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The outdated and ineffective drug laws around the world need to change, and it looks like change is coming for U.S. states considering legalizing or decriminalizing cannabis.
A significant portion of the U.S. population agrees that the drug war is laughable and the current laws reflect that the DEA is out of touch.
The statistics regarding the drug war and the laws against cannabis speak for themselves, which is why 25 states have already taken measures to legalize or decriminalize it. (1)
Here’s What the Current Laws Have Achieved…
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), half of all drug busts in the U.S. are for cannabis. (2) Most people who are busted are average users with small amounts rather than dealers or kingpins. (2)
88% of the 8.2 million arrests from 2001 to 2010 were for simple possession, and in 2010, 52% of drug arrests were for marijuana alone. (2)
That same year, U.S. cops made a bust roughly every 37 seconds. (2) Over 7 million of those 8.2 million arrests were for cannabis. (2)
The arrest rate for cannabis and other drugs reveals a significant racial bias: statistics show that whites and blacks use cannabis at the same rate yet blacks are four times more likely to be arrested for possession. (2)
In Iowa, D.C., Minnesota and my home state of Illinois, a person is 7.5-8.5 times more likely to be arrested for possession due to the color of their skin. (2)
They’re 6 times more likely in Wisconsin and Kentucky; 5 times more likely in Pennsylvania; and 4.5 times more likely in South Dakota. (2)
One of the intentions behind legalization is to reduce these numbers and maybe even improve relations between local communities and police. (3)
The current laws create obstacles to a better life for the individual prosecuted for cannabis. This is exemplified by the fact that being arrested for cannabis can lead to the loss of your job and the denial of public benefits such as a car loan. (2)
The laws are also harmful to local communities that waste money fighting marijuana. (2) Altogether, states waste $3,613,969,972 every year enforcing marijuana laws. (2)
The polls show that the public supports these changes: in states currently proposing decriminalization or recreational/medicinal legalization, recent statistics show that the people are all for it. (1)
Leading Topic of Interest
Alice Salles at Anti-Media reports that the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) recently published data sourced from various organizations which shows that recreational marijuana ballot initiatives are “trending favorably” among voters in most states. (1)
Christopher Ingram, the marijuana policy reporter for the Washington Post, notes that cannabis legalization is a leading topic of interest in the polls. (1) Alice writes that this is unsurprising given how quickly the legal marijuana industry has grown. (1)
The latest poll shows that 50% of Arizona citizens who responded are for legalization. (1) 60% favor legalization in California; 53% in Maine and Massachusetts; and 57% in Nevada. (1)
According to NORML, 10 out of 13 initiatives aimed at some form of legalization have qualified for the upcoming November 2016 electoral ballot. (1) If all of them pass, the number of legal states will double. (1)
Although it’s already legal in some form in 25 states, incarceration rates for possession are still high. (1)
The statistics are favorable, but with the DEA deciding not to remove cannabis from the Schedule 1 category and a large number of Americans still misinformed about the plant, one can’t help but wonder if the proposed laws will pass.
Why Should We Legalize?
Let’s take a look at why legalizing cannabis would be good for society. John H. Richardson at Esquire reminds us that the abuse of alcohol – a legal, regulated substance – kills approximately 75,000 people a year. (3)
Legal prescription drugs kill roughly 100,000 people a year. (3)
Violent crime and accidental death statistics regarding alcohol and prescription drugs follow the same pattern. (3)
Then we have the humble little psychoactive herb known as marijuana. How many people does it kill a year? Zero. How many people has it killed ever? Zero. It’s never killed anyone and it never will. (3) Nevertheless, here in the U.S. it’s a Schedule 1 drug considered as dangerous as heroin.
Citing a New York Times report which stated that a gram of cocaine costed 16% less in 2015 than in 2001 despite “billions” spent on measures to fight cocaine and other drugs, John calls the drug war a “spectacular failure”. (3)
Perhaps one of the reasons behind this “failure” is that certain industries profit from it. Illegal marijuana makes plenty of money for the prison industry: one in five state prison inmates and half of all federal prison inmates are serving time for drug-related offenses. (3)
There are approximately 1.6 million prisoners in federal and state prisons, and at an average cost of $25,000 per prisoner, these prisons receive up to $40 billion. (3) Private prison companies also use tricks to increase the amount of money they receive.
Lack of Respect for Law Enforcement
John points out that the irrational laws around drugs create a lack of respect for law enforcement. (3)
The Law Enforcement Against Prohibition organization believes the average cop on the street corner is one of many citizens victimized by these ridiculous laws he or she is given no choice but to enforce. (3)
Tom Angell, spokesman for the organization, believes a policeman should be seen as a protector for the community. This isn’t the case in urban areas where there’s no communication between police and citizens because police aren’t trusted. (3)
I think this lack of communication and respect for law enforcement is caused by more than just the drug laws, but they do make the situation worse.
Revenue from Legalization
According to John, we could really use the revenue legalization would provide. (3)
Harvard Drug Economist Jeffrey Miron says legalizing drugs would save roughly $41.3 billion a year in government expenditure and prohibition enforcement. (3)
$25.7 billion of that savings would accrue to local and state governments, and over $15 billion of it would accrue to the federal government. (3)
Approximately $8.7 billion in savings would come from marijuana legalization alone, and around $32.6 billion would come from legalization of other drugs. (3)
It’s a War
John reminds us that the drug war is a literal war that takes lives every day. (3)
In the last five years alone in Mexico, police and drug cartels have killed more than 55,000 people. (3)
The Department of Justice says drug cartels are now running distribution networks in over 1,000 U.S. cities and growing marijuana in national forests, making them dangerous for hikers, campers and all manner of visitors. (3)
Americans aren’t exempt from being victimized by the drug war: it’s responsible for over 6,000 yearly deaths in the U.S. (3) The number rises to over 15,000 if you count overdoses. (3)
Don’t Forget Hemp!
The purpose of legalization isn’t just to resolve the harms caused by drug laws, but to open the door for hemp as a global industry. (3)
Hemp is a rich source of paper, oils, plastics and countless other resources. (3) It has the potential to become as popular and widely utilized as it was before cannabis became illegal in the 1930s to prevent its cousin hemp from replacing more profitable crops. (3)
A New Age for Cannabis
Now that people know cannabis isn’t the dangerous drug we were told to fear and stay away from in school and the plant is actually beneficial, they’re asking why politicians and government organizations have been persecuting cannabis users based on lies for nearly a century.
It’s great to see so many states responding to public pressure by legalizing or decriminalizing and taking focus away from fighting cannabis.
It’s all happening pretty quickly. I can’t help but agree with Damian Marley, who said in a recent interview about his purchase of a former California prison he plans to convert into a large-scale cannabis grow area for local dispensaries, that he never expected legalization to get to this level so soon.
We’re in a new age for cannabis. Things are changing faster than expected, and all we can do is try to keep up and continue supporting these changes the world has waited for.
- Alice Salles, “Recreational Weed Will Pass in Every State Where It’s on the Ballot — According to the Polls”, Anti-Media, October 5, 2016 – http://theantimedia.org/recreational-weed-every-state-polls/
- Infographic: “Marijuana Arrests by the Numbers”, American Civil Liberties Union, n.d. – https://www.aclu.org/gallery/marijuana-arrests-numbers
- John H. Richardson, “The Best Reasons to Legalize Marijuana”, Esquire, July 6, 2012 – http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/g1206/why-legalize-marijuana/?slide=7
(Other sources embedded in article)
By Wes Annac, Culture of Awareness, October 13, 2016 – http://tinyurl.com/j6lwgr2