This essay will discuss the increasing public acceptance of recreational marijuana consumption. The drug has been considered too dangerous to use for most of the 20th century and remains illegal in many states, but an increasing number is moving forward with legalization programs. However, despite the punishments that were put in place for people who consumed marijuana, it has consistently been a significant part of American culture. Movements such as the hippies and the African American hip-hop culture are strongly associated with the use of ‘weed,’ and the police largely overlooks expressions of affinity for the drug. As a result, the state of Illinois, which has adopted marijuana legalization policies recently, has removed a large number of charges from the records of drug offenders.
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Marijuana use is generally associated with younger people, but people of any age may employ the drug for recreation. Prior (2019) notes that the new legislation makes possession and use legal for people aged 21 and over while lifting offenses for the same behaviors in the past. The use of the drug by minors is generally rejected by the population, similarly to other mind-affecting agents such as cigarettes and alcohol. Prior (2019) states that the legal initiative is a continuation of current Governor Pritzker’s campaign promise of legalizing marijuana in the state of Illinois. His victory in the election and success in enacting the change suggest that a majority of adults agrees with the view.
The bill goes beyond decriminalization, offering help for those whose lives have been jeopardized by marijuana possession charges. According to Prior (2019), the new law automatically removes clemency for possession of up to 30 grams, allows petitions for 30 to 500 grams, and makes it easier for offenders to get business licenses. The decision to erase past violations is consistent with the increase in public acceptance of marijuana as described by Schnabel and Sevell (2017). The study shows liberal trends that result in increased approval of formerly abnormal behaviors such as same-sex marriage. Society began accepting the practice as no longer deviant before the law could accommodate the change, and Illinois followed the public opinion.
The previous laws that punished possession of marijuana may be seen as a form of control by a society that did not accept the deviant behavior. Even if the police and society ignored the groups that used the drug as long as the act was not overt, these communities were generally ostracized. Overall, the action was seen as private and not suitable for the public, which would report the offender to law enforcement agencies. With the legalization, the traditional, illegal channels of procurement will most likely remain unlawful and frowned upon by society. However, the behavior of consumption by individuals will eventually become publicly acceptable and lose its status of deviancy.
As a prominent fixture of American culture in the 20th century, marijuana use was never seen as a conspicuous deviant behavior despite its illegal nature. As a result of recent liberalization trends, public attitudes towards various deviancies, such as same-sex marriage and recreational cannabis smoking, have improved. As a result, communities are now reducing their control over such practices by legalizing them, with marijuana becoming legal in many states. It will likely become more acceptable in the future, though the use of cannabis by minors should remain deviant and illegal.
Prior, R. (2019). Illinois is expunging marijuana convictions from nearly 800,000 criminal records. CNN. Web.
Schnabel, L., & Sevell, E. (2017). Should Mary and Jane be legal? Americans’ attitudes toward marijuana and same-sex marriage legalization, 1988–2014. Public Opinion Quarterly, 81(1), 157-172.
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