Pubdate: Mon, 15 Feb 2016
Source: Iowa State Daily (IA Edu)
Copyright: 2016 Iowa State Daily
Author: Michael Heckle


Since the stunning findings of the Shaffer Commission and Nixon's 
following attempts to disguise the truth from the American people, 
more than 16.5 million people have been arrested for crimes related 
to cannabis. Yet, more than 80 percent of those arrested were charged 
with minor misdemeanors related to the plant, costing tax payers in 
excess of $20 billion a year.

The number arrested and the finical burden on American tax payers has 
done nothing to curb drug use in the United States. Furthermore, the 
legality of marijuana in several states has brought the reality of 
this failed drug policy to the attention of the American people.

After Nixon's contradictory statements following the Shaffer 
Commission in which he lumped homosexuality in with the so called 
"immoral" use of drugs - furthering the discriminatory sentiment seen 
in almost all aspects of marijuana illegality - marijuana found 
itself, for a brief period, in a presidential appeal for legalization.

Former president Jimmy Carter, along with major publications such as 
The New York Times, The Washington Post and The National Review, 
called for the decriminalization of the substance. Carter even went 
so far as to address Congress in 1977, claiming that anti-marijuana 
laws did more harm to users than marijuana itself - a claim that 
would be repeated in the decades to come.

Yet, marijuana's brief period in the light would be cut short soon 
after Reagan took office. For the next 20 years, marijuana would once 
again find itself in the midst of growing punitive policies, fueled 
in most part by the fear of crack cocaine in the late 1980s.

While the impact of the "Just Say No" Campaign - criticized heavily 
for its simplification of the complex issue of drug abuse - was 
successful in lowering drug use overall, marijuana arrests increased 
by 165 percent in the years after the campaign. Now considered a 
pop-culture joke, the "Just Say No" campaigns' impact on marijuana 
use was both ineffective and short-lived.

Yet, as the world entered the 21st century, questions about the 
justifications and effectiveness of marijuana prohibition began to 
enter the mind of the public.

As the various medical uses of the plant began to find scientific 
bases and the use of the drug recreationally became less ostracized - 
thanks in no small part to the comedic side of marijuana use found in 
pop culture - the racist aspects of prohibition began to reveal 
themselves. The rate of marijuana use between blacks and whites in 
the United States is virtually identical, but African-Americans are 
four times more likely to be arrested on a marijuana-related charge.

Current support for a federal repeal of marijuana prohibition is 
supported by 58 percent of Americans. Furthermore, almost 40 percent 
of Americans claim to have used marijuana at least once in their 
life. In 2014, the state of Colorado changed the face of drug policy 
in the United States by legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

In Colorado, any individual over the age of 21 can legally purchase 
and possess small amounts of cannabis for recreational use. Following 
Colorado's legalization, Alaska, Oregon, Washington and the District 
of Columbia would go on to accept marijuana as a legal, recreational substance.

Despite the baseless fear-mongering by legalization critics, the 
effects of marijuana legalization on Colorado have been extremely 
positive. The state is saving millions of dollars on judicial 
adjudicatory cost for marijuana arrests, which are down by almost 80 
percent. Furthermore, arrests for growing and illegally distributing 
marijuana are down by more than 90 percent.

Since legalization, violent crimes in Colorado have fallen by 2.2 
percent, burglaries by 9.5 percent and overall property crimes by 8.9 percent.

While no one can accurately attribute the fall of violent and 
property crimes to marijuana, it's safe to say the regulation of the 
substance has done more to curb drug use and violence than almost 80 
years of prohibition. As regulated dispensaries continue to sell 
marijuana at lower costs and in safer environments, the need for 
illegal street dealers among users has disappeared - this can be seen 
in the statistics above.

Therefore, the crime aspect of marijuana is disappearing. Youth has 
less access to marijuana because of this, and Colorado has seen an 
overall decrease in recreational marijuana use among teens.

The economic effects of legal marijuana are astounding. Colorado has 
one of the fastest growing economies in the United States. 
Recreational marijuana contributed $40.9 million of tax revenue for 
the state within the first nine months of legalization alone, with 
$2.5 million being spent on health education in schools.

The billion dollar industry of legal marijuana not only brings an 
abundance of money into the state but also creates new jobs. Colorado 
has seen its unemployment rates at a six-year low since legalization.

The example set by Colorado and other states is helping rid the 
Nixon-era McCarthyism toward cannabis that the United States has 
endured since in the 1930s. Without including arguments for the 
medicinal benefits of marijuana, the legalization of marijuana has 
proven an effective way to end the wasteful spending on drug 
enforcement and create a new economic boom.

The atmosphere or racism and prejudice behind the prohibition of 
marijuana is coming to a long-awaited end, revealing the true nature 
of this archaic and ineffective drug policy.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom