to the money that would have to be put in to oppose the state and local government attempts at decriminalization (Kampia).  What’s most troubling is that these numbers are trending a steady increase with each passing year.  But the prison system is broken strictly because of economics.  All of that money put into the system is put towards officers, detectives, liaisons, court officials, judges, etc.  Instead of allowing these officials to do their job, protecting and serving the public, they are put to the task of enforcing these ludicrous laws.  All of those man hours spent on marijuana are a waste as there is no end in sight in the war on marijuana users.  More and more people try it each year and/or regularly use it.  Additionally, those people who partake in the essentially harmless, social drug that is marijuana are being unjustly labeled and acted on.  Throwing these individuals into the prison system with felony labels has its negative affects on their lives as well as their families.  It’s important to note that it is wrong to partake in illegal activities such as growing, selling, purchasing, and consuming marijuana.  But it’s wrong to the mere extent that there is the illegal label slapped on the plant.  It is used in the exact same way that tobacco and alcohol are in society and really begs the question as to why it’s even illegal.  A very fair comparison would be that of which an individual would have to place an x next to the felony boxes on job applications for enjoying an occasional beer with friends.  Prohibition wasn’t that long ago and really failed miserably as well as hurting many decent individuals in communities with quality of living.  This is a very similar case and has the same negative affects on people’s lives.

            A really good case to look at when considering quality of life and the question of what would come if marijuana were to be decriminalized is the city of Amsterdam, Netherlands.  Amsterdam has been synonymous with its openness towards marijuana as well as its red light district.  We want to obviously focus our attention towards its openness to marijuana for the arguments sake.  It’s a normal, functioning city in the European Union and in addition has a decriminalized stance with marijuana.  So right off the bat, legalization of marijuana is not a new topic for the world.  There are cities and countries that already have a legal status when it comes to the plant.  Marijuana being legal seems to have to opposite affect than what most people think.  The amount of 15 year olds in Amsterdam that have smoked in 1995 is 1% less that in the U.S. at 29%.  The lifetime use of marijuana by individuals in 1994 was at 30% in Amsterdam compared to America’s 38% (Drug Policy and Crime Statistics).  It seems that marijuana has fallen into the same social influence as alcohol.  There are a large number of young individuals in America that use alcohol and abuse it under the legal age.  This is because it’s the thrill of the unknown.  Marijuana fits in line with that same social enigma.  In places where the drinking age is lower or parents are allowed to supervise their children’s intake of alcohol have less instances of abuse because it’s treated as commonplace.  It can be seen in Amsterdam that if marijuana were legalized, that it will more than likely fit that same mold and minimize abuse.

            A more serious situation dealing with marijuana is the war on the drug cartels.  The drug cartels of Mexico have operated the U.S.-Mexico border for a long time.  Smuggling illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and to a lesser extent heroin has brought a mind-blowing amount of money to these cartels.  With organized crime come violent acts and murders as well.  Many of these harmed innocents are Americans.  Brutal attacks have been made on tourists, reporters and locals.  These attacks have only become more and more prevalent as the years pass.  More and more people are being attacked, kidnapped and murdered.  A tragic low-point in this sad story happened this past September when 35 individuals where captured, killed and then dumped on a busy Mexican highway during rush-hour (Would Legalizing Marijuana…).  It’s safe to say that this is a serious problem that needs answers.  One of those answers comes in the form of the decriminalization of marijuana.  Consider for a moment that marijuana was legal.  It would be sold in dispenseries and from care-givers across the country.  It could be regulated by the FDA to ensure a safe product unlike that of which people acquire at the present time.  There is no standard or regulation of how or where it is grown or even what it could be laced with.  If this hypothetical situation was a reality, what motive would there be to purchase marijuana from dangerous drug cartels?  The answer would be none.  This would also cripple the incoming flow of money to the cartels and in turn would cripple the power that they have.  By eliminating the need to obtain the plant illegally, you could essentially eliminate many drug cartels completely or at least crush their numbers and subsequently their power.  New Mexico’s Gov. Gary Johnson has stated that because the Mexican drug cartels comprise about 60% of their finances from marijuana that it would cripple the cartel business (Would Legalizing Marijuana…).  The decriminalization would also have a positive affect on the continued war on the more harmful drugs like heroine and cocaine.  The resources saved could be put to work towards the now weaker cartels.

