Legalization of Marijuana in the U.S

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Legalizationof Marijuana in the U.S

Outline

Objective:To study the background, factors motivating states to legalizecannabis, and the outcomes of this decision.

Thesis:The legalization of cannabis has many economic, social, and healthbenefits, but the government needs to develop measures that willreduce its abuse and accessibility to minors.

  1. Studies have shown that only 12 % of the U.S. citizens supported its legalization in 1969, but this percentage had increased to 52 % by 2014. 1

  2. Many stakeholders to argue that it will be too expensive to regulate its use. 2

  1. Preview of main points

  1. Historical background of marijuana legalization

  1. Marijuana was used as a legal tender in several states, including Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. 3

  2. Most of the states removed the minimum mandatory sentences for people found guilty of selling or consuming the drug in 1970s. 4

1.Sacco, N., Finklea,K.State marijuana legalization initiatives: Implications for federallaw enforcement.Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2014, p. 1.

2.Hendricks, L., Abassi, A. and Aslinia, D. The pros and cons ofmarijuana. NationalForum of Counseling and Addiction2, no. 1 (2013), p. 2.

3.Wang, H. and Herrera, H. A note of marijuana legalization and arrestrates in the United States. Journalof International Criminal Justice Research2 (2014), p. 3.

4.Caulkins, P., Kilmer, B., MacCoun, J., Oglesby, P., Pacula, R. &ampReuter, H. Optionsand issues regarding marijuana legalization.Santa Monica: Rand Corporation, 2015, p. 4.

  1. Reasons for marijuana legalization

  1. A total of 28 states had legalized the application of marijuana for health reasons by the end of 2016. 5

  2. About Washington, DC and eight states had developed laws allowing their citizens to consume marijuana for recreational purposes by the end of 2016. 6

  1. Other arguments for legalization of cannabis

  1. The Drug Policy Alliance estimated that the government has used approximately $ 4 billion to arrest about 750,000 suspects of marijuana consumption and trafficking since 2000, but there are no positive outcomes that have been realized. 7

  2. The U.S. loses $ 3.6 billion in terms of the time that could have been used in reproductive activities by police officers and suspects of marijuana consumption and trafficking. 8

  3. Black Americans are about 3.7 times more likely to be apprehended in possession of marijuana compared to their counterpart whites, in spite of the fact that the prevalence of the drug in the two racial groups has equal rates. 9

5.Wallace, A. Where is weed legal? Map of U.S. marijuana laws by state.TheCannabist.http://www.thecannabist.co/2016/10/14/legal-marijuana-laws-by-state-map-united-states/62772/(Accessed 24, 2017), p. 1.

6.Guffey,E. Medical marijuana versus generalized legalization of marijuana:Progressing from government altruism to government capitulation.Journalof Criminal Justice and Legal Issues2 (2014), p. 3.

7.Hendricks, L., Abassi, A. and Aslinia, D. The pros and cons ofmarijuana. NationalForum of Counseling and Addiction2, no. 1 (2013), p. 4.

8.Poindexter, O. “Six powerful reasons to legalize marijuana, fromthe New York Times.” Alternet.http://www.alternet.org/drugs/6-powerful-reasons-new-york-times-says-end-marijuana-prohibition(Accessed January 24, 2017), p. 1.

  1. Arguments against legalization of Cannabis

  1. It will be difficult for the state governments to ensure that the drug does not get into the hands of individuals who have not reached the minimum age. 10

  2. It reduces the level of intelligence, causes anxiety, and triggers other psychological illnesses. 11

  1. Conclusion

  1. The legalization of cannabis has many social as well as economic benefits, but measures should be put in place to ensure that is not abused or accessed by minors.

  2. A rapid change in the perception of the stakeholders has enabled many states to legalize its application for two different purposes, including the medication and recreation.

9.Poindexter, O. “Six powerful reasons to legalize marijuana, fromthe New York Times.” Alternet.http://www.alternet.org/drugs/6-powerful-reasons-new-york-times-says-end-marijuana-prohibition(Accessed January 24, 2017), p. 1.

10.Hendricks, L., Abassi, A. and Aslinia, D. The pros and cons ofmarijuana. NationalForum of Counseling and Addiction2, no. 1 (2013), p. 2.

11.Ibid, p. 2.

