High Time For Legalization

For years, marijuana prosecution has troubled a large part of the US population, ranging from smokers to law enforcement, and for good reason. Supporters of legalization provide a long list of arguments that prove the war against pot to be highly unreasonable.

My first argument, and perhaps the most compelling, is that criminalization is impractical and harmful. The criminalization of marijuana use can hold heavy consequences for small-time offenders and fuels an ever-growing, expensive, and frankly, dysfunctional prison system. Many marijuana users are otherwise law-abiding citizens, yet are drastically punished. Moreover, many become hardened criminals through the legal system.

The illegality of marijuana has created an underground market, comparable to that of alcohol during Prohibition. An illegal market has several disadvantages; not only does it prevent taxation that would otherwise be highly profitable to the state, but it is highly wasteful of law enforcement’s time and taxpayer funding. Furthermore, illegal marijuana sales fund other criminal activities. For example, it was well known that the dangerous and powerful Mexican drug cartel heavily profits from marijuana distribution. Yet, just as bootleggers and gangs where hit hard with the legalization of alcohol, so shall those be who sell and illegally distribute marijuana. The war against drugs continues to be a costly and wasteful effort. Legalizing marijuana is simply logical as only further harm can come from the status quo.

Next, an argument that smokers of the drug often cite is the skewed nature of criminalizing marijuana when it is clearly less damaging to the body and mind than alternative legal drugs, such as cigarettes and alcohol. Although marijuana has its own adverse effects, they are far less harmful than that of alcohol and cigarettes. Moreover, marijuana use is not deadly, whereas cigarettes and alcohol can both hold fatal consequences.

When posed with the question of marijuana legalization, many would agree that it is a question of “when” rather than “if.” Already many states have enacted laws that are headed in the right direction. To this date, 19 states have legalized the medical use of marijuana and a few weeks ago, for the first time, voters of  Washington and Colorado took to the polls to legalize the use of marijuana recreationally.

Now, although such progress toward legalization should not be understated, it is important to note that such measures have not and do not necessarily hold water. Regardless of state action, federally, marijuana is as illegal as it has ever been. In the case of Washington and Colorado, the prosecution of marijuana users and state distributers lies with the Obama administration. Although some are hopeful for the future, the administration has permitted the Drug Enforcement Agency to bust numerous medical marijuana clinics in the past and is legally within its full right to do so again. Yet, progress has been made and the case for legalization continues to grow. I, like others, am hopeful for the future, that perhaps one day in the foreseeable future, marijuana will be federally legal for all.

 

Naser Dashti is a second-year undecided/undeclared major. He can be reached at sndashti@uci.edu.