The Legalization of Marijuana
Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world. The word “marijuana”, referred to as “herbal cannabis” by the rest of the world, is the American term for dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis sativa plant (Caulkins 2012). The drug can be dated back to as far as 6000 B. C. when the plant’s seeds were used in China as food. It was used as a pain reliever and sedative in Napoleonic France (Spaulding and Fernandez). The flowers on the cannabis sativa plant contain concentrated amounts of a mind-altering chemical known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
1 THC varies in potency depending on the plant. The leaves of the plant, which have become the social symbol of marijuana, contain lesser quantities of THC. As John Caulkins writes in “Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs To Know,” marijuana “creates illicit markets with a total value in the tens of billions of dollars per year. ” The legalization of marijuana has generated a large debate throughout the United States. While 18 states have legalized medicinal marijuana, recreational use remains illegal (until the implementation in Colorado and Washington in 2014).
The Legalization of Marijuana Essay Example
Those in support of legalization emphasize how the prohibition of the drug has been ineffective and that there are many benefits of legalizing it. These include the decrease in trafficking and price of the drug leading to the elimination of illegal drug dealers. More importantly, legalization and regulation of marijuana can lead to a hefty increase in tax revenue on both a state and federal governmental level. In November 2012, Colorado and Washington legalized the use of recreational marijuana for adults over 21. The goal is now to regulate the market and the use of the drug similar to the regulatory laws of alcohol.
“In Colorado, individuals over 21 can grow up to six plants for personal use and purchase one ounce of marijuana from dispensaries” (Spaulding and Fernandez 2013). Only licensed sellers are allowed to sell. Certain American state governments have come a very long way in order to be able to implement this law within their state legislation. The War on Drugs is a prohibition campaign developed by the US government with the intention of reducing illegal drug trade by “curbing supply and diminishing demand for specific psychoactive substances determine immoral, harmful, dangerous, or undesirable” (Miron 2010).
This campaign consists of strictly enforced laws and policies intended to hinder the production, distribution and consumption of illegal drugs. It started during the protests against the Vietnam War when Nixon declared to America that youth were turning to drugs, mainly marijuana, as a symbol of defiance. The War on Drugs was a response to social problems created by the recreational use of these substances. However, despite the efforts of this on going struggle, drug use and abuse are at their worst today.
Anti-war activists wanted to end the war and Nixon wanted to end their anti-war demonstrations and therefore created a connection between marijuana and anti-war activism. So, even though Nixon privately wrote, “They aren’t as radical as most assume,” he had formed a strong enough connection to raid protests with DEA agents. Nixon said, “‘those who use drugs are the protestors…the ones who get caught up in dissent and violence’” (Baum 1996). However, a poll of the college student protestors showed that only 25% of them had even tried marijuana. (Baum 1996).
Proven through history, prohibition is an unsustainable and ineffective approach. Ted Galen Carpenter is a senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at Cato Institute. Carpenter has written 10 books on foreign affairs, 3 relating to the War on Drugs, and has published over 400 articles and studies that have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and more (cato. org). In his CNN Article, “Drug Prohibition As a Global Folly,” Carpenter writes that prohibition “enables the most unsavory, violence-prone individuals and organization to dominate the commerce. ” The U. S.
prohibition against alcohol in the 1920s and 1930s “demonstrated that a prohibition strategy empowers and enriches odious criminals” (Carpenter 2013). There was rampant gun violence in the streets of cities such as Chicago and New York just as prohibition of drugs has lead to gang violence in large U. S. cities as well. Once Prohibition ended, legitimate alcohol business emerged and gained economic success as the corruption and violence subsided. Today, the US still deals with alcohol problems such as alcoholism, drunk driving and other societal problems but nothing compared to the issues that were faced during the Prohibition.
Arnold Trebach was chief of the Administration of Justice Section, US Commission on Civil Rights from 1960-63, and Chief of Consultant on Administration of Justice (spectator. org). According to the Trebach Report, he has been called the Shadow Drug Czar along with the George Washington of Drug Policy Reform (trebach. com). In his 1987 publication of The Great Drug War, and Radical Proposals That Could Make America Safe Again, he writes, “Approximately 9,000 murders are related to alcohol use.
