America's law enforcement and economy would only benefit from legalizing cannabis.
According to a crime report database, www.ucrdatatool.gov, last year, around 15,000 Americans were arrested for murder. About 800,000 were arrested for car theft, some 88,000 were arrested for rape and approximately 750,000 were arrested for the possession of a plant.
This plant is called cannabis, and is known more commonly by its prepared form, marijuana. One month ago on Tuesday, Nov. 2, California residents overturned Proposition 19, a ballot initiative that would have legalized the drug. Overturning Proposition 19 was a mistake that will cost California in terms of the state's economy and security. Marijuana should be legal, in California and across the country. For the benefit of America's law enforcement and economy, this nation must abandon its failed attempt at marijuana control through prohibition.
It is common knowledge that America's law enforcement has its share of difficulties. According crime statistics site www.crimeinamerica.net, police fatalities jumped 43 percent in the first half of 2010 alone. Imagine the extra resources that our police system would have if the effort devoted to arresting those 750,000 marijuana users could be redirected towards other, more important areas. Furthermore, there is a serious racial component to marijuana arrests. A Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) statistic shows that although African-Americans make up only 13 percent of drug users, they represent 59 percent of drug convictions in America. According to the site, people have started to call drug laws "the new Jim Crow." Not only is marijuana's illegality straining America's law enforcement, it is causing injustice on an inexcusable scale.
Medical marijuana hurts not only the American law enforcement system's effectiveness and its reputation, but its budget as well. California itself spends more on its prison system than it does on higher education, according to the New York Times. Governor Schwarzenegger himself has said California's prison systems are "in crisis." California's rate of recidivism, the reincarnation of former prisoners, is 70 percent, and overcrowding is a serious concern. Take out the roughly 2,000 inmates imprisoned on marijuana charge, and the state of California's prisons can only improve. Apply that logic to a state where marijuana is a crime with more serious consequences, and the reduction of prison populations will be even more significant. Nearly half of the most poorly kept prisons in the world are in America, according to author Heather Matthews. Legalizing marijuana would be just another step in fixing that broken system.
Even disregarding law enforcement, legalizing marijuana is a wise economic move. Jeffrey A. Miron, a Harvard lecturer, calculated that if marijuana were legal, the government would save around $41.3 billion a year. According to Nicholas D. Kristoff, a New York Times columnist, legalizing marijuana nationally would generate around $8.7 billion annually in money made from taxing the drug, and would save around the same amount per year in funds previously used to enforce the laws on marijuana. With America's financial picture as bleak as it is, wasting money on a drug policy that does not even work is an excess that this nation cannot afford.
Detractors of legalizing the drug say that it is dangerous and harmful to teens. Yes, marijuana can be harmful in excess, as can chocolate chip cookies, or television. Yet, according to Carol Boone of The Florida Times-Union, marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol. "Whereas alcohol causes hundreds of annual overdose deaths, contributes to untold numbers of illnesses and is a major factor in violent crime, marijuana has never resulted in a fatal overdose and has not been systemically linked to major illness or violent crime.” The prohibition of alcohol did not work – the prohibition of marijuana is not working either. Marijuana can even be considered a safer alternative to alcohol, according to Boone. The health argument against marijuana is hypocritical unless it also argues against alcohol, something that has proven to be disastrous in the past.
There is simply no point in keeping pot illegal; it has become an immovable part of American culture. Countless songs have been written about it; 12 Presidents, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, have used the drug. Scriptwriters have based entire movie plots around marijuana, and The Declaration of Independence itself was written on hemp paper. U.S. citizens have been smoking weed for centuries now, and despite its illegality, that is not going to change. It is time for our government to recognize when it has been beaten and find more effective and less detrimental means of drug regulation.
Alison Kronstadt. Alison Kronstadt is happiest when she's making you laugh, so tell her her stories are funny or she'll cry. She has a lot of opinions and hopes you like to read them. She wrote her first bio when she was an awkward little junior and ... More »