You may ask why we need to discuss the legalization of marijuana at college, but this is the best place to talk about a major issue that will affect us so directly. The laws that are being put in place right now will ultimately affect how things are after college.
When you hear the word marijuana what do you think of? I know when I first heard the term I only associated it with stereotypical things that had been put in my head prior: drug dealers, pot heads, stinky con artist, and dirty people, among others. These were my first impressions of what marijuana could do to a person. Then, I began doing extensive research on both the positive and the negative effects associated with marijuana, and this is what I found.
According to ProCon.com, as of late 2016, twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws legalizing marijuana in some type of way. Whether it is for medical or recreational use, 26 out of 50 states acknowledge that marijuana is a growing factor across the world. By legalizing marijuana, state governments and local officials are able to place a tax on a product that has previously been considered illegal to possess.
When you sit back and look at the hard facts of America, you can almost predict why Congress has not yet legalized marijuana in all 50 states. Right now in the U.S., we are responsible for over 20 percent of the world’s prison population.
According to Amnesty USA, more than 2 million people are incarcerated in U.S. prisons as well as in local and county jails. One in three black men in the U.S. will go to prison or jail if current trends continue. An average of 5 million people are under state or federal supervision in the form of probation or parole.
If this trend were to suddenly come to an end, it would have a massive effect on the taxes that Americans pay. Both private and public prisons depend on the money that comes in from taxpayers to keep up with their systems. If marijuana were to become legalized, it would lower the amount of money Americans pay to prisons each year. After all, it’s not like we receive a breakdown of what each portion of our check goes to.
Author Jeffrey A. Miron proposed an executive summary in his article “The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition.” In his summary, he reported that legalizing marijuana would save “$7.7 billion per years in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. $5.3 billion of savings would accrue to state and local governments, while $2.4 billion would accrue to the federal government.” Even though he did this research in 2005, the numbers have only increased on the amount of savings the government could potentially have.
The legalization would not only be beneficial for Americans but also for the government. The government would have the ability to place a tax on anything pertaining to the distribution of marijuana.
However, making it legal would also bring into question all the people in jail for nonviolent drug offenses, especially offenses relating to the carrying, distribution, and transportation of marijuana. Prison systems are making an abundance of money with the amount of individuals they have placed in them every day.
The mass incarceration rate in the U.S. is so high that if we were to stop sending people to jail tomorrow, our incarceration rate would still be higher than some countries’ combined rate.
Legalization in some states and countries has happened because they all have realized the positive effects with costs, incarcerations, and health effects. When Colorado legalized marijuana, for example, it decreased their crime rates and was approved in the helping of several health conditions.
After reviewing a couple of books and articles, I found that there would be quite a bit of implications if marijuana were to be legalized at the national level. Congress would have to assess whether it should be legal to produce, sell, and possess marijuana. The legalization would also bring into question how to regulate the production market.
These are small things Congress would need to consider before the passing at a national level. According to Caulkins, Kilmer, and Kleiman in their book “Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know?” “there are many ways to liberalize marijuana policy short of legalization. Use could be tolerated but production and sale still forbidden, or possession of small amounts could be treated as a civil violation rather than as a crime; that’s the policy confusingly called ‘decriminalization.’”
After reading this, I realized it wouldn’t actually be that easy to just pass the law of legalization without factoring out looking into anything that could potentially go wrong in the process. I think that’s why Congress has been undecided for years.
What type of effect would legalization at the national level have on society? Just think, alcohol can be distributed by anyone with a liquor license, but certain medicines cannot be brought over the counter because of their active ingredients. This would be a very complex decision, to figure out how to change all the laws that are in place currently against marijuana.
But, on a brighter note, changes in federal law seem to be pushing us closer to a final decision on legalization. Maybe with the new presidency we will see changes being made to sooner rather than later about legalization.
I know marijuana is commonly considered a gateway drug to more harmful drugs, but it also the least addictive. Just think about how many hit and runs have happened because of drunk driving. How many accidents have happened because someone was high off of marijuana? The real question is why Congress doesn’t realize how beneficial it would be to legalize it.