Although there have been numerous attempts to make the Federal government to decriminalize the use of marijuana, because of numerous benefits that are associated with this drug, to date, it has maintained its hard stand as stated in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Therefore, because of the power of the Federal law over states’ laws on its legality and use, there are fears that the Federal government may one day overturn the decisions made by some states to decriminalize its use.
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Such fear and the need to exploit the numerous benefits of marijuana are what have triggered a very controversial debate on whether the government should legalize its use. As research studies show, year in year out, thousands of Americans are imprisoned due to marijuana related cases, majority of which are just simple possession.
For example, in the year 2003, the government arrested and prosecuted more than 700, 000 people because of marijuana related cases. This translated to spending of over $5 billion on marijuana related violations only. In addition to this, this scenario has been made worse by the fact that, although numerous researches have proved that marijuana has numerous medicinal uses and that hemp, a product of marijuana, can be a good source of fiber and oil, the Federal government has always overlooked such benefits. On the other hand, as compared with other smoked substances, its negative healthy effects are very minimal (National Institute on Drug Abuse 1). Therefore, considering the numerous benefits that are associated with marijuana, there is a need for the Federal government to decriminalize its use.
History of Marijuana Laws
Since the introduction of marijuana in America in the mid 1500 by the Spaniards, the debate on its legality has always been one of the highly contended issues. Although more than 18 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, and two states have legalized the use of both medical and recreational marijuana, under the federal law, its use is still illegal and can lead to prosecution in a court of law. Historically, when it was first introduced in the USA, marijuana was a major commercial crop as most farmers cultivated it for its fiber.
By 1890, its cultivation had spread to most southern states to a level that most farmers completely shifted to the cultivation of hemp for fiber, instead of cotton. Although throughout this period there were laws that controlled its use, the laws were not very strict as they are today. This is because, prior to 1920, there were fewer restrictions on its use and labeling, but after 1920, outright decriminalization began as a result of the adoption of the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act.
The later grouping of this drug, heroin and others as Schedule 1 type of drugs by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 completely decriminalized its use. The adoption of this law marked the onset of a serious war on the use of marijuana, although since then, numerous legislations have been enacted by different states to legalize and regulate its use (Elliot 8-24).
Why the Federal Government should Decriminalize the use of Marijuana
One of the primary reasons why the Federal government should consider legalizing is because its prohibition has purely failed to tame its use. As per the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s research findings, marijuana is one of the mostly abused drugs in America, more so among the teens. This case has been made worse by the ever increasing number of arrests of individuals due to marijuana related violations.
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By decriminalizing it and enacting strict legislation to control its use, chances are that most of the illegal cases that are associated with its use will be dealt with, thereby, giving the Federal government a higher chance of controlling its use. It is of great significance to note that the USA does not have a very big drug problem, but the problem is that the present policies have ignored the need to use science and health-based sensitizing initiatives to educate the masses on drug abuse (Degenhard
Sampson, Lepine, and Karam 1053-1067). One unfortunate thing with the current laws is that they are focused on apprehending and jailing marijuana users instead of sensitizing the society on how this drug can be put into good and health use. Therefore, coming up with a good legal market can greatly help to get rid of the dangerous and illegal marijuana market and distribution cartels, in addition to helping the Federal government not only to get revenues from its trade, but also to put it into good use like production of fiber and oil.
Annually, the government spends over $25 million on the war on drugs; whereby, the biggest percentage of this goes to the war on marijuana. For example, in 2012, the Federal government spent roughly $ 25,184.7 million on the war on drugs, a figure that was increased to $25,599.9 million in the year 2013, in order to tame the use of drugs such as marijuana.
Although this is a good war to invest in, the opportunity cost that is associated with legalizing the drug is bigger, because of the large income that can earned from the sale of legal marijuana. As estimated by economists, legalizing the use of this drug will increase the Federal government’s earnings by over $8.7 billion annually (Common Sense for Drug Policy 1 and Morgan 56-65).
When this is compounded with the amount that can be saved as a result of reduced numbers of arrests, which are associated with marijuana prohibitions, then for sure there is a great need of decriminalizing its use. In addition to monetary gains, marijuana has numerous medicinal uses, which needs to be exploited. As research studies show, this drug can be used to cure muscle spasms and chronic pain in people with epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, for reducing interlobular pressure in eyes of people with glaucoma, to suppress nausea in people with HIV and AIDS and those undergoing chemotherapy, and to restore people’s metabolism, hence, aid in weight loss.
What makes it a better drug is that, it is FDA approved when it has been processed to make some drugs such as dronabinol and nabilone; hence, the need to decriminalize it (Boire and Feeney 71-108 and Morgan 44-55). On the other hand, hemp, a type of marijuana, which is scientifically called cannabis sativa, can be of great significance in the production of textile, paper, plastics, bio-fuel and even body care products. Therefore, its legalization will not only increase the monetary gain from the sale of these products, but it will also help to preserve the environment, because it will reduce the cutting down of trees for production of paper and depletion of non-renewable sources of fossil fuel.
Although majority of individuals who oppose the use of this drug base their argument on its abuse and its associated healthy risks, as compared to other drugs in the Schedule I Class, marijuana is better, because of its zero healthy risks. For example, as compared to most legalized substances like cigarettes and alcohol, the number of healthy problems and even deaths that are associated with the use of marijuana are almost zero.
Furthermore, considering that marijuana can be used in numerous ways, which are clean, for example, in baked or cooked form, its healthy risks are reduced to zero. On the other hand, the argument by most individuals that the use of marijuana can lead to abuse of other hard drug is basically a fallacy. This is because, as research studies show, more than three quarters of individuals who use marijuana do not use other drugs (Elliott 118-139).
(National Institute on Drug Abuse 1)
In conclusion, as a result of the numerous benefits such as providing of an alternative source of bio-fuel, earning the federal government more revenues and promoting the general healthy of people, there is need for the government to legalize its usage.
However, for the legalization to achieve its objectives, the government should create healthy environments where it will be traded and enact enough legislation, which will help to ensure that it is used as required and by people of the right age. In addition, for any adopted laws to achieve the desired goals, there is a need for the federal government to consult widely, and even go a step higher to consult legislators in states that have successfully enacted laws to govern its use.
Boire, Richard and K. Feeney. Medical Marijuana Law. Oakland: Ronin Publishing, Inc. 2006. Print.
Common Sense for Drug Policy. Drug War Facts: U.S Basic Data. 2013.
Degenhard, Louisa, Nancy Sampson, Jean Pierre Lepine, and Aimee Karam. “Toward a Global View of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis, and Cocaine Use: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys.” PLoS Medicine (Public Library of Science) 5.7 (2008): 1053-1067. Print.
Elliott, Steve. The Little Black Book of Marijuana: the Essential Guide to the World of Cannabis. New York: Peter Pauper Press, 2011. Print.
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Morgan, Kayla. Legalizing Marijuana. Edina, Minnesota: ABDO Publishing Company, 2011. Print.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drug facts: Marijuana. 2012.