Legalizationof Marijuana in the U.S

Marijuanahas been considered as an illegal drug for many years. Although thereare many strategies developed to reduce its use, trends indicate thatmany states are changing their positions. The decision to establishlaws that allow the application of cannabis is informed by studiesshowing that only 12 % of the U.S. citizens supported itslegalization in 1969, but this percentage had increased to 52 % by2014.1In addition, the availability of the drug has increased over theyears, which has motivated many stakeholders to argue that it will betoo expensive to regulate its use. This paper will support theargument that the legalization of cannabis has many economic, social,and health benefits, but the government needs to develop measuresthat will reduce its abuse and accessibility to minors.

HistoricalBackground of Marijuana Legalization

Hemp,which is a plant that is used in the production of marijuana, wasgrown and old in the open market in the 17thcentury. The crop was used as a legal tender in several states,including Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.2Initially, the plant was used in the production of sails and ropes,but other applications (including food additives and medicalingredients) had been discovered by the late 19thcentury.3The first major regulation was introduced in the 1906 in the form ofPure Food and Drug Act that required all over-the-counter productscontaining the drug to be labeled. Many states (about 29 of them)prohibited the use of marijuana around 1931 when

1.Sacco, N., Finklea,K.State marijuana legalization initiatives: Implications for federallaw enforcement.Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2014, p. 7.

2.Wang, H. and Herrera, H. A note of marijuana legalization and arrestrates in the United States. Journalof International Criminal Justice Research2 (2014), p. 13.

3.WGBH Educational Foundation. “Marijuana timelines.” WGBHEducational Foundation. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dope/etc/cron.html(Accessed January 24, 2017), p. 1.

manyyouths started using it was a way of dealing with stress thatresulted from challenges associated with the Great Depression.

Theperception of the stakeholders (including legislators as well asmembers of the public) about marijuana started changing in 1944.During this year, the New York Academy of Medicine published ascientific study indicating that the drug was not as harmful as itwas initially suspected.4Presidents Johnson and Kennedy issued reports pointing to the samedirection as the aforementioned study in the 1960s. Consequently,most of the states removed the minimum mandatory sentences for peoplefound guilty of selling or consuming the drug in 1970s.5California became the first state to legalize marijuana in the year1996, buts its application was limited to medical purposes. This wasa major breakthrough that established a precedent for otherjurisdictions that have continued to allow the sale of the drug fordifferent reasons.

Reasonsfor the Marijuana Legalization

Thereare two major reasons that are cited by states that have developedlaws to support the application of marijuana. The first and the mostsignificant justification is medical use. Almost every jurisdictionthat has permitted the production as well as the sale of cannabisrestricts its application to the resolution of different healthconditions. However, states that allow their citizens to use it as adrug for treatment of diseases establish different measures (such aslicensure, transfer eligibility, possession amount, and productsource) to ensure that it is not distributed for recreationalpurposes.6

4.WGBH Educational Foundation. “Marijuana timelines.” WGBHEducational Foundation. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dope/etc/cron.html(Accessed January 24, 2017), p. 4.

5.Caulkins, P., Kilmer, B., MacCoun, J., Oglesby, P., Pacula, R. &ampReuter, H. Optionsand issues regarding marijuana legalization.Santa Monica: Rand Corporation, 2015, p. 2.

6.Klofas, J. and Letteney, K. Thesocial and legal effects of medical marijuana: State legislation andrules.New York, NY: Center for Public Safety Initiatives, 2012, p. 2.

Someof the key illnesses that cannabis has been shown to alleviateinclude Crohn’s disease, nausea, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, andpain associated with AIDS.6A total of 28 states had legalized the application of marijuana forhealth reasons by the end of 2016.7Although there are many jurisdictions that have permitted the use ofcannabis, it is very difficult for ordinary citizens to access it dueto the existence of other restrictions, such as the requirements forits production as well as distribution.

Thesecond reason that is used by a few states to legalize cannabis isrecreation. Jurisdictions that base their decisions on this fact holdthat all citizens have the right to select the methods that theywould like to use in order to enhance the quality of their lives andenjoy themselves without being restricted. It is estimated that aboutWashington, DC and eight states had developed laws allowing theircitizens to consume marijuana for recreational purposes by the end of2016.8However, the governments in the concerned jurisdiction haveestablished alternative measures to regulate the quantity of the drugthat can be consumed.

OtherArguments for the Legalization of Cannabis

Reductionin the cost of law enforcement

Ithas been argued that the government spends a lot of money inenforcing the laws that have been developed to prohibit theproduction as well as the sale of cannabis. Its legalization couldlead to financial savings. The Drug Policy Alliance estimated thatthe

6.Gundersen, C. The legalization of marijuana: Implications forregulation and practices. Journalof Nursing Regulation6, no. 3 (2015), p. 34.

