For the last seventy-three years the federal government has made quite a profit from the production and criminalization of marijuana. Citizens’ tax money continues to be spent for high level investigations, eradicating fields of the plant by burning them, and arresting small time users. Federal marijuana laws should be rescinded because these laws were based on outdated government propaganda that completely ignores all potential benefits, while criminalizing otherwise law abiding citizens at an alarming cost to tax payers.
The United States Government has long used the media as a form of social control in order to transmit public policy. One such message for young people was done in an attempt to end the ‘marijuana craze’, “in 1937, the government endorsed a movie called “Refer Madness” a movie that claimed marijuana was a new drug that was more dangerous than heroin” (Walker, 1992, p.8). The racy black and white film was featured in the late 30s and was initially created to educate young white middle class Americans about the dangers of marijuana.
The film went about calling marijuana the “unspeakable scourge” making claims that people who use it instantly become violent. People in the film would unwittingly smoked marijuana cigarettes appearing immediately dependent on the drug. According to the film the instant the drug is inhaled the user starts laughing uncontrollably until they lose all rationale.
As I watched I did so in horror as I could only imagine what the young people who lived during that era must have thought as they were exposed to this nonsense. However, if I were alive during that time the film that it might have scared me enough to stay away from it and anyone who used it.
Many things have changed since the onset of the marijuana debacle but the last big push for on the “war on drugs” occurred in the late 80s when the country’s overall sentiment of drugs in general was stronger than ever and far from over.
Mandatory minimums and stricter drug laws were passed. I was considered a “young person,” when “President Ronald Regan formally declared a war on drugs in 1986” (Walker, 1992, p. 44) The mass media message aimed at young people was “just say no to drugs,” a saying I still hear to this day. Just say no to drugs was a phrase that First Lady, Nancy Regan, created while her husband was in office. She hoped that educating young people would deter them from using drugs.
Marijuana has been illegal for approximately one-hundred years and it has made for colorful headlines for nearly three-quarters of that century. The earliest government report I could find on file was dated 1972, and happened during the Nixon Commission. That report, The First Report of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse stated “the commission feels that the criminalization of possession of marijuana for personal use is socially self-defeating” (1972 p. ). It also goes on to say that “no evidence exists that marijuana use will cause or lead to the commission of violent or aggressive behavior by the large majority of psychological and socially mature individuals in the general population” (1972, p. 73). It concerns me that our federal government has arrested so many people based on archaic urban myths when there are plenty of many other illegal activities that are in desperate need of attention.
Even though marijuana does not have the side-effects that the DEA claimed it did in the 30s they continue to wage their ‘war on drugs ‘as if it held as much merit today as it did seventy-three years ago. The people, the tax payers, pay the greatest price through jail sentences and fines and live with a mark forever on their criminal record which in turn may make it more difficult for them to find and keep a job.
Furthermore, the commission contends that “from what is now known about the effects of marijuana, its use at the present level does not constitute a major threat to public health” (NCMDA, 1972, p.90) furthermore, “many observers are skeptical about the existence of a cause-effect relationship between marijuana use and anti-social conduct” (NCMDA, 1972, p. 69). In other words there is no scientific evidence that marijuana is linked to anti-social behaviors. One of the arguments the film “Refer Madness” tried to make was that marijuana was the number one cause of anti-social behavior (“the real public enemy number one”) and well known for being the ‘gateway’ drug.
At the rate our government is going nearly everyone in the country will be labelled a criminal in one way or another. One has to seriously question the ethics of the Drug Enforcement Administration and law makers’ public outcries for the legalization of marijuana are ignored and people’s doors continue to be kicked in to bust these alleged drug dealers.
The government seems to be in denial when it comes to the public’s perception of marijuana. The more people learn the more unreasonable it seems that the police are still barging in people’s homes looking for it when they should be guarding our borders keeping the drug out in the first place. It has come to the point where
While marijuana advocate groups grow in numbers take to the streets they can be seen and heard on national news stations across the states demanding the federal government at least allow controlled legalization, or voluntary taxation. Instead of using any opportunity they’ve had to impose taxes on marijuana they chose to continue to criminalize and enforce the possession of it.
