California joined 8 other states in legalizing recreational marijuana. That is no news. Legal cultivation and distribution started on January, 1, 2018 in the Golden State. This development raised a lot of issues: social and security concerns; and a state-federal conflict as regards policies that will regulate the rapidly blooming marijuana industry. Many express fear about the health risks, from repeated use—social costs that could possibly emanate from abuse. More states are joining the list soon. If these fears are real, what other threats could the proliferation of the marijuana industry pose to the country? Are there alternatives to the full legalization of weed?
Marijuana manufacture and distribution is still generally prohibited under federal law. Advocacy for “alternatives to the full legalization of weed” include: (a) to maintain the current system of arresting violators and prosecuting them; (b) to absolutely legalize the possession and consumption of recreational marijuana in private, for adults; (c) to arrest, prosecute, and mete out punitive measures to a large number of cannabis offenders which is estimated to be 11.8 million of American citizens. These suggestions raise more questions. Will these options be effective in tackling the marijuana “menace”? Should a country allocate resources to punish a significant number of its population for the possession and use of a harmless, herbal plant? Marijuana is a plant that can be, and is grown universally. It has many health benefits and low health risks.
Legalizing cannabis seems to be the right thing for the US government to do. And we should understand why this option is far better than the alternatives.
Cannabis is Cultivated in All 50 states
Using basic cultivation techniques, marijuana can be, and is grown both indoors and outdoors by both adults and minors. It doesn’t require special conditions to grow. This makes it possible for just anyone to violate the cannabis prohibition law without being caught. For this reason alone, criminalizing marijuana would not be an effective regulation method. American authorities have arrested, prosecuted and punished marijuana offenders by imprisonment and seizure of properties. This is an effort to reduce its use, limit its availability, increase its price, and discourage potential customers. Current statistics reveal that the process has not yielded any significant positive results in the last 10 years. On the contrary, the price of marijuana dropped and marijuana products have become more available to a larger number of users.
Prohibition of Marijuana is Costly for Society
Sanctions for marijuana possession and use are not evenly distributed across the population. The criminalization of cannabis contributes to racism. The people mostly affected are African Americans, and they pay the highest costs as compared to the Whites. This opens an entirely different angle to how marijuana prohibition affects society as a whole. Also, asset seizures from convicted dealers enrich the authorities in a way that cannot be considered to be proper. This raises questions of corruption and public safety.
The Real Problems of Marijuana Abuse are not Addressed
Every 1 out of 5 offenders are arrested for simply being in possession of the substance. Recreational users of marijuana don’t cultivate or distribute it. They are not the real offenders. The implication is that civil rights are violated, and many offenders get to incur incredible costs from attorney’s fees, fines, and other charges stipulated by the court. Marijuana violation arrests constitute the vast majority of arrests made annually. This means that fiscal and organizational resources are expended. The federal drug control budget grew from $4.6 billion in 1991 to $9.5 billion in 2002—an increase that corresponds with the arrests made that decade.
Proponents of marijuana prohibition argue that legalizing weed will not put an end to the drug menace in America. The authorities are still faced with the problem illicit trafficking of other drugs, e.g., heroine, cocaine, crystal meth, etc. They also argue that young people get the message that weed is good for them. That is however, a straw man fallacy—creating a pseudo-context and attacking it instead of addressing the real issues. The real question, however, is: what are the social, legal, and economic effects of fully legalizing marijuana for recreational use? But to answer that question honestly, the implications are in no way adverse.