In 1996 California passed a law to legalize marijuana for patients with AIDS, cancer, and other serious diseases. This event caught the attention of many civilians and has been a significantly heated topic ever since. Chris Cammack, Cody Johnson, and Kayli Vankirk have set out to discuss the benefits of legalizing marijuana. The elements within the discussion are the history, regulations, impact it has on the economy, legal system benefits and the positive/negative effects of marijuana on users.
Many people think that marijuana isn’t beneficial and don’t see the good in it. Little did they know though, that alone in 2010 states together spent somewhere around $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws. According to a new study by the American Civil Liberties Union, entitled “The War On Marijuana In Black and White.” That’s the authors’ “best estimate,” though approximations using different methodologies put the cost as high as $6 billion and as low as $1.2 billion, just in law enforcement alone.
Here are some most startling numbers from the ACLU’s report with regards to the cost of enforcing marijuana laws: The states will spend around $20 billion enforcing marijuana laws over the next six years. $900 is the minimum per-capita cost spent by California, Nevada and Washington on criminal justice for marijuana offenders. The state pays $750,minimum, for each marijuana arrest. The national average cost of housing an inmate arrested due to a marijuana-related offense is $95 per day. The average amount communities spend each day on marijuana supervision is $2. Two dollars doesn’t seem like a lot compared to all of the other numbers but $730 each year from every community adds up. They could put the costs of supervision for marijuana use to crime supervision or lights in a neighborhood to make it safer at night for people who walk. Previous attempts have been made to assess how much energy law enforcement expels enforcing marijuana possession laws. One such report from earlier this year found that the New York Police Department spent 1 million hours enforcing low-level marijuana offenses between 2002 and 2012. Another study from 2012 found that a marijuana-related arrest is made every 42 seconds in the U.S.
According to a 2010 study from Cato, legalizing marijuana would generate $8.7 billion in federal and state tax revenue annually. The researchers assumed that legalized marijuana would be taxed similarly to alcohol and tobacco and that the income earned by pot producers would be subject to standard income and sales tax. Taxes aren’t the only source of revenue that would come from legalizing weed, according to the study. State and local governments also stand to save billions of dollars that they currently spend regulating marijuana use. Washington and Colorado, both states that have legalized the use of marijuana recreationally, will serve as litmus tests to measure the possible fiscal impact of marijuana legalization on a national level. The state of Washington estimates it will generate as much as $1.9 billion in additional revenue in five years due to the legalization of marijuana. Economist Stephen Easton wrote in Businessweek that the financial benefits of pot legalization might be even bigger than Miron’s findings estimate. Based on the amount of money he thinks it would take to produce and market legal marijuana, combined with an estimate of marijuana consumers, Eatson guesses that legalizing the drug could bring in $45 to $100 billion per year. Some argue that the economic argument for pot legalization is already proven by the benefits states and cities have reaped from making medical marijuana legal. Advocates for Colorado’s medical marijuana industry argue that legalization has helped to jumpstart a stalled economy in cities like Boulder and Denver, according to nj.com.
Cody: It should go without saying, if something is causing this much of a money drain on the economy and the impact of the drug is so little, there should be no ban on it. Not only does it cost the states so much money to persecute people who use it, almost 3.6 billion, but they could be taxing it in order to improve their economy and help public systems that are in need.
Kayli: It’s clear from the information presented that the legalization of marijuana would strengthen the economy. Not only would the economy grow from saving and re-channeling the funds that are spent on enforcing laws against marijuana but it would also build upon new revenues. Based upon the economy and government of Colorado, in the first four months of legalization the state took in 10 million dollars in taxes from the retail sales of marijuana. This huge intake of money is utilized by Colorado for anything and everything from school systems to improvement of potholes in their streets. I think that Morgan Freeman, a highly acclaimed and well known actor sums up this concept well.
Not only would new revenues be created for economies, but in Colorado when marijuana was first legalized between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs were created for citizens. It was estimated that at the time it was first legalized that 10,000 people were involved in the legal retail sale of marijuana, and it is now estimated that nearly 25,000 people are involved. Both of these changes in the economy in Colorado combined with the amounts of money that can be saved from the enforcement of marijuana related laws will greatly boost the economy.
Cody: Through out the history of the United States of America marijuana has been used for material, smoked for recreation, and has been subject to numerous experiments and examinations to determine its level of safeness. During the 17th century the government encouraged the growth of hemp in order to produce rope, sails, and clothing. In 1619 the Virginia Assembly passed a law requiring every farmer to grow hemp. Over the next 200 years there were many more laws ordering farmers to grow hemp. In 1850 there were 8,327 hemp plantations, over 2,000 acres, in the United States. Hemp was also used as a form of legal tender in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. Hemp continued to be used for many materials until after the Civil War, when imports and domestic materials were used in place of hemp. Later in the 19th century marijuana became a popular ingredient in medical products and was openly sold.
