The Criminalization of Marijuana
According to Drug War Facts “in 2011, marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug, with 18.1 million current users” (Zeese). With so many users it is not surprising that the number of marijuana arrests are also extremely high. More than 800,000 people are arrested for marijuana each year. Those who are arrested, simply for possession make up a large majority of 88 percent. “Nearly half of all drug arrests are for marijuana offenses” (Duke 6). The cost to incarcerate these marijuana users costs the US taxpayers $1 billion annually (Zeese). This figure does not include the cost of the countless men and women on parole or probation offenses for marijuana. Not only is the monetary cost of marijuana prohibition depleting US revenue, but there is a social and cultural issue that can not be easily calculated in the form of continued racism. In 2009 Ethan Nadelmann’s speech to NAACP extrapolates this idea. Nadelmann claims that “in the United States today we have less than 5 percent of the world's population, but almost 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population. [...] In America, we lock up more people for violating a drug law than all of Western Europe locks up for all charges combined—and they have 100 million more people than we do” (Nadelmann). After sharing the statistics Nadelmann begs the question to the audience if they “think [these numbers] would be possible if the vast majority of the people behind bars in this country were white.” Public policy analyst and adjunct professor in criminal justice at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, Jon Gettman, Ph.D., reports that blacks are three times more likely to be arrested for using marijuana than whites. Out of the number of people found guilty in some states 80-90 percent are black men (Zeese). The criminalization of marijuana has not only depleted the American treasury but also has raised humanitarian concerns while ignoring the actual medical benefits...
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