Marijuana is another name for hemp, or cannabis. People cultivated it since early times. The seeds of cannabis were used for food and oil production. Besides, young plants were used as raw material for paper and clothes. Hemp was also use as a treatment. The earliest evidence of cannabis medical use is dated back to 4,000 B.C. The relaxing effect of marijuana use is also known from the ancient times. Some cultures even had a cult of marijuana use and respected the hemp as a sacred plant.
However, at the beginning of the 20th century the history of marijuana criminalization started. At that time marijuana were widely spread among the American youth, especially working class: after the prohibition of alcohol beverages marijuana replaced liquor. “Marihuana Tax Act”, which made use and possession of marijuana illegal, was signed in 1937. This act was inspired by Harry J. Anslinger, the first Commissioner of the Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN). Harry Aslinger, however, carried about his personal benefits, not about the health of American nation. First, the struggle with marijuana allowed him making brilliant career: it is enough to mention that Federal Bureau of Narcotics was established for Aslinger because of his personal ties with some Treasury officials. Second, after his death it was proved that Aslinger made a fortune on his anti-marijuana activity. The reason is that hemp could be highly-competitive raw material in paper and plastic production. Aslinger obtained financial support from some oil and wood companies, which wanted to remove hemp from this market. In 1970 marijuana was classified as a Schedule I drug by the Controlled Substances Act. It means total prohibition on use and posession of marijuana, without acceptable medical use. From that time seventeen states of the USA legalized marijuana use and possession with different limitations.
The thesis of this paper is the following: marijuana use and possession should be legalized throughout the United States, because the benefits of legalization exceed negative sides of its use.
Impact on the economy: pros
Speaking about marijuana it is necessary to remember about some reasons of its prohibition. Marijuana is still high-competitive raw material for paper and plastic production. Besides, comparatively to wood it has some obvious benefits, for example, crop harvest can be gathered annually.
Different sources provide different data regarding the real volume of marijuana production in the USA. However, everybody agree that legal marijuana is the second largest cash crop in the USA after corn. Together with illegal production it can be considered the largest cash crop in the country. Legalizing marijuana industry can create jobs not only for farmers but also for wholesalers, distributors, managers and even CEOs.
In 2003 the attorney Maureen Brown assumed that potential income from marijuana taxation can create a significant part of state budget. «Assuming that the $11 billion gross sales of marijuana would generate half that much in taxable income, the government could tax an additional $5.5 billion of income. The federal income tax rate varies due to taxable income and deductions, but assuming a 20 percent average tax rate and $5.5 billion in marijuana income, the federal government could collect $1.1 billion in income taxes every year.» (Brown, 2003) Probably, this forecast should be reviewed accordingly to the latest changes in the economy of the USA. However, the main idea remains the same: decriminalization of marijuana production can bring significant profit for state budget.
It is not a secret that the US economy suffers from a huge federal debt. President Barack Obama needs new sources of financing to realize his program of economic stimulus. Nowadays Obama’s administration considers different opportunities of the additional budget income. For example, Obama’s administration proposed structural changes in Medicare system. However, this proposition met active resistance in the majority if the US citizens. At the same time marijuana decriminalization can be more effective with the same or even lower level of resistance.
At last, marijuana decriminalization can decrease government spending on law enforcement. Criminalized marijuana is the “black hole”, which devours a lot of resources. In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budgeting Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. With money from bonds and the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion. It cost an average of $23,876 dollars to imprison someone in 2005, the most recent year for which data were available. Marijuana legalization can help to ease this terrible situation and reduce spending on corrections.
Impact on the economy: cons
Although medicinal value of cannabis is still under discussion, its main active component tetrahydrocanabinol (THC) has several well-documented effects: the amelioration of nausea and vomiting, stimulation of hunger, lowered intraocular eye pressure as well as general analgesic effects (pain reliever). The legalization of marijuana can lead to development of new drugs on the base of tetrahydrocannabinol, competition growth on pharmaceutical market, and decrease in revenues of large pharmaceutical companies. Thus, pharmaceutical companies would pay less tax to federal budget.
It is also can be difficult to distinguish the production of marijuana as pharmaceutical product and the growing on its own. It can be different to control every marijuana producer and understand is the product is used for medical purposes or not.
Impact on Law Enforcement: pros
“Drug war” causes the overcrowded prisons and demands a huge budgetary spending. It is no secret that the USA has the highest rate of prisoners in the world – near 1% of total population. Nearly 4% of prisoners were arrested for marijuana offences. Marijuana legalization can help to reduce the total number of criminal cases in the country. It can allow law enforcement to focus on bigger and more important issues (solving murders, theft, etc.)
