I believe that the time has come to end the prohibition of marijuana in the United States of America. If marijuana were a legal substance and taxed like alcohol and tobacco, billions of dollars in revenue would be generated that could be put towards paying down our national debt. Further stimulation of our economy would result from the thousands of jobs that would be created in order to grow, manufacture, process, market and distribute the product. Overcrowding in our prisons would be reduced, creating much-needed room for violent and aggressive criminals.
Finally, there is evidence that the legalization of marijuana will yield certain health and environmental benefits to American society. From a strictly economic perspective, a bill being considered by the Legislature of the State of California, which would legalize marijuana in that State, is expected to result in a $1 billion per year increase in tax revenue that would greatly aid California’s troubled economy. Nationwide, marijuana legalization could potentially generate annual tax revenues of $2. 4 billion if the substance was taxed like other consumer goods (i. e. , pharmaceuticals).
If taxed at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco, it’s possible that the annual tax revenue from marijuana sales could rise to roughly $6. 2 billion. In fact, some studies show that nationwide profits could even climb as high as $40 billion dollars per year (Miron, paragraph 4-5). Across the nation our jails are packed with non-violent people who are there for misdemeanor drug convictions. The savings that legalization of marijuana would yield in reduced costs to penal institutions is in fact one of the leading reasons for minimizing penalties required of individuals found guilty of possession of marijuana.
The reduction in governmental expenses for incarceration alone could be as much as $6. 2 billion per year. According to the American Corrections Association, the average daily cost per state prison inmate in the United States is $67. 55. State prisons held 253,300 inmates for drug offenses in 2005. That means that states spent approximately $17,110,415 per day to imprison drug offenders in 2005, or $6,245,301,475 for the whole year (www. drugwarfacts. org, Paragraph 7). Today, twelve states have decriminalized the possession of marijuana to some degree.
Typically, decriminalization means no prison time or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount for personal consumption. The offense is treated like a minor traffic violation. Further, fourteen states have active medical marijuana programs that allow individuals to possess and use marijuana for medical reasons under a doctor’s supervision and with a legitimate prescription for the drug. Twenty states have what is called “conditional release” of marijuana offenders. Usually, conditional release lets a person opt for probation rather than trial.
After successfully completing probation, the individual’s criminal record does not reflect the charge. Currently, twenty-three states have what is called “mandatory minimum sentence laws. ” In these cases the judge has no power to sentence the defendant to less time than the mandatory minimum. Even peaceful marijuana smokers sentenced to “life mandatory minimum sentence” must serve a life sentence with virtually no chance of parole (www. norml. org). Legalizing marijuana in the United States of America would eliminate the huge profits made by the Mexican drug cartels.
Today, Mexican cartels make 70% (about $38 billion) of their profits from marijuana sales in the United States. So, if the United States simply allowed cultivation of marijuana for personal consumption by American citizens, the Mexican drug cartels’ profits would simply dry up. Indeed, by simply allowing cultivation for personal consumption and without regulating or taxing marijuana, at least $27 billion dollars would remain in the U. S. economy each year, rather than finding its way over the boarder to Mexico (Cain,www. opednews).
Although there is much controversy regarding the legalization of marijuana, there is clear evidence that marijuana is considerably less dangerous than tobacco and alcohol; yet both of these more hazardous substances remain legal today. It is estimated that across the Globe someone dies from a tobacco related illness every six seconds (approximately 5. 2 million people per year, worldwide), and there are 100,000 deaths each year attributable to the use of alcohol. Strikingly, zero deaths are known to have been directly caused, by the use of marijuana.
Further, there are many proven medical benefits of marijuana. Currently, marijuana is being used to treat glaucoma, and it has been shown to significantly reduce nausea in cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Additionally, people with HIV/AIDS and other terminal illnesses use marijuana to stimulate their appetites and to reduce various side effects of pain medications. Marijuana can also be used for the treatment of pain and muscle spasms in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis.
Scientists report that cannibidiol; one of the chemicals found in marijuana, slows growth of breast cancer cells growing in laboratory dishes, and can even result in shrinkage of cancerous brain tumors in laboratory animals. Evidence for marijuana’s effectiveness in treating, or reducing the symptoms of, arthritis, insomnia, seizures, Parkinson’s disease, migraine headaches and Tourette’s syndrome is also very promising. The most recent health benefit discovered for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another chemical found in marijuana, is that it can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Many people who try it prefer the using marijuana rather than prescribed medications because the prescribed drugs have many more negative side effects than marijuana, and are more addictive qualities. Importantly, scientists have yet to prove that marijuana causes any sort of physical dependence, and if people experience any withdrawal symptoms at all, after using marijuana, they are remarkably mild. In addition to the economic and health benefits of marijuana, there are many environmental benefits.
Marijuana is the female portion of the Cannibis sativa plant and hemp is the male portion of the same plant. Legalization of marijuana would simplify hemp development as an agricultural crop. This would include the possible development of hemp as a new bio-fuel, which would dramatically reduce pollutants that are contributing to the greenhouse effect. Hemp is extremely versatile and is considered to be among the strongest natural fibers in the world. If commerce switched to using hemp-based paper, rather than tree pulp-based paper, we could significantly reduce our use of trees.
Products made from hemp are 100% biodegradable, recyclable and reusable. In fact, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp in their gardens, and Ben Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper. Jefferson even drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper, however today only fifteen states have laws that allow hemp development (www. naihc. org). Europe provides us with an example of a different approach to drug policy in which the user is treated as a responsible citizen.
Most of Europe has recognized that the criminal justice system only exacerbates problems associated with drug use. Instead, a more pro-active and holistic approach is used in deterring drug use instead of the backward looking approach that has proved historically to be a failure in the United States. Most European countries firmly believe that there can be no legal basis for prohibiting freedom of action in respect to one’s own body. Most of Europe has recognized that the responsible use of marijuana by an adult, in their home, does not contribute to a country’s crime problem.
When a tolerant and compassionate view toward drug use and drug users is realized, inevitably, nations begin to see a noticeable improvement in the quality of life for its citizens (normal. com). Finally, if marijuana were legalized tomorrow, I’m not convinced that there would be much of an increase in its use. I do, however, feel that prohibition of marijuana has cost the United States of America a great deal of time and money. I also believe that people are going to continue to use marijuana whether it’s legal or not.
Perhaps the United States of America should allow responsible adults to use marijuana responsibly, in the privacy of their own homes. After all, who are these responsible adults hurting? By ending the prohibition of marijuana in America we could shift our focus and attention to more urgent matters while creating a significant source of new income that could be used to fund education, help to reduce soaring State and Federal deficits, and even be used to reduce the use of drugs that are clearly known to be harmful.
Sources Cited Bruce Cain, OpEd News, Re-Legalize Marijuana to Destroy the Mexican Drug Cartels, March 26, 2009 Jeffrey A. Miron, The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition, June 2005, paragraph 4, North American Industrial Hemp Council Inc. , NAIHC, History Facts, NORML, European Drug Policy: Analysis and Case Studies, 1999 NORML, State By State Laws, 08/05/2006 Prison, Jails & Probation Overview, Drug War Facts 1999,Paragraph7,