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Taylor Campbell Camille Pack English 2010 April 10, 2014 Marijuana Legalization and Regulation The issue

of marijuana legalization has been in the forefront of controversy as of late. In 2012, America saw both the states of Washington and Colorado legalize marijuana for recreational use. In California, marijuana is legalized for medical purposes but in 2010, Proposition 19 was struck down which would have allowed cannabis-related activities. (Drug Policy Alliance) There is no doubt that during the election period of 2014, legalization will be a topic of much debate. There are many benefits of the legalization of marijuana. First off, it will be a tremendous cash crop for both states and the federal government if regulated. Marijuana criminalization inexplicably harms the youth as well as the minorities of this country and by decriminalization; our prisons will be less overcrowded. Drug organization and cartels would have that part of their revenue severed which can be debilitating. In my opinion, the many benefits of marijuana legalization outweigh the consequences on almost every level. As stated before, Colorado has recently elected the recreational use of marijuana. The law went into effect at the beginning of this year, and as a result, the state has raked in about $3.5 million in taxes and is expected to receive more than $134 million by the end of the year. (Israel) Jeffrey Miron, an economics professor at Harvard University, states that legalization of marijuana could lead to $15 billion to

$20 billion per year in tax revenue across the country. Not only will the federal government have a new source of income, but it will also save billions on law enforcement costs. Investments in both medical and recreational marijuana are also very lucrative. According to a report done by ArcView Market Research, sales from legal marijuana could be as much as $2.3 billion by the end of the year. With investments in the marijuana industry, regulated taxes, and the overwhelming sales figures, legal marijuana can prove to be very profitable in our society. There are many states that are putting some form of marijuana legalization propositions in the upcoming elections. States like Alaska and California are looking to legalize recreational marijuana while states such as New York and Florida are looking into the medical marijuana field. (Israel) There is quite a difference in public opinion when it comes to marijuana as over 55 percent of the population favor some form of legalization, considerably up from just 16 percent 25 years ago.

(Steinhauser) In my opinion, it seems that our nation is heading in the direction of legalization. Similar to prohibition in the 1920s, criminalization of marijuana has not worked and the population is starting to take notice. In the 1970s the federal government implemented the war on drugs. It costs the taxpayers $51,000,000,000 a year. Simply, if someone is convicted on a drug related crime, that conviction carries a minimum sentence. This is very different from other convictions in our judicial system where typically a judge will hear all the evidence and hand out a sentence based on their own conclusion. This means that someone who is convicted of a violent crime such as rape or battery can earn a lighter sentence than someone who is carrying marijuana. There is even a possible death penalty for someone who grows 60,000 marijuana plants. (Belville) I believe this is up surd and needs to be done away with.

The war on drugs has not been kind to minorities in our country. Rates of incarceration of young African Americans and Latinos is significantly higher than white people, although, rates of marijuana usage and availability are not disproportionate along racial lines. (Drug Policy Alliance) Our prison system is overwhelmed with people of color on convictions of petty marijuana charges. Law enforcement is concentrated in urban areas where someone of color is more likely to be searched and arrested for marijuana possession. Legalization would cut incarceration numbers across the board and leave room for more violent offenders. Legalization of marijuana would also deter discrimination and racial inequality when it comes to convictions and law enforcement. Cartels and drug organizations have been smuggling and distributing marijuana in the United States for many years. Just like mobsters controlled alcohol during the prohibition period, violent cartels now control the marijuana industry here at home. Why would we not take back control? With federal regulation, we cut off the legs major drug organizations. Many of the organizations are from Mexico where over 70,000 deaths associated with the drug war were reported in 2006. (Drug Policy Alliance) I have seen on many occasions, typically in the media, where dealers and people high up in drug organizations are against legalization because it will take money away from their business. If America truly wants to win the war on drugs then we should legalize marijuana and take the money out of the pockets of violent criminals and organizations. Whenever you are talking about a mind altering substance, or inhaling smoke, there are always consequences. Marijuana can cause many health problems

including brain function, addiction, and lungs and airway problems. Marijuana can have a negative effect on the brain and compromise task completing abilities. It can lead to mental health issues such as psychosis, which is a disease that causes delusions. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)Marijuana is also continuously thought of as a gateway drug. Many people believe that marijuana use can lead to more severe and dangerous drug use. Although all of these handicaps of marijuana use are detrimental, it is hardly an argument against legalization. What makes these consequences different from a drug like alcohol? There is no doubt that if marijuana is legalized, it will need to be monitored in a conservative way. Another argument against marijuana legalization is the morality of allowing usage of the drug. The use of marijuana has typically been thought as deviant in our society and is against the morals of many Americans. People often turn to their religion on matters of morality and mind-altering substances. Habitually, religious leaders and followers make their voices heard on political issues such as legalization. In my opinion, it is not a moral issue; its a freedom issue. One should be able to choose to partake of the drug and the morality of it should be left up to the individual, not the public. If we want to regulate marijuana on a federal scale, we need to just look at the blueprint set out by the state of Colorado. As stated before, Colorado is already benefiting from the tax revenue and as the market grows, so will the cash flow. Regulation is taking money away from criminals and giving it to the people, which can have a beneficial impact on street crime and other criminal activity. According to a report from the federal government (Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention), Colorado has seen a decrease in teen marijuana use that can be attributed to regulation. Also it is limiting exposure to more dangerous drugs. When unregulated, a user attempts to obtain the drug illegally through street dealers and other individuals who usually have other substances for sale. Marijuana regulation can help keep more addictive, dangerous drugs off the street. (Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol) Marijuana needs to be regulated similar to alcohol. There needs to be provisions in place to deter operating machinery under the influence and keep the drug out of the hands of adolescents. If a user is arrested for driving under the influence, the penalty should be similar to that of someone under the influence of alcohol. Venders of the drug should maintain good standing with the local government and complete mandated inspections. Advertisement should also be regulated. Obviously ads featuring marijuana should not be displayed in a child dominated market and should be kept in the adult arena. This is a point of much debate as to where, or if, the drug should be advertised. Marijuana legalization and regulation is going to be difficult, as our country has never done it before. The profits will make it worthwhile, and we need to just look at how we regulate other items such as alcohol and use that as a road map. The cash flow, the end of the war on drugs, and cleaning up the streets and drug organizations are all items this country needs. We just all need to have an open mind.

Bibliography
Belville, Russ. AlterNet. 2014. 2014 <www.alternet.org/story/156196>. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adolescent and School Health. 20 March 2014. 2014 <www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/>. Drug Policy Alliance. Marijuana Legalization and Regulation. 2014. 2014 <www.drugpolicy.org/marijuana-legalization-and-regulation/>. Israel, Steve. "Marijuana, The Cash Crop That May Be Headed For Your State." Wicked Local (2014). National Institute on Drug Abuse. DrugFacts: Marijuana. 2013. 2014 <www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana>. Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Regulating Marijuana Works! 2012. 2014 <www.regulatemarijuana.org>. Steinhauser, Paul. "CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring." CNN Politics (2014).