Walker (1992, p. 44) states that “the single most important reason for the ineffectiveness of law enforcement strategy in reducing supply has been the enormous amount of money generated by the illicit traffic”. Instead of cracking down on the people bringing the drug into the country the police let that slide so that they can profit off the users.
The laws against marijuana make for good late night comedy and literally make a mockery out of the justice system. Instead of making legitimate money off the drug empire by taxation our government continues to arrest and incarcerate users. When two of our United States Presidents publically admit to using the narcotic for recreational purposes (Clinton, 1992, Obama, 2008) it becomes a serious matter of public policy.
The national commission in a journal of drug issues reports what remains the reality today, “the reality has been that a thriving black market in drugs, run by entrepreneurs, has made the problem worse in every respect: disrespect for the law, disruption of communities, continued appeal of illegal drugs, and prisons bulging with inmates” (McKinney, Cardiner, Journal of Drug Issues, 21(3), 605, 616).
What law makers have failed to realize is that they are working against the will of the people. According to Walker (1992, p.44) “a net benefit of at least $10 billion per year would be realized from tax revenues and savings on law enforcement”. Taxing marijuana would drop crime rates and create more revenue than the DEA. No matter which way you look at the issue it is a tax on the user and society. Innovators have found ways to capitalize on the drug creating a market that allows the justice system to further profit at the expense of the tax payer.
It has been determined that marijuana is not the cause of anti-social behavior that leads to insanity yet it is still illegal. Even though officers can use discretion and “the DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young has been quoted saying marijuana is “the safest therapeutically active substance known to man” (Gerber, 2004) yet people continue to be arrested on a daily basis for possession of marijuana. When the ALJ of the DEA states the drug is not as dangerous as the DEA claims there seems like the only reasonable solution at this point is to legalize and tax it.
Legalization of marijuana is a hot topic that continues to be fought within our borders. I like to compare it to a ‘witch hunt’ in the sense that only a limited number of people that do it on a regular basis are actually caught. Only when a famous person such as singer, Willie Nelson, or Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps does it become a matter of public interest or make the news.
In a report done by CNN, Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, supports legalizing marijuana. “What I think is horrible about all of this, is that we criminalize young people. And we use so many of our excellent resources … for things that aren’t really causing any problems,” said Elders. “It’s not a toxic substance.” The “war on drugs” seems to be a battle we are not winning. The longer the ‘war’ goes on the more likely non-violent otherwise law abiding citizens are to obtain a criminal charge for smoking marijuana. While arrest rates keep rising people continue to use marijuana. At some point I hope that our law makers realize the impact it has on our society as a whole and legalize the plant.
In conclusion, I believe that people need to gather more information on the subject before “taking sides”. Much has been researched and written on the issue that both sides of the argument uses to further their agenda and it is obvious in the end, it all comes down to personal opinions based upon predispositions. For many, the only thing wrong with pot is that it is illegal. For others, its a bad drug simply because it could send you to jail so it must be bad. The debate over the war on marijuana is largely a political issue and that in of itself, should tell any reasonable person to question whether that war is justified considering the huge cost to society overall in waging it. Most people won’t ask that question saying it doesn’t affect them, but it does considerably, if only in their pocket book, come tax time. Finally, in my opinion, we have better more urgent things to use tax dollars on.
Go here to get the summary for HR 2306 Contact your law makers today and tell them to end the war on marijuana! http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-2306&tab=summary http://marijuanaphonebomb.com/legalization/cop-says-legalizing-drugs-will-protect-kids-from-gangs/
Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 – Amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to: (1) provide that such Act shall not apply to marihuana, except that it shall be unlawful to ship or transport from one state, territory, or district (jurisdiction) of the United States to another, or from a foreign country into such a U.S. jurisdiction, marihuana that is intended to be received, possessed, sold, or in any manner used in violation of any law of such jurisdiction; and (2) remove marihuana and tetrahydrocannabinols from the list of Schedule I controlled substances. Amends the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act to exclude marijuana from its prohibitions on the import, export, manufacture, possession with intent to distribute, or distribution of a controlled substance.