” Even so, American politicians and citizens have decided that prohibition of alcohol was worse than the related crime, health problems and death associated with it. The War on Drugs declares all drug users, millions of Americans, as an enemy. The War on Drugs does not deal with the most important problems associated with drugs—abuse, crime, and corruption—but rather moves to discourage and punish all drug users. Hate against abusers conquers the conflict, as opposed to motion to help them. This on going billion-dollar war has failed to stop the production and sometimes-abusive consumption of drugs.
The US drug laws are “irrational, based upon flawed scientific assumptions and are out of touch with the desires of millions of Americans thus they cannot be [successfully] enforced” (Trebach 1987). The main focus of the War on Drugs has been to “end the corruption of the black market” however the U. S. needs to shift their focus to “the safety and health of its citizens. ” As stated in “War on Drugs: Next Steps,” 76% of voters in a national survey believed that the U. S. war on drugs is failing. The War on Drugs’ laws and policies have led to a multitude of problems such as overcrowded prisons and an increase in drug related crime.
“US federal government spends $14 billion per year fighting drugs…54 percent goes for criminal justice and interdiction…34 percent goes for treatment and prevention programs. This does not include the requested $385. 1 million requested this year for counternarcotics support to Mexico and Central America” (War on Drugs 2009). Almost half of the 2. 3 million people in American prisons are incarcerated for drug offenses. Increased law enforcement leads to increased drug prices, which is more inviting to new drug dealers and results in increased violence over drugs.
The supply of drugs as well as drug dealers will remain constant regardless of who is sent to prison. Dan Baum, staff writer for The New Yorker as well as reporter for the Wall Street Journal specializing in American politics, wrote in his 1996 publication, “After three decades of increasingly punitive policies, illicit drugs are more easily obtainable, drug potencies are greater and drug barons are richer than ever. ” It is clear the enforced prohibition of marijuana is ineffective though support of the War on Drugs is still strong.
Today, the same exaggerated dangers of marijuana are used to support anti-marijuana laws as were used in the 1936 at the time of the release of “Reefer Madness. ”2 However, through intensive research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse funded by the government, many of these myths have been disproved. These claims include marijuana as a main cause of lung cancer, impairing immune system function, stunting maturity and reproduction, being addictive, producing amotivational behavior, acting as a gateway to other drugs and more.
In fact, all of these claims that are used as evidence to support anti-marijuana legislation were proven wrong. The implementation of legalized marijuana into a regulated market would be advantageous to the U. S. both economically and socially. The population favors the legalization of drugs, especially marijuana. Those against legalization argue that it will decrease crime and addiction, save taxpayer money and benefit individuals, communities and the country as a whole. However, Jeffrey Miron, a senior lecturer on economics at Harvard University counters that argument.
Miron is also a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. His field of expertise is libertarianism and he is an avid advocate for the legalization of marijuana. In his 2010 publication of “The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition,” he argues, “Legalization means reduced expenditure on enforcement and an increase in tax revenue from legalized sales…Approximately $8. 7 billion of the savings would results from legalization of marijuana. ” A regulated marijuana market would lead to the elimination of a black market and the violence that is associated with it.
Legalization and regulation of marijuana would lead to a decrease in government expenditures and an increase in tax revenue. Legalization eliminates prosecution based on possession and trafficking. Legalization saves governmental costs in areas such as judicial and incarceration. Finally, legalization allows taxation on marijuana production and consumption. “Legalizing marijuana would save $7. 7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. $5. 3 billion of these savings would accrue to state and local governments, while $2.
4 billion would accrue to the federal government” (Miron 2005). Legalization would save money for both state and also federal government by reducing police department resources, judicial resources and correctional facilities and resources since criminal associations with marijuana will be eliminated. By the late 1970s, some states such as Oregon, Alaska, Maine, California, Colorado and New York adopted some form of decriminalization3 of marijuana making possession punishable by fines as opposed to jail time.
Starting in 1996 with California Prop 215, medical marijuana usage was made legal. By 2012, 18 states legalized the use of medical marijuana and 50% of Americans supported legalization of marijuana (norml. org). In November 2012, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use. The amendment also permits licensing marijuana retail stores, cultivation operations, marijuana edible factories and testing facilities (Rocky Mountain HIDTA 2013). The first retail marijuana business will be licensed in January 2014.
In 2000, Colorado legalized the use of medical marijuana. In 2009, the medical marijuana dynamics in Colorado drastically changed and expanded. A district judge lifted the limit of dispensary owners to only sell to five people. “Colorado experienced an explosion to over 20,000 new medical marijuana patient applications and the emergence of over 250 medical marijuana dispensaries”(Rocky Mountain HIDTA 2013). By the end of the year, there were 38,000 additional new patient applications, an increase of 36,000 cardholders and by 2010, over 900 dispensaries were in place.
