Marijuana – is it criminal?

Laws are designed to change with the morals and values of society. Nothing is more true than when examining a history of criminal laws within the United States of America. This is seen most recently in the patchwork of laws developed concerning marijuana use across the country.

States have different perspectives on medical marijuana, and recreational marijuana, and it remains a contentious issue – the use of marijuana was up for a general state-wide vote in the most recent election. Most states have, at least on the books, allowed for use of medical marijuana, but many of them have not allowed transfer for medical purposes, resulting in a rather confusing status.

Some states, such as Nebraska and New York, have decriminalized the use of marijuana, meaning if you are caught with it by police, it will be only a civil issue. Texas has decriminalized it, but only in certain cities – Dallas and Houston, primarily. And some states have legalized it completely, for both medical and recreational purposes. If you’re interested these states are: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Maine and Massachusetts. There are a minority of states that have completely outlawed all use of marijuana within its borders.

Proponents of legalization of marijuana argue society can benefit in multiple ways by legalizing all marijuana use. First, many argue that not criminalizing marijuana will reduce the effects criminalization currently has, which disproportionately affects young people and people of color, often having life-long effects from one time of possession. Next, by monetizing and legalizing the herb, proponents argue it will create jobs – creating one of the largest cash crops in the country. With marijuana no longer a crime, law enforcement resources will be used more successfully on more serious and violent crimes, as well as relieving the burden on our stretched court systems. Sales tax or tax specific to marijuana sales will boost state coffers to take care of other public needs. Finally, it will lower the risk of dangerous marijuana – laced with other drugs that can be highly addictive and harmful. By regulating the market marijuana can be safer, with consumers aware of what they are using, as well as its effects.

While it is true that most states have received a huge financial boon in the wake of legalizing marijuana, there are negative consequences that come along with it Looking at Colorado as an example, the state has experienced a spike in edibles-related ER visits, and accidental ingestions by children and pets causing illness. Several law suits have been filed by contiguous states, arguing that their law enforcement resources are unfairly stretched in monitoring their own population’s drug use, as they travel between states. Drugged-driving incidents, loss of productivity and even gang-related crime has called the financial profits and benefits of Colorado into question. Homelessness has exploded in Colorado, and there is some suspicion that tourists come to Colorado simply to enjoy the herbal remedies, rather than the natural wonders and scenery.

This could be attributed simply to a new industry, working out the growing pains of high regulation. Or it could be a sign that using an intoxicant to stoke up an economy is a risky move, particularly when over half the rest of the country still calls marijuana use illegal. It remains to be seen how legalizing marijuana will affect the economy and the overall criminal and prison population in the country; however, it seems likely that the push to legalize will continue to make it on the ballot for public debate and vote, at least for the foreseeable future.

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