Re: Legislation permitting the use of marijuana.
The introduction of a bill in congress to legalize the use of marijuana has caused ripples in the United States and the world considering the protracted war against the use of drugs. The bill seeks to remove all lawful penalties imposed on individuals possessing marijuana for personal use and other purposes. The act referred to as, “The Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009” eliminates all penalties that were imposed on individuals found with marijuana for personal use and not for income purposes. Possessing 100 grams of the substance shall be deemed for personal use and therefore it will attract no punishment. It also allows the exchange of not more than 100 grams for non commercial purposes.
Considering the crucial role of your office in advising the government on key policy issues, the memo will give you an overview of why the government should back or oppose the legislation factoring in economic, political and idealistic impacts. It will also dwell on the reasons why marijuana was prohibited, the price of banning marijuana and the economic and social consequences of the ban.
The rationale for marijuana prohibition
To may people the foundation of banning marijuana may have been based on a medical or a scientific research or a government hearing to safeguard citizens from a harmful drug, but the reality is very different. The basis of illegalization was unfounded and it was centered on lies and deception. The banning of marijuana was fueled in part by: racism, fear, protection of corporate profits, clueless, incompetent and corrupt legislators and personal greed. Over the centuries, the cannabis plant was used to make clothing, canvas and the cords for wrapping cotton.
The criminalization of marijuana has a Mexican connection in it. In the early 1900 the influx of Mexican-Americans worried western states, with the Mexican uprising of 1910 spilling over the border. As the decade progressed, bad blood developed between large scale farmers and small scale farmers who all depended on cheap Mexican labor. The depression that followed worsened the situation as employment and incentives became scarce. Since most Mexicans consumed cannabis, the state of California seized the opportunity to settle scores with the Mexicans by passing the first marijuana law, banning its use. Other states followed suit with the express intention of targeting Mexican- Americans. The following comments by senators of the time illustrate this point; “all Mexicans are crazy and this stuff [marijuana] is what makes them crazy”, and “marijuana influences negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice” among a few.
Reports from the Office of the National Drug Control Policy and Library of Congress indicate that 14,389 metric tones of marijuana is brought into the united states yearly. The retail price of a gram of the drug is set at$7.87 according to private and public sources. This puts the illegal trade of marijuana at a staggering value of $113 billion. Annually the government loses $41.8 billion of taxpayer’s money on marijuana laws. Local, state and federal government’s receipts contribute 28.7 percent of the gross domestic product as tax revenue. This translates to $113 billion been diverted to the illegal trade, denying tax payers $31.1 billion annually. The cost of apprehending marijuana offenders further takes $10.7 billion per year.
Debate on the national and regional levels continue to rage over whether marijuana control is beneficial in relation to manpower and costs involved. On the national, level there is limited correlation between marijuana arrests and the rate of use. Between 1991 and 2009 marijuana arrests have steadily rose at a rate of 150 percent. Generally the use of marijuana has remained constant over the same period. The arrest of offenders rose by 2.93 percent per year between 2003 and 2007 while that of the users decreased by 0.21 percent annually. Comparing the rate of 3 percent of arrests and 6 percent of users does not necessitate a reasonable control.
The youth and African Americans are the ones widely affected by marijuana arrests. Males between the ages of 15 and 24 contribute 52 percent of total arrests. On the national level the rate of arrest on crime of possession is 248 per 100,000 while that of males is 1,911 per 100,000. The consumption rate of African Americans is 25 percent higher than that of the whites, but the arrest rate is three times higher. The cost of apprehending marijuana offenders is great and raises fundamental questions about functionality of marijuana control. By applying government statistics prohibition of the substance cost the state and local governments $10.3 billion in the year 2006 alone. Of all arrests that take place, 6 percent are related to marijuana meaning that in most states it represents the fifth, sixth, or seventh largest category of offences. An example of how legalization of marijuana is cost effective is the state of California which saved $857 million of taxpayer’s money in the year 2006.
Eight states have allowed the use of cannabis on medical grounds. The role of cannabis in the medical field has come to be accepted by health care providers, the medical fraternity and the institute of medicine. Following the acceptance of access of marijuana for clinical purposes, many patients have reported gains from its use. The ultimate result is that more physicians are recommending the use of cannabis for a number of diseases and ailments. Some of the diseases that can be treated by cannabis as a whole plant or one of its components include; muscle contractions in multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, tourette syndrome, nausea and vomiting in HIV/AIDS and cancer chemotherapy, loss of appetite from cancer, hyperactivity of the bladder in patients with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, and dyskinesia due to levodopa in Parkinson’s disease.
The above beneficial effects of marijuana have aroused interest in the pharmaceutical industry. Many have invested not only on research in artificial modulators of the cannabinoid system but also in the whole plant in Europe and Canada with the primary goal of producing cannabis accepted drugs.
Studies have revealed that passing legislation that permits the use of marijuana does not necessarily increase the levels of consumption. The impact it has on the health of the users is minimal considering that most users take it occasionally. Therefore the dangerous effects related to consumption are related to overdose and not continuous usage. Although there has been no proof to relate cannabis to road accidents, a combination with alcohol is dangerous to road safety.
The laws that outlawed marijuana were founded on differences and sentiments of the time, with no scientific or medical facts to back them; it is unfortunate that they still apply in the 21st century. The advances in technology have shown the potential of the drug in the medical field. Utilizing such a potential requires the decriminalization of its use to facilitate further research.
Statistics have shown that it is costing the government billions of taxpayer’s money to arrest and prosecute marijuana offenders. Such funds could have been used to provide essential services other than pursuing minor offenders who pose no risk to the public. Therefore the government should back legislation aimed at legalizing marijuana because it is more beneficial than prohibition.