Amendment 64 discusses the concept of sales tax on the newly legalized marijuana. The excise tax is 15% and the first $40 million in annual tax is reserved for the Colorado public school system. This taxation would raise funding for other state-funded programs and services such as the development of educational materials on marijuana. A 25% tax rate was proposed but this rate would discourage consumers from purchasing regulated marijuana and inhibit the effectiveness of the legalization and integration of marijuana into the Colorado marketplace.
Amendment 64 also prohibits the sale of products with the mixture of marijuana and nicotine as well as marijuana and alcohol. This is to ensure safety, limit potentially dangerous occurrences and heighten the regulation on these three legal yet harmful substances. Amendment 64 will institute educational efforts to make sure that “citizens must have current and accurate information on marijuana and its properties, use, dosage, risks, and effects, including impairment and its impact on driving, parenting, and other activities” (Task Force Report Amendment 64 2013).
Both students and those over age 21 are entitled and encouraged to this education. Under Amendment 64, those below the age of 21 in possession of marijuana will face legal action. The 2013 Colorado elections covered the post-legalization of marijuana and the passing of Amendment 64. Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition AA, which imposes a 15 percent excise tax4 on the wholesale price plus an additional 10 percent sales tax on retail marijuana in addition to the existing 2. 9 percent Colorado state sales tax (colorado. gov).
Proposition AA also gives the state legislature the right to increase or decrease the excise and sales tax on retail marijuana as long as the tax rate doesn’t exceed 15 percent. Proposition AA allows Colorado citizens their preexisting right to approve new sales taxes. The revenue generated by these sales taxes will be used to fund enforcement resources, testing and tracking facilities, educational and prevention resources as well as regulatory structures such as health and public safety that were not funded before. As stated in Colorado.
gov’s analysis of Proposition AA, “passage of Proposition AA is estimated to increase state tax revenue by $67 million annually…and sales to consumers of retail marijuana totaling approximately $394. 6 million per year. ” The hopes for Proposition AA are plentiful. The money made from the taxes should help Colorado maintain stability in all other aspects of state social matters such as education, public safety, and health care while they are dealing with the implementation of the legalization. The taxation revenue may be so high that it funds all developing projects for schools and to alleviate public health and safety concerns.
It is also meant to keep people out of the black markets. There are many valid oppositions on the legalization of marijuana in the United States. Legalization will not decrease addiction. Legalization would increase the availability and decrease the price of marijuana. This would inevitably lead to drug abuse since increased availability leads to increased use of these addictive substances, which leads to increased addiction. This would lead to an increase in costs to ensure clinical help to addicts.
Legalization will also not eliminate illegal trafficking or drug-related violence. “The pattern of violence shows that when a criminal group is threatened and destabilized is when violence skyrockets” (War on Drugs 2009). A black market will still remain unless all drugs are readily available to every single person in an unlimited amount. The government will have to trust the American society to handle the drug in a responsible and acceptable manner. An argument against Prop AA is that the tax rate is too high that it will send consumers right back to buying marijuana illegally.
A legalized drug market is also a violation of international agreements between the United States and other countries. Despite these claims, legalization of marijuana can result in a positive shift in society if the situation is handled correctly. Instead of acting with force, unsuccessfully scaring people out of doing drugs, there should be different drug policies. There should be more focus on treatment for drug abuse, as well as increased prevention education and minimized convictions. So much money is spent on prevention advertisement and instilling fear about drugs.
Funding for school education should be increased to enhance student and adult knowledge about drugs and their harm. The U. S. government needs to loosen its firm grip on the issue of marijuana and create a stable base for Americans to comply with instead of defy. Colorado and Washington have begun to create a seemingly successful regulatory plan that when implemented will be able to benefit from what Michael R. Caputo—leading professor at the University of Central Florida’s Department of Economics—claims is the nation’s leading cash crop.
Currently, the Obama administration is not in support of legalization or of regulation of marijuana. So while the drug is legal in Colorado along with Washington, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. Without any progress towards marijuana becoming legal in all of the United States, this could have a great impact in terms of federal funding for these two states and any other states that choose to legalize marijuana. However, the legalization of marijuana will have a great and advantageous impact on American economic and social matters if legalized across the country.