During this time people in France started using hash as a recreation drug, along with a smaller portion of the United States. The first government regulation involving marijuana came in 1906 with the Pure Food and Drug Act. This act required labeling of any medicines including marijuana. In 1910, after the Mexican revolution, many Mexican immigrants came to the United States. Mexicans had brought a strong influence of marijuana use along with them, making it become associated with them. During this time anti-drug campaigners started using the term “Marijuana Menace”, and began to attribute crimes done by the new immigrants to marijuana. California was the first state to pass a law against marijuana that outlawed “preparations of hemp, or locoweed”. Several other states set up marijuana prohibition shortly after, including, Wyoming, Texas, Iowa, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Arkansas, and Nebraska. All of the laws these states made had wording that specifically targeted the Mexican immigrants. By 1931 29 states had outlawed marijuana marijuana use.
Mexican immigrants were not the only determining factor for the criminalization of marijuana. In the eastern states, Latin Americans and black jazz musicians were the main target of marijuana use. Newspapers in 1934 published articles saying “Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice.” This was one of a several fear tactics used to spread the negative image of marijuana.
During the Great Depression, the huge amounts of unemployment inspired a wave of research that linked the use of marijuana with violence, crime and other negative behaviors. In 1932 the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was established, Harry J. Anslinger was the Commissioner. This research continued to link marijuana to criminal activities to the point that the federal government was forced to take some sort of action. Instead of a federal legislation the Federal Bureau of Narcotics encouraged state governments to take responsibility by adopting the Uniform State Narcotic Act.
Harry J. Anslinger the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, worked to make marijuana illegal. In order to do this he relied on violence and racism in order to draw national attention. He worked with William Randolph Hearst, owner of a big newspaper chain The San Francisco Examiner, in order to spread hate for marijuana. Both Anslinger and Hearst were supported by the DuPont chemical company, along with other pharmaceutical companies, in order to outlaw cannabis. In 1937 Harry J Anslinger brought a plan to congress to outlaw marijuana. He brought along a scrapbook full of Hearst editorials, stories of crazed murderers, and racial slurs. His bill was put under scrutiny by Dr. William C. Woodward, the Legislative Council of the American Medical Association. He criticized the bill’s use of the word “marijuana”, which at this point was a slang word that referred to Mexicans smoking a drug. He also went on about the Federal Bureau of narcotics using the American Medical Association’s statements appear to be endorsing Anslinger’s view when they were not in connection to cannabis. The chairman of the hearing was opposed to Dr. Woodwards view and went on to quote newspaper articles, written by Hearst, to show that they needed to act fast. The legislation was passed after a short time and was made into a federal law on August 2nd 1937, making marijuana illegal.
In 1944, the LaGuardia Committee published a paper that showed marijuana had no effect on violence, insanity, sex crimes, and was not a gate was drug. During World War II the US Department of Agriculture launched the “Hemp for Victory” program. This program encouraged farmers to plant hemp by giving out seeds and granting draft deferments to those willing to stay home and grow the hemp. By 1943 American farmers had registered over 375,000 acres of hemp. While this would point at a turn around for how the government viewed marijuana, but from 1951 through 1956 the federal government set a mandatory sentencing on drug related offenses. First time offenses carried a minimum of 2-10 years and included fines up to 20,000 dollars. This law was kept until 1970 when it was ruled unconstitutional.
In the 1960’s with a change in political views and culture, there was some leniency in marijuana laws. The use of marijuana in white upper middle class citizens along with reports showing the drop did not induce violence helped marijuana policies to loosen. In 1968 the Federal Bureau of Narcotics merged with the Bureau of Dangerous Drugs. In 1972 the Shafer Commission, appointed by President Nixon, considered laws to allow personal use of marijuana and considered that it should be decriminalized. Nixon refused the suggestion, but throughout the 1970’s eleven states decriminalized marijuana and removed most of the penalties. This was a time when marijuana was looking to become legalized, until the parents’ movement against marijuana. This movement came from conservative parents’ group trying to strengthen the regulations on marijuana and prevent drug use by teenagers. Some of the more powerful members worked with the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Their actions helped shift public opinions leading to the War on Drugs in the 1980’s. In the 80’s there were two main events involving marijuana. The first was the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, signed by President Reagan, that reinstituted mandatory sentences for drug related crimes. This legislation raised federal penalties for both the possession and dealing, with penalties based on the amount found. It was later amended to include a three strike policy, which required a life sentence for repeat drug offenders with possibility for the death penalty for large drug operators. The second event came in 1989 with President George Bush Sr. declaring war with drugs on national television.
