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The criminalization of marijuana began with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Since the criminalization of the plant cannabis sativa, many attempts have been made to appeal the criminalization of it and legalize the Schedule I drug. With the upcoming elections of 2010 only a month and a half away, the heated debate of legalization vs. criminalization is taking rise as the proposition moves its way to the ballot. Whether we should legalize marijuana depends on the impact it will have on criminal activity, the benefit of legal taxed sales, and the medical value of marijuana.
Marijuana is not legal, yet millions of taxpayer’s dollars are being allocated to the cleanup of illegal cultivation farms in state and national parks; and there are several. Marijuana farms are prospering with help from propane tanks, coils of irrigation, and chemicals for fertilization. Unfortunately, it is costly to cleanup these sites and takes years to rehabilitate the ones damaged with chemical-eroding effects (Roosevelt). With the hopes of legalization comes the burden of devastation for these parks and the cost to keep the wrong plant and criminals out of the right kind of garden.
Perhaps why crime is associated with medical marijuana is where the marijuana can be bought. Marijuana dispensaries are legal operating stores that sell marijuana to patients with medical marijuana cards. These dispensaries increase demand for police as they can disrupt nearby businesses, lower property values, and increase illegal drug use. Chris Gallagher is chief of the Los Banos Police Department. He said robberies and violent crimes occurred regularly at dispensaries in Humboldt County, a notable landmark in the pot-smoking world, and that dispensaries had proven to be extremely disruptive (Reilly). If dispensaries only attract robberies and violent crime then an easy solution would be to increase surveillance and patrol of dispensary areas to decrease these occurring crimes.
Many do debate that the legalization of marijuana will indefinitely lead to increasing criminal activity. However, the belief that marijuana allows people to become aggressive, irrational, and insane and in turn impairs one’s judgment to the point of criminal activity is absurd. Marijuana does not cause crime. According to a published article in Atlantic Monthly, a study was conducted by two researches, one from the RAND Corporation and the other from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, testing the belief that marijuana consumption leads to criminal-like behavior. The study concluded marijuana may not make users more likely to break the law, but it probably makes them more likely to get caught (Reefer). The study proved that marijuana users were likely to be apprehended by police, but that marijuana users were not more likely to commit crimes than non-users.
The Drug Policy Alliance Network is one of the nations leading organizations committing to ending the war on drugs and providing new drug policies based on science, compassion, health, and human rights. According to their website drugpolicy.org, the belief that marijuana causes crime and induces one with aggression and violence is a myth. “The vast majority of marijuana users do not commit crimes other than the crime of possessing marijuana. Among marijuana users who do commit crimes, marijuana plays no causal role. Almost all human and animal studies show that marijuana decreases rather than increases aggression” (DPAN). Since most marijuana related arrests are for possession, the legalization of it will cancel out the possession charges and mathematically reduce the amount of criminal activity.
Deficit, bankruptcy, and inflation are terms we Americans now incorporate into our daily lives. Our national debt increases exponentially with each year and still no solution or compromise is being ascertained. Many promote the taxation of marijuana to increase federal revenue. However, according to a comment made by Joel W. Hay, professor of Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Southern California, “It is a fallacy that pot legalization will provide badly needed state and federal revenue through taxation of decriminalized marijuana …[and that] economic costs will increase by amounts far greater than any possible revenue gains” (Dubner). Repudiating this statement, is the common knowledge that taxing a large-profit-generating crop does provide money; and since money is scarce in our recovering country, implementing extra money does not seem so worthless.
Certain states such as California, are currently experiencing a huge deficit with little alternatives for increasing revenue. It is without ambiguity that marijuana has become the biggest cash crop in the United States, bringing in more annually than corn and wheat combined (Heffter). Blatantly, taxing the nation’s number one crop is one of the best ways to decrease our state and national deficit. According to an article published in the Contra Costa Times, advocates said legalization and regulation could bring as much as $1.4 billion for the state of California. (Richman). With California’s budget deficit exceeding $24 billion, allocating $1.4 billion does not seem tumultuous. An article from the Economist states that on top of that there would be lots of cannabis-driven tourism (Puff). Illegal suppliers, smugglers, and dealers are illegal proprietors reaping huge profits that sustain and establish their businesses; profits our nation can obtain if legalized and regulated.
What truly impedes the legalization of marijuana, and why it was even decriminalized in Proposition 215, is the medical value of marijuana for disease stricken and terminally ill patients. It is clear that no one has ever died of THC poisoning, so the concept of dying or going belligerently insane like “Reefer Madness” is a fallacy (Cloud).
According to an article published in New York Times, Marijuana reduces pressure on the eyeball by 25% for glaucoma patients, reduces painful spasms for patients with multiple sclerosis and trauma, and reduces pain for postoperative patients (Cloud). This claim is also supported by NORML the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the organization states marijuana provides symptomatic relief for a number of medical conditions, including nausea and vomiting, stimulating appetite, promoting weight gain, and diminishing intraocular pressure from glaucoma. Patients and physicians have also reported that smoked marijuana provides relief from migraine headaches, depression, seizures, insomnia and chronic pain, among other conditions (NORML). Cannabis Sativa is not a plant that has no medical benefit for the ill and terminal. Marijuana is a pain reliever that is grown naturally and prospers without the expensive use of marketing tactics, manufacturing, processing, and packaging. Yet, strong opposition claims it has no benefit.
The Drug Enforcement Administration states marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the U.S. Due to the high abuse it is a Schedule I drug, meaning, there is a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit. Awkwardly, PCP, Ecstasy, Heroin, and LSD are in the same Schedule I category. The DEA also states that marijuana consumption is not healthy as it highly alters one’s judgment and damages the lungs if smoked, the most common way of consumption. The DEA stands by this defense because of the 2001 case United States v. Oakland Cannabis Club. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled marijuana has no medical value stating, “In the case of the controlled Substance Act, the statute reflects a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception outside the confines of a government-approached project” (Supreme Court of the United States, Syllabus: United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative ET AL). The evidence against this ruling is compelling, but the DEA will not accept research-supporting marijuana as a pain reliever.
Cannabis Sativa has caused quite the commotion since its prohibition began over half a century ago. Many still argue that it is a factor in increasing criminal activity, that it damages the body, and will create even more problems and financial ruin if legalization is applied. Yet, marijuana is unlike other drugs; it is not chemically processed and manufactured, presenting itself in a conveniently sized box with an FDA approved label on the front. It is a plant that has been growing wildly and naturally for thousands of years. It is a resource that does not increase crime, a plant that can provide much needed money; it is an alternative that can relieve the pain of millions across the world. “Pot,” “Weed,” “Mary Jane,” marijuana, Cannabis Sativa, whatever it may be called, is merely a plant that if legalized would provide relief for the one’s whom need a release. It is our right and of good belief to explore, any means that can remedy our avoidable sufferings.