            It’s been a strong push throughout the years to put the idea that marijuana is harmful into the minds on the masses.  There have been countless programs, administrations and advertising campaigns that have pushed this impression down the throats of the public.  Many ads portray marijuana as being the cause of harm and even death to the individuals who use marijuana as well as their friends and loved ones (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eoAq62jVTU&feature=related).  The fact of the matter is that it’s just not true.  There is report after report refuting the claims that marijuana is harmful to the individual.  In the 20th annual report of the California Research Advisory Panel in 1990 stated that "An objective consideration of marijuana shows that it is responsible for less damage to society and the individual than are alcohol and cigarettes” (Gieringer).  This really should come as no surprise to anyone due to the amount of publicity the medical marijuana push has gotten.  If the benefits didn’t outweigh any possible negatives, it would simply not be implemented as a medical treatment.  Compared with the legal drugs of tobacco and alcohol, marijuana weighs in as a much safer choice.  Alcohol overdosing and alcohol induced deaths in many forms such as car accidents and lung disease from tobacco are heavily more prevalent.  In fact according to Dr. David Duncan of Brown University School of Medicine, “The estimate is that a 150-pound man would have to eat five pounds of hashish.  What that meansis that you can't eat enough to produce a life-threatening overdose" (The (F)Utility of DAWN).  In fact there have been no reported cases of death caused by marijuana, EVER!

            The facts simply support the cause outright.  Marijuana should be decriminalized.  The legalization gives great economic potential, relieves the stress and pain that come from the overpopulated jails and cruel drug cartels, and is safer than the already legal drugs of alcohol and tobacco.  Throughout the years it’s been meaningless rambling from mindless, deadbeat stoners.  Their constant argument that marijuana is great and should be legalized was always brushed to the side.  But, in the overall condition of United States today, those stoners might hold the key to a lot of the solutions.  Legalize marijuana and start fixing the real problems that plague this country.









Works Cited



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"Cannabis Basics."TheGoodDrugsGuide.com. Internet Brands Health, 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. < http://www.thegooddrugsguide.com/cannabis/basics.htm>.


            "Cannabis Sativa."Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_sativa>.


            "Hemp."Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp>.


"FAQ's."NORML : Working to Reform Marijuana Laws. National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 2011. Web. 12 Dec. 2011. <http://norml.org/faq>.


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"Expenditures/Employment." Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Office of Justice Programs. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. <http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp>.


Kampia, Rob. "Your Tax Dollars On Drugs | Drugs | AlterNet." Home | AlterNet. AlterNet, 14 Apr. 2006. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. <http://www.alternet.org/drugs/34929/?page=entire>.


"Drug Policy and Crime Statistics." The UK Cannabis Internet Activists Website: Website of the Legalise Cannabis UK Campaigns. Cannabis Information and UK Cannabis, UK Campaigning for Hemp, Marijuana , Cannabis. UK Cannabis Internet Activists, 6 Aug. 1998. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. <http://www.ukcia.org/research/DutchPolicyAndCrimeStatistics.php>.


"Would Legalizing Marijuana In The US Decrease Mexican Drug Cartel Activity?" Feeling Good. 4 Dec. 2011. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. <http://sounddepressiontreatment.com/blog/would-legalizing-marijuana-in-the-us-decrease-mexican-drug-cartel-activity/>.


Gieringer, Dale. "NORML's Marijuana Health Mythology." NORML.com. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, June 1994. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. <http://norml.org/library/health-reports/item/norml-s-marijuana-health-mythology>.


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