The legality of marijuana has been a hotly debated subject for decades. Until the government of US and many other established countries outlawed its use, smoking marijuana had been a widespread activity for thousands of years. Marijuana has been illegal in America since 1923. Since the authorities banned the recreational use, sale, and growth of this substance many groups have sprung up and protests have been organized to fight for the right to possess and use the plant.
Opinions appear to be pulled in two directions: that the use of marijuana is an extreme social, moral, and health ‘danger’ that must be stamped out, or that it is an innocuous, pleasant pastime that possesses health benefits and should be legalized. It may be some time before all the truths concerning the use of this ancient drug in our society are fully known. An understanding of the history and attitudes of peoples who have long used the plant may play a large role in furthering our handling of the situation in modern society.
It behooves us to consider the role of marijuana in man’s past and to learn what lessons it can teach us: to maintain wise restraint in our urbanized, industrialized life or, to free it for general use. It appears that Marijuana may be with us well into the future. The decriminalization of marijuana refers to removing drug offences – concerning marijuana – from criminal law rather than completely legalizing and allowing public use of the drug whether regulated or not. This argumentative essay will outline: the steps towards decriminalization, the repercussions displayed in an argument, counter argument form, current status on it, and an interview with someone closely tied to the matter.
It seems a little harsh for people to say ‘well it is illegal, so they are a criminal’. This is a victimless crime! Of course people will say the victim is the user. Isn’t the victim “One who is harmed by or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency, or condition”? Yes, smoking marijuana can lead to circumstances that cause suffering, however these circumstances are not brought on by the users’ actions, rather they are forced upon them by the law, judging and punishing these actions. Another argument is that using marijuana is harmful to the user and therefore whoever uses it becomes victimized.
The intake of substances and the social acceptability of the action is a continuous issue in current legislation, specifically, ‘where to draw the line’. It is deemed that the intake of heroin is illegal but the intake of alcohol is not. The question to the legislation is this, ‘is marijuana so harmful or addictive that it should not be acceptable.’ According to precedent namely the addictive qualities of cigarettes and the intoxicating qualities of alcohol, marijuana should, in all rights be at the least decriminalized. Marijuana does not posses the qualities of a physically addictive substance and a Senate report states that it is not harmful to one’s health.
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Just say no.
These three words have been permanently ingrained into our collective consciousness our entire lives. We have been force-fed the notion that illegal drugs such as cocaine, LSD, and marijuana are terrible societal and moral evils which must be eradicated from the face of the green earth. Our government has spent and will continue to spend billions of our precious tax dollars every year on the war against drugs. Every other TV spot is a public service announcement warning us against the dangers of drugs and every night on the news innumerable murders, muggings and burglaries are paraded in front of us, all attributed to - you guessed it - drugs.
And all of which, we are told, can be avoided if we do one simple thing: just say no. But let's be realistic. If you approach the typical poor teenager and offer him a thousand bucks a night hustling crack on the street, he's not going to just say no. He's going to become a dealer, and not because the drugs make him do it. He'll do it because he has no other choice. And the only reason Joe Junkie has to rob houses to get money for heroin is because his dealer keeps jacking up the prices, since there are no laws to prevent this. In fact, just about every evil attributed to drug abuse is actually brought about by some underlying social problem. And most of these problems can be blamed on our government, the same guys who are telling us to just say no.
There will always be drugs, and therefore there will always be people who will use them. Nothing we can say or do will change that. Therefore, we are presented with only one solution:
This may seem like a very extremist point of view, and many of you will have a knee-jerk reaction against it, but hear me out. We can no longer continue to wage this futile and senseless war against drugs because there is no way that we can possibly win. No matter how much money we allow our government to waste on Coast Guard patrols and congressional committees, there will always be a demand for drugs, and therefore a supply. We must learn to give up struggling and accept drugs as a part of society.
However, this should not be regarded as a compromise. On the contrary, legalization could be of great benefit to our society. Consider:
1. The American drug dealer would become extinct. After all, why buy from a street hustler when you can get a cheaper, better-quality product at the nearest pharmacy?
2. Legally-produced narcotics would be subject to government regulation, thereby keeping the product purer than the average street junk and possibly reducing the chance of user overdose.
3. Without dealers to worry about, police would be left with more time to combat more serious crimes.
4. The legal production and sale of drugs could bring thousands of new jobs into the country.
5. Narcotics sold over-the-counter would be taxed, contributing millions of dollars to our sagging economy.
6. The billions of dollars we spend every year keeping drugs out of the country could be redirected into programs for the homeless, the preservation of the environment, better public education, drug prevention, and AIDS research.
It's about time we as Americans faced reality. Drugs are an undeniable part of our society; we cannot continue to fight against them. Legalizing drugs will cut down on street crime, strengthen our economy, and quite possibly improve our way of life.
The time has come to legalize drugs. The time has come to just say yes. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.