Recently, the editorial board at the New York Times wrote an article comparing prohibition to our nation’s current stance on marijuana. Specifically, they argued that the federal government should “repeal the ban on marijuana” and allow individual states to decide whether it should be legalized in their jurisdiction. The federal ban on marijuana has been in place for over four decades.
But does this argument sense? Are there tangible benefits to our nation repealing the ban? Let’s take a look at five arguments that suggest it would be a sensible move by our government.
1) Legalizing marijuana for recreational and/or medicinal purposes could help stimulate a state’s economy.
Millions of Americans purchase and smoke marijuana every year; however, the vast majority of those sales are funneled into the black market and are obviously not taxed. Taxing marijuana can help states pave withered roads; create new social programs; create new jobs; and provide schools with more resources, among other things.
2) Repealing the ban will help keep non–violent offenders out of prison.
Currently, our country is facing a crisis in regards to overcrowding in prisons. Part of the problem is due to non-violent offenders serving time for drug related offenses. According to the aforementioned New York Times Editorial piece, there were over 600,000 arrests for marijuana in 2012, while arrests for more harmful drugs such as cocaine and heroin were less than a less robust 256,000. An unintended consequence is that the stigma of going to prison makes it difficult for many offenders to get their lives back on track, meaning they turn to a life of crime in order to make ends meet.
3) Substances that are as harmful or more harmful than marijuana are legal.
Specifically, alcohol and nicotine products that are sold ubiquitously in stores. Research has shown that these substances are far more addictive than marijuana, and pose a greater health risk. Marijuana is often referred to as a gateway drug to more harmful substances, but there is a great deal of hyperbole in that statement. Alcohol, cigarettes, and even caffeine could all be considered gateway drugs as well, yet they’re legal, despite the physical dependency and health issues they can cause.
4) Marijuana has medicinal benefits.
Research suggests that marijuana can help limit a person’s physical pain; help people with sleep deprivation; fight against anxiety; stimulate appetite; and relieve nausea, among other things.
5) Prohibition doesn’t work.
As the old adage goes, “if you don’t learn from history, you’re doomed to repeat it.” Right now, we are not implementing the lessons we learned from the Prohibition era. When our government put a ban on alcohol, there were many unsolicited ramifications from the policies.
For starters, it created disrespect for the law, as normal, law abiding citizens became, by definition “criminals’’ when they obtained or sold alcohol. What’s more, rather than combat the “drinking epidemic,” it made things worse, as statistics show that more people were drinking and consuming larger amounts.
Lastly, Prohibition meant fat profits for organized crime groups, as there was obviously a market for illegal alcohol. The same is true today, as crime groups and cartels are able to increase profits and power by supplying the demand of a substance that many Americans believe should be legal.
To paraphrase, this blog post was not designed to be read as a pro-marijuana pamphlet. Rather, we were trying to convey, much like the New York Times article we referenced, that it may be time to re-think the federal ban on marijuana, and let citizens choose for themselves whether it should be legal or at least decriminalized. This is obviously a complex issue and deciding how it will be manufactured and how old a person should be to legally obtain it are among the many ancillary issues that should be discussed another day. Point being, it’s important we get the conversation started.
If you have any current legal issues regarding the possession of marijuana, please do not hesitate to contact Jim Medley & Associates, the most reputable criminal defense firm in the Houston area.