7.Wallace, A. Where is weed legal? Map of U.S. marijuana laws by state.TheCannabist.http://www.thecannabist.co/2016/10/14/legal-marijuana-laws-by-state-map-united-states/62772/(Accessed 24, 2017), p. 1.

8.Guffey, E. Medical marijuana versus generalized legalization ofmarijuana: Progressing from government altruism to governmentcapitulation. Journalof Criminal Justice and Legal Issues2 (2014), p. 3.

governmenthas used approximately $ 4 billion to arrest about 750,000 suspectsof marijuana consumption and trafficking since 2000, but there are nopositive outcomes that have been realized.9Therefore, the establishment of legislations making its consumptionlegal will help the U.S. avoid the cost of enforcement.

Thesocial cost

Theremoval of the social cost of regulating the consumption of cannabisis another benefit that is enjoyed by states that have alreadydeveloped laws permitting their citizens to use it. The social costin this context refers to amount of resources and time that arewasted when implementing laws, instead of focusing on issues thatbenefit the society. For example, thousands of police officers spendhours on a daily basis investigating, chasing, and prosecuting peoplewho are suspected of possessing marijuana on a daily basis.10Individuals who are arrested stay in jails for years, irrespective ofthe fact that most of them are caught with small quantities ofcannabis for personal use. In total, it is estimated that the U.S.loses $ 3.6 billion in terms of the time that could have been used inreproductive activities by police officers and suspects of marijuanaconsumption and trafficking.11

Avoidracism

Thediscrimination of persons on the basis of their respective races isamong the key accusations that have been leveled against the criminaljustice system. This challenge can be minimized by legalizing the useof cannabis. Studies have shown that black Americans are

9.Hendricks, L., Abassi, A. and Aslinia, D. The pros and cons ofmarijuana. NationalForum of Counseling and Addiction2, no. 1 (2013), p. 9.

10.Poindexter, O. “Six powerful reasons to legalize marijuana, fromthe New York Times.” Alternet.http://www.alternet.org/drugs/6-powerful-reasons-new-york-times-says-end-marijuana-prohibition(Accessed January 24, 2017), p. 1.

11.Ibid, p. 1.

about3.7 times more likely to be apprehended in possession of marijuanacompared to their counterpart whites, in spite of the fact that theprevalence of the drug in the two racial groups has equal rates.12Therefore, the establishment of the laws making cannabis anacceptable substance will reduce the opportunity for police officersto discriminate against people depending on their race.

ArgumentsAgainst the Legalization of Cannabis

Althoughthere are many benefits associated with the marijuana legalization,this decision has three major drawbacks. First, these legal measureswill increase the exposure of minors (including children andadolescents) to cannabis since its availability in the society willrise. It will be difficult for the state governments to ensure thatthe drug does not get into the hands of individuals who have notreached the minimum age.13Similarly, many states that have legalized marijuana specify thequantities that are acceptable for human consumption, but theenforcement of this precaution is impossible. The ability of theminors to access the drug could lead to negative effects, such asschool dropout and a decline in the academic performance. This claimhas been confirmed by a research showing that learners who lose legalaccess to cannabis improve their performance in subjects that requirenumerical skills.14This data suggests that the increase in accessibility of marijuanawill limit the cognitive ability of students, thus lowering theirperformance.

Secondly,scientific studies have confirmed that the use of marijuana for along time

12.Poindexter, O. “Six powerful reasons to legalize marijuana, fromthe New York Times.” Alternet.http://www.alternet.org/drugs/6-powerful-reasons-new-york-times-says-end-marijuana-prohibition(Accessed January 24, 2017), p. 1.

13.Hendricks, L., Abassi, A. and Aslinia, D. The pros and cons ofmarijuana. NationalForum of Counseling and Addiction2, no. 1 (2013), p. 2.

14.Marie, O. Highachievers? Cannabis access and academic performance.Bonn: Maastricht University, 2015, p. 24.

affectsthe human brain in a negative way. One of these research projectsindicated that it reduces the level of intelligence, causes anxiety,and triggers other psychological illnesses.15Cannabis is an addictive product that makes people dependent on it inorder to remain active in their respective occupations. These sideeffects of marijuana indicate that an increase in the number ofpeople who will consume it following its legalization will hurt theproductivity of the national labor force.

Third,the development of laws that allow people to consume cannabis willhave a negative effect on population health. Overuse of marijuanacauses cardiovascular diseases, such as heart palpitation andarrhythmia.16It also increases the possibility of suffering from mental conditionsincluding depression and schizophrenia. Therefore, states that havelegalized the use of cannabis for recreational purposes couldexperience a sharp increase in the prevalence of different diseases,which will be a burden to the government and the society.