FBI report about the number of prisoners arrested for marijuana use or possession:
“In 2007 the Department of Justice reported that there were 1,841,182 drug arrests in the United States; the report noted that there were more drug abuse arrests than any other category of offenses. Marijuana arrests accounted for 47.4% of the drug abuse arrests. This allows us to estimate that about 872,720 persons were arrested for marijuana offenses. Eighty-nine percent of these arrests were for possession. The 2007 arrest data is even worse than 2006 when 829,627 people were arrested for marijuana. In 2005 there were 786,545 marijuana arrests, meaning that the number of arrests increased by 86K in just two years.” (FBI report, 2007)
Thus, marijuana decriminalization will lead to the reduction of prisoners, and less crowded prisons and courts.
At last, marijuana decriminalization can have positive impact on youth. Thus sudden argument is rather well-grounded. The majority of offenders in marijuana cases are people under 21. Statistics proves that the level of recidivism in the country is approximately two-third. It means that two of three ex-offenders commit the new crime within three years after the first cases. It is related not only to evil nature of some people, but with social problems ex-offenders face to. Ex-offenders usually face labeling (stigmatization), social obstruction, and employment problems. Young people facing with these problems are more willingly return to crime than adults. Thus, marijuana offence on youth can have life consequences. Decriminalization of marijuana can significantly reduce the impact of youth criminalization.
Impact on Law Enforcement: cons
An individual, who has consciously started committing the crime, rarely can stop on the single kind of criminal activity. Those with dealing marijuana might be involved in other crimes. Drug trade is usually linked to illegal weapon trade, contraband, thefts, and even murders. Thus, many people think that marijuana offenders should be better behind bars. Imprisonment can stop them from further criminal activity.
Besides, many people avoid supporting of marijuana legalization because they don’t want to be labeled as supporting it. Probably they don’t object to marijuana use and possession, but at the same time they don’t want to be involved in the decriminalization process. They think their example can encourage their children that it’s okay to use it.
Impact on Health and Society: pros
Study shows that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco. Alcohol use is prevalent in cases of domestic violence, violent crimes, aggressive behavior and sexual assault. Alcohol and tobacco are the most wide-spread legal drugs, they are highly addictive and they cause a wide variety of health problems and increase cancer risk. Alcohol and tobacco are the first and the second major causes of death in the world. Medical history does not record anyone dying from an overdose of marijuana.
Marijuana is also effective drug in some specific diseases. It can be used as pain-reliever in patients suffering from cancer and AIDS. Besides, marijuana is an effective drug in in Alzheimer’s disease treatment. Here is no sufficient data to define whether marijuana use would reduce cost of medical treatment. However, it would significantly influence the lives of those who involved in nursing caring of the patients. The slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease would ease their life.
Impact on Health and Society: cons
Some Americans consider marijuana use immoral. It is natural for human society to tend to high moral. Marijuana use, according to opinion of some people, can decrease moral in society.
Long term marijuana use can lead to addiction and harmful to health. Some specialists claim that marijuana addiction is the disease like alcoholism. When marijuana use is stopped, the withdrawal can cause the following symptoms: nausea, tremor, sweating, weight loss, insomnia, agitation and irritability.
Marijuana is a «gate» drug. Marijuana use is usually followed by the transition on «hard» drug, like cocaine and heroin. Thus, everyone who uses marijuana is a potential drug-addict and crime.
It is obvious that «pros» of marijuana decriminalization are more significant than contras. Marijuana use for medical purposes can provide a number of new, effective, and low-cost drugs. The argument of the lower profits of pharmaceutical corporations as an argument against marijuana is even more unethical than marijuana use itself. Besides, the income from marijuana taxation can exceed the lower taxes of pharmaceutical corporations. It is obvious that marijuana production is the business, which already exists. Marijuana production criminalization is just the refuse from significant potential profits of this industry. After the economic crisis and in the time of economic recession the government of the United States should not neglect this possibility to increase federal income. New legal jobs can also improve social situation in the country. Thus, marijuana legalization is a good idea.
Statement of H. J. Anslinger, commissioner of narcotics, bureau of narcotics, department of the treasury.
U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division. Official web-site. Crime in 2008, report. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2008/about/index.html
U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division. Official web-site. Crime in 2007, report. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2007/about/index.html
The Medical News. (March 10, 2008). Cannabis-derived medicines may help Alzheimer’s. Retrieved February 17, 2010 from The Medical News official web site: http://www.news-medical.net/news/2008/03/10/36024.aspx
Single, E. (1999) The Impact of Marijuana Decriminalization: An Update, Journal of Public Health Policy, winter 1999