Decriminalize Marijuana for the Good of America
Currently, drugs remain high on the lists of concerns of Americans and are considered one of the major problems facing our country today. We see stories on the news about people being killed on the street every day over drugs. To many people drugs are only an inner-city problem, but in reality they affect all of us - users and non-users. I believe that the negative affects we associate with drugs would be greatly reduced if the United States adopted a policy towards the total decriminalization of marijuana. The current drug policy of our government is obviously failing. Drug laws have created corruption, violence, increased street crime, and disrespect for the criminal justice system. Current drug legislation has failed to reduce demand. It's just too hard to monitor illegal substances when a significannot portion of the
population is committed to using drugs. (Inciardi and McBride 260)
Marijuana comes from the hemp plant, which can readily be grown on fields across the nation and was cultivated heavily in colonial period. After 130 years of being legal, the potential problems of marijuana were brought into the public eye by Harry J. Anslingler, the commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and author of Marijuana: Assassin of Youth (Goldman 88). In his book, Anslinger portrayed images of Mexican and Negro criminals, as well as young boys, who became killers while under the influence of marijuana. With the added public pressure, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This law made the use and dale of marijuana federal offenses. At this point marijuana was removed from the public eye, and heavy users included poor Negroes, migrant Mexicans, and Jazz Musicians (Himmelstein 3).
Marijuana reappeared in the mid 1960's with the emergence of the "Hippie." Widespread objection to the use of marijuana remained because of the set of valued and lifestyles associated with it, but use appeared in colleges and among middle-class youths in the suburbs (Himmelstein 103). Marijuana became a symbol of a counter-culture, and youthful rebellion. As a consequence, marijuana use rose for the next ten years. Marijuana was becoming more accepted across the nation. As the users of Marijuana changed, the attitudes about the danger of Marijuana broke down. In 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act reduced the classification of simple possession and non-profit distribution from felonies to misdemeanors (Himmelstein 104). This was a good start.
However, President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1973 and over the next 20 years, each succeeding president continued to escalate the drug war. This policy has obviously done nothing to stop the recreational use of drugs in this country, on the contrary it is causing great harm. It's time to try something new.
When most people imagine the legalization of marijuana, they fear a marijuana free-for-all with everybody constantly getting high. Legalization would be a burdensome task for the U.S. Government. In fact, the legal process would include a law passed by Congress allowing the government to control the content, quality, and distribution of marijuana. The laws would be similar to the current laws regulating alcohol, including laws governing age, limits for driving, and distribution ("Bring" 13). A thorough investigation of the costs and benefits of legalization must be examined before any policy is implemented , but I believe it will show that the benefits far outweigh the detriments.
The three general areas where people are opposed to legalization of marijuana center their arguments on: health care, increased crime, and social aspects. Marijuana is more dangerous than cigarette smoking. Two Marijuana joints create more airway impairment than do an entire pack of cigarette (Miner 44). One joint contains three times more tar than do...
Cited: Greenwood Pres, 1983. Incardi and McBride. "Legalization: A high risk
Alternative" American Behavioral Scientist 32 (1989): 233-243
"Decriminalization of Drugs."
[Board Minutes, April 8-9, 1994] A available:
Pulp and Paper Y5 (1994): 25.
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