Conclusion

Thelegalization of cannabis has many social as well as economicbenefits, but measures should be put in place to ensure that is notabused or accessed by minors. A lot of resources have been allocatedto contain the use and trafficking of marijuana through the programreferred to as the War on Drug, but the U.S. has not found the valuefor its money. However, the rapid change in the perception of thestakeholders has enabled many states to legalize its application fortwo different purposes, including the medication and recreation.

15.Hendricks, L., Abassi, A. and Aslinia, D. The pros and cons ofmarijuana. NationalForum of Counseling and Addiction2, no. 1 (2013), p. 2.

16.National Youth Leadership Network. “Ninteen primary pros and consof legalizing weed.” NYLN.http://nyln.org/19-primary-pros-and-cons-of-legalizing-weed(Accessed January 24, 2017), p. 1.

Summary

Marijuanahas been classified as one of illegal drugs for many years, but manystates have changed their positions since 1996, when California tookthe initiative to legalize it. In addition, more than 52 % of themembers of the public feel that the establishment of laws allowingcitizens to use the drug will save the taxpayers’ money that isspent annually in the enforcement of laws that do not yield results.

TheAmerican people used the hemp plant, which is the source of cannabis,to produce ropes and sails in the 17thcentury, but they started abusing it as a recreational substancetowards the end of the 1800s. Many states were motivated to prohibitits consumption in the early 1930s, when many people overused it as astrategy for coping with stress that resulted from the GreatDepression.

Astudy published by the New York Academy of Medicine in 1944indicating that marijuana was not as harmful as any people believedresulted in a gradual change in the opinion of differentstakeholders. By the 1990s, many states (including California) hadstarted considering the need to legalize cannabis.

Manystates that have developed laws that focus on empowering theircitizens to use marijuana justify their decision using therecreational and medical facts. Over 28 states had legalized itsapplication in the treatment of different diseases by the end of theyear 2016. Some of the illnesses cured using cannabis includesCrohn’s disease, nausea, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and painassociated with AIDS. Washington, DC and eight states permitted theuse of marijuana for recreational purpose by the end of 2016. The keybenefits of these decisions include a reduction in the cost of lawenforcement, social benefits, and a decline in incidents ofrace-based discrimination. However, the legalization could increasethe minors’ ability to access cannabis, reduce population health,and minimize the productivity of the labor force.

Bibliography

Caulkins,P., Kilmer, B., MacCoun, J., Oglesby, P., Pacula, R. &amp Reuter, H.Optionsand issues regarding marijuana legalization.Santa Monica: Rand Corporation, 2015.

Guffey,E. Medical marijuana versus generalized legalization of marijuana:Progressing from government altruism to government capitulation.Journalof Criminal Justice and Legal Issues2 (2014): 1-15.

Gundersen,C. The legalization of marijuana: Implications for regulation andpractices. Journalof Nursing Regulation6, no. 3 (2015): 34-38.

Hendricks,L., Abassi, A. and Aslinia, D. The pros and cons of marijuana.NationalForum of Counseling and Addiction2, no. 1 (2013): 1-4.

Klofas,J. and Letteney, K. Thesocial and legal effects of medical marijuana: State legislation andrules.New York, NY: Center for Public Safety Initiatives, 2012.

Marie,O. Highachievers? Cannabis access and academic performance.Bonn: Maastricht University, 2015.

NationalYouth Leadership Network. “Ninteen primary pros and cons oflegalizing weed.” NYLN.http://nyln.org/19-primary-pros-and-cons-of-legalizing-weed(Accessed January 24, 2017).

Poindexter,O. “Six powerful reasons to legalize marijuana, from the New YorkTimes.” Alternet.http://www.alternet.org/drugs/6-powerful-reasons-new-york-times-says-end-marijuana-prohibition(Accessed January 24, 2017).

Sacco,N., Finklea,K.State marijuana legalization initiatives: Implications for federallaw enforcement.Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2014.

Wallace,A. Where is weed legal? Map of U.S. marijuana laws by state. TheCannabist.http://www.thecannabist.co/2016/10/14/legal-marijuana-laws-by-state-map-united-states/62772/(Accessed 24, 2017).

Wang,H. and Herrera, H. A note of marijuana legalization and arrest ratesin the United States. Journalof International Criminal Justice Research2 (2014): 1-7.

WGBHEducational Foundation. “Marijuana timelines.” WGBHEducational Foundation. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dope/etc/cron.html(Accessed January 24, 2017).