In 1996 California passed Proposition 215. This allowed for sale and medical use of marijuana for patients with AIDS, cancer and other serious diseases. This law was a stepping stone for many other states to pass laws for medical marijuana, with Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona passing laws in 1998. As of now a total of 23 states have either medical marijuana legalized or personal use decriminalized. In the 2014 Government funding bill the DEA was forbidden from spending any funds on arresting medical cannabis patients in states with medical cannabis laws. This means that the federal government is putting the laws back to the states whether or not they wish to allow medical marijuana in their state, which is a big step in the legalization of marijuana.
Kayli– It has been a massive debate across the United States between millions of citizens whether or not marijuana has positive or negative effects on its users. Like various drugs and medications it has both positive and negative side effects that are present when used. The effects vary based on who uses marijuana, and effects can change each time a person uses the drug. Both types of effects should be deliberated about to make the decision of whether or not marijuana should be legalized. Focusing on the negative effects, marijuana mainly affects the brain. If a user of marijuana smokes the substance, then the THC moves rapidly from the lungs into the bloodstream and then to the brain. Once in the brain, THC affects brain receptors and this effect is what causes users to feel “high.” Once this occurs, a person who utilizes marijuana can experience various symptoms such as impaired body movement, impaired memory, altered senses and changes in their mood. These effects are the most common short-term effects that marijuana presents.
As for long-term side effects the most notable one is delayed brain development. A study conducted a year ago showed that people who used marijuana for extended periods of time such as 5 years and up showed a loss of 8-10 IQ points. If a user consumes marijuana through smoking rather than eating, it can also present breathing problems that match the problems of tobacco users. The negative physical effects of marijuana also include an increased heart rate, which in turn can increase a person’s risk factor for heart attack. Many people have the conception that marijuana is not an addictive drug, but it was found in a recent study that 1 in 11 people who smoke it would become addicted. Those that experience withdraws from the addiction of marijuana can expect to experience anxiety, decrease in appetite, and cravings. Although marijuana has its negative side, it was reported that among other substances such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin it had the lowest addiction rate and least negative side effects.
As for the positive effects of marijuana, it can depend on what a person is using the drug for. The majority of positive side effects are seen in people who use it for medicinal purposes. The most known case of marijuana being used as medication is for cancer patients, and those who experience frequent pain in joints. This is for the reason that chemo creates loss of appetite and extreme nausea, and medicinal marijuana can bring back a person’s appetite and decrease the urge of nausea. Marijuana has also been seen to treat people who experience extreme anxiety, as the THC found in marijuana can sometimes be used to permit relaxation. There are various other cases in which marijuana has been used for medical purposes in patients who experience epilepsy, panic attacks, and arthritis. Overall, the positive effects of marijuana stem from a more medicinal aspect rather than those who utilize it for recreational use.
Chris- In response to Kayli’s post, I believe that there are definitely areas that are positive and negative as Kayli mentioned above. I also believe that the legalization of marijuana should be allowed in todays society. This would be beneficial to healthcare and the longevity of people who are sick with cancer or disease that effects their daily life. Not only does marijuana reduce their pain if it’s present but it is capable of calming their nerves. In my opinion if someone is going through something tragic and life altering they deserve to at least be at peace and pain free. Many people only see the negative views on marijuana that people who use it for recreational use bring to it and don’t realize the real impact it could have. If marijuana could benefit the economy, open spots in a correctional facilities for people who commit worse crimes and relax a cancer patient for a little then I believe it should be legalized.
Cody- For me, marijuana being illegal is a sign of racism and pointless spending. The original point of the ban on marijuana was because of a few individuals pushing false information in order to put down specific groups. There are also few negatives, and the ones that there are are not as bad or equivalent to other products on the market, alcohol and cigarettes. While the uses of marijuana are not well known, there are more than enough reasons for it to not be criminalized. I feel this matter is something that should, and will, be resolved within the next ten years, ending a ban on a product whose only fault was being associated with the wrong group of people.
Kayli– I think the legalization of marijuana comes down to two things, will it boost the economy and will it have more of a negative or positive effect on people. After the compilation of research for this project, I have found that marijuana may be the least of the governments and people’s worries pertaining to negative side effects. While there are a few negative side effects nothing amounts to the seriousness of overdoses and deaths, and the most serious problem associated is breathing issues. I am okay with the issue either way, but I do think since marijuana has been legalized in a few states already it’s only a matter of time before it is everywhere.
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