Decriminalization of marijuana law is replacing “current criminal penalties for marijuana processions with civil penalty and fines” (StoptheDrugWar.org). According to Jeffrey Miron, director of undergraduate studies at Harvard University’s economics department, “marijuana legalization would mean repeal of federal and state laws that ban production, distribution, and possession of marijuana” (Dubner). Already, some states have decriminalized marijuana possession. This States includes California, Colorado, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts and Ohio (Suellentrop) when done in a controlled manner; the benefits of decriminalizing Marijuana are far too many both at States and National level.
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Benefits of Decriminalizing Marijuana
Decriminalization of marijuana would lead to fewer arrests of law abiding citizens who use marijuana. It will also cause increase in the number of people who access and use marijuana. This would shift the demand from alcohol, cocaine and other highly hard drugs to marijuana. Unlike tobacco and alcohol which people use on a daily basis, marijuana smokers use it on occasional basis, usually on a weekly or monthly basis. Most marijuana users are young and studies have shown that as young people grow old, they are able to wean themselves off marijuana. As such, marijuana users are not likely to become addicts (Dubner).
Currently, United States government spend over $ 13 billion dollars in enforcing marijuana related laws and court process. A further $ 17 billion is used in correction facilities where marijuana related offenders are locked up (Dubner). By decriminalizing marijuana, the federal and state government will save a lot of money. This added to the money gained from taxation of marijuana just like tobacco and alcohol is taxed would save the federal government over 40 Billion annually. This money can greatly boost the economy especially during this period when U.S. is experiencing hard economic times. Both federal agent and prosecutor should focus their effort on “crimes involving violence and high level trafficking” (Kelley)
Putting law abiding citizen in jail for procession of marijuana will not make the society safer. Underground illegal sale and use of Marijuana is associated with drugs kings and organized gangs. The profits realized from illegal sale and marijuana trafficking is used in supporting organized crimes and street gangs. This has resulted in increased crime rate as gangs can easily get funding to carry out crimes. Legalizing and regulating cultivation, sale and use of marijuana will go a long way in reducing the financial gains that goes to underground gangs. This will help to put criminals out of business, and consequently reduce crime rates in America.
Marijuana Use and Crime Rate
Those people who use marijuana come into contact with people who sell and use other illegal drugs in the backstreets and underground avenues as they try to hide from law enforcement officers (James Austin). While it might seem that marijuana may make a person switch to hard drugs like heroin and cocaine, it is by criminalizing marijuana that make a person switch to other drugs. Use of drugs like cocaine, heroin etc have been shown to increase the likely hood of committing crime, consequently marijuana user who decides to switch to these drugs may have high chances of committing crimes. By decriminalizing marijuana, users can comfortably take marijuana in safe secure place where they won’t come into contact with people who use hard drugs like cocaine. This helps in reducing possible abuse of other drugs and hence reducing crime.
Proponents of decriminalization of marijuana have raised genuine concern about the rate of crime going up as a result of decriminalization. Their concern is based on correctional analysis which shows that a high percentage of offenders in correctional facilities have at one time used drugs (James Austin). The truth is, this analysis is flawed since there are many factors that make a person engage in criminal activities. These factors include demographics, social economics, etc. There is a very little evidence that shows a direct link between criminal behavior and marijuana use.
In California, Alaska, New York, North Carolina and Colorado where marijuana have been decriminalized, it amazing that there is no evidence whatsoever that more people are into drug abuse or increase in crime as the opponents of decriminalization want everyone to believe. In these states, it impossible to tell who take marijuana or who don’t as there is no marked behavior change of those who take marijuana. The rate of crime has not increased or gone down because criminal activities does is not directly related to Marijuana use. As such, society would not be more or less safer with decriminalization of marijuana.
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Currently both federal and state criminal justice system allocate large portion of the budget to cater for arresting, prosecuting, sentencing and incarcerating marijuana users, dealers and others involved in the illegal drug infrastructure such as transporters, manufacturers of drug paraphernalia” (James Austin). Decriminalization of Marijuana would free substantial amount of resources used by law enforcement in fight against marijuana. These resources can be focused in fighting and preventing other serious crimes like terrorism and organized crimes leading to safer society. In 2001 alone, the State of California saved over $180 million as a result of fewer arrest, prosecution and incarceration of marijuana users.
There is a growing need to change the current law governing the use and possession of marijuana. States which have decriminalized marijuana have benefited financially from reduced arrest, prosecution and incarceration of law abiding users. Marijuana users are not necessary criminal and as such decriminalizing marijuana law will not lead to increased or decreased crimes. Decriminalization of Marijuana comes at a price. It is important to back it up with necessary campaigns to sensitize the public on the risks associated with use of marijuana. Users must be compelled to take marijuana responsibly in a secure environment, and be able to lead a normal life in raising families, pursuing life careers and participating in civic duties. Only people who have are beyond legal limit should have access to marijuana. It’s important to establish guideline similar to those in place for alcohol use to ensure marijuana is used within set boundaries.
Dubner, Stephen. “What Would Happen if Marijuana Were Decriminalized?.”2009. A Freakonomics Quorum. Web.
James Austin. “Rethinking the Consequences of Decriminalizing Marijuana.” 2005.
Working to Reform Marijuana Laws. 2010. Web.
Kelley, Matt. ” Marijuana legalization, War On Drugs.” 2009. Are We Moving Toward Marijuana Decriminalization? Web.
StoptheDrugWar.org. “Marijuana: Massachusetts Decriminalization Initiative Polling Well.” 2008. Stop the Drug War. Web.
Suellentrop, Chris. “US: Which States Have Decriminalized Marijuana Possession?” 2001. Media Awareness. Web.