Marijuana: The Steps Towards Legalization

by William M. Lolis

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America, a country that was built on the sweat and tears of our founding fathers. No matter where you live in the United States, a topic that is popping up everywhere is the legalization of Marijuana. As of 2014, four states have legalized Marijuana for recreational use, with many more attempting to follow in their footsteps. The fight for legalization is not a direct assault against the government, but a fight for something that we believe is important. I chose this debate because legalization takes into account our civil liberties, the way in which a country adapts to social changes, and the steps that are necessary to legally create change. Even if you are not an avid smoker, this issue is still important to every American.

At one point in time, every drug in the United States was legal. Although it would be the citizens who use the drug, the government is the one who mandates whether or not it should be legal. According to a 2014 survey by the Huffington post, 58% of respondents said that they support the legalization of Marijuana. Out of the 450,000 adults surveyed, over 250,000 wanted to create a change. If there is such a strong inclination towards legalization, why hasn’t change already occurred? The process of legalization takes time. The majority of people currently in power are part of the baby-boomer generation, and their specific set of values do not line up with our beliefs, resulting in this social conflict. It is unfair for a law not to be passed based on the beliefs of a few people in power.

In 1920, the United States created a movement that is now known as the Prohibition. The Prohibition was established to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. According to Mark Thornton from Cato Institute, the Prohibition was a failure. Creating a ban on alcohol resulted in a black market for non-regulated alcohol products. Eventually, the United States ended the Prohibition in 1933 due to it being a failure. This type of ban on a substance is what is currently happening with Marijuana. Instead of the government regulating Marijuana and creating an industry for it, thousands of people a year are charged with some connection towards this substance. While change is evident, time is the only thing that is holding legalization back.

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One of the positive outcomes for Marijuana legalization for the United States government is tax revenue. In the month of July alone, recreational Marijuana use in Colorado resulted in over 7 million dollars in revenue. In comparison to its first month of legalization, that is an increase of over 4 million dollars. Considering the United States is in over 17 trillion dollars worth of debt, I can’t begin to comprehend why they are not taking advantage of the opportunity to obtain easy money. Legalization of Marijuana leads to the creation of jobs and increased capita per square mile in states that choose to legalize. In the end, the government has the opportunity to create a program that leads to job creation and increased revenue.

Drug Decriminalization is a process of ending government enforced prohibition of banned substances. How does the government deem what crimes result in jail-time?  Christopher Williams, a Montana medical Marijuana provider is facing 82 to 85 years in prison for his actions. A substance, that is now recreationally legalized in four states, led to one man’s imprisonment for an initial sentence of 82 years. Why is it that in the United States, a person who robbed a bank and another person who had a large amount of Marijuana are in jail for the same amount of time? Christopher Williams sentence was a necessary step towards the legalization of Marijuana. By giving Williams such a large jail time, the government is placing Marijuana and robbery on the same playing field. Although these laws are changing, it is necessary for the government to adapt to the social changes ahead of them.

One of the most abused substances in the world is alcohol. In the United States, it is legal for anyone 21 and over to purchase alcohol for consumption. From 2006 to 2010 alone, 88,000 deaths in the United States were linked to alcohol consumption. In the case of Marijuana, there is no direct link of any death to this substance. Why is a substance that is linked to 88,000 deaths per year in the United States alone legal, while Marijuana is illegal in the majority of states? With political figures changing and new ideals being brought into government, Marijuana legalization is eminent.

Just like alcohol, Marijuana is used as a release of stress. Coming out of work, it is common for a person to come home, sit on the couch, and grab a beer. What is the difference between drinking an alcoholic beverage to relax and smoking on occasion? Alcohol arguably impairs an individual even more than marijuana, yet one is legal and the other is not. If  both substances in moderation are known to not cause detrimental effect, and alcohol is legal, then why should smoking be illegal? The culture of America is constantly changing, which means our laws must adapt. A time will come where the social stigma of Marijuana will be gone, and it will be placed on the same playing field as alcohol.

America is a country that prides itself on change and modernization. With growing social changes in the country occurring, it is necessary for the United States government to adapt to what’s ahead of them. The first amendment gives U.S. citizens the ability to peacefully assembly and protest laws that they deem unjust, and it is the government’s job to listen to these protests and make changes. The people want the legalization of Marijuana, and it is my hope that one day, Marijuana will be legal in all 50 states.

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