Positive and Negative Effects of Marijuana Decriminalization, Legalization

By Janelle Norman

The harsh penalties for drug-related crime, commonly known as “the war on drugs” was put in place in many countries with the intention of decreasing the amount of people who abuse or sell them.

What happened instead was a large increase of drug-related violence, corruption and distribution, and very little change in the amount of people who abuse drugs.

Compare this to the Prohibition era in the United States during the 1920s and 30s. Alcoholism rates didn’t improve, but what did happen was a wave of organized crime, most notably the Sicilian Mafia, who served as an underworld source for alcohol.

Many Latin American and Caribbean countries have experienced waves of drug-related crimes after enforcing laws against them.

As a result many countries, including the United States are starting to consider retracting these anti-drug laws.

On February 24, possessing and cultivating small amounts of marijuana became legal in Alaska. Growing small amounts of weed is now legal in Washington, DC as of February 26.

Although these are the only states that have legalized the drug for recreational purposes, 19 other states have legalized consuming and smoking weed for medical purposes.

Very few people have a true understanding on the stark difference between legalization and decriminalization. Whether a drug is legal or decriminalized has effects on policing. While many people are either rejoicing or denouncing these decisions, it’s important to realize that either decision allows for weed to be sold, consumed or cultivated with impunity.

For example, in countries like Jamaica, which recently decriminalized the possession of at most two ounces of weed on February 25, a person can still be fined if they carry or use it in public.

What has changed for Jamaica is that anyone caught possessing small amounts of weed can’t be arrested or charged in court.

Decriminalization is different depending on the country or state, but what is general is that a person cannot be arrested or sentenced in court for possessing weed as long as it’s within the area’s limits.

In Uruguay, where possession of small amounts of weed are decriminalized, a person can get their license revoked for weed possession.

In Portugal, a person can be ordered to take classes to help prevent them from abusing marijuana.

In Alaska, Colorado, and Washington DC, weed is legalized, so while there are fewer restrictions for weed possession, there are still certain boundaries that apply. For instance, Alaskans can cultivate and use weed for recreational and medical purposes without being arrested or tried in a court of law, but getting caught selling weed can be fined.

Oddly enough, in Washington DC’s legalization laws only legalize the possession of weed, but not the buying or selling of it.

Colorado has probably been the most controversial case of marijuana legalization. While Colorado’s laws on possessing weed are relaxed, Colorado’s bordering states, especially Nebraska have actually enforced stricter policing to prevent Colorado’s influence from spreading.

According to B.J Wilkson, the police chief of Sidney, Nebraska, illegal drug trafficking has increased dramatically since Colorado’s decision. Marijuana-related crimes have increased 50 percent since last year.

Oklahoma has joined Nebraska in outrage and sued the state altogether. Both states even took this issue to the Supreme Court, demanding that Colorado makes weed illegal again.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, more arrests are made for non-violent drug offenses than all violent crimes combined. A vast majority, specifically about 90 percent of these drug arrests are marijuana. The Huffington Post reports that one person is arrested for marijuana every 42 seconds in the U.S.

There are financial benefits to both legalizing and decriminalizing weed. About 7.5 to 10 billion in tax dollars are spent arresting and charging people for drug offenses.

The U.S could save an estimated 13.7 billion in tax dollars if weed was legalized. Colorado brought in a whopping 53 million dollars in tax revenue since selling weed in dispensaries.

Although there are benefits in decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana, there are certain aspects that are just as ineffective as criminalizing the drug. Although Colorado made 53 million dollars last year, it was much less than the economist predicted, around 184 million dollars.

Legal weed sold at dispensaries in Colorado had a 28 percent tax rate. Because of the high price, many people are still purchasing weed illegally for the affordability.

What decriminalization and legalization both fail to do is dismantle large organized drug-distribution groups.

Often times, these laws punish the drug users or individual dealers but don’t go as far as to tackle the root of the problem.

So while they both prevent unnecessarily strict policing and saves a country billions of dollars annually, they are just as ineffective as making weed criminal when it comes to eradicating the source of the drug problem.

Categories: Politics

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6 replies »

  1. The war on cannabis consumers has been raging for more than 80 years.

    Educated people know that Cannabis prohibition has never been about public safety. Prohibition has always been about money and lots of it.

    Please demand full legalization and nothing less! Let’s end this insidious war as soon as possible!

  2. The “War on Marijuana” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

    Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Marijuana”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It’s a no brainer.

    The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

    Marijuana is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

    Even The President of the United States has used marijuana. Has it hurt his chances at succeeding in life? If he had gotten caught by the police during his college years, he may have very well still been in prison today! Beyond that, he would then be fortunate to even be able to find a minimum wage job that would consider hiring him with a permanent criminal record.Let’s end this hypocrisy now!

    The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less marijuana “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

    Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

  3. Don’t be fooled by “decriminalization” because citizens are still going to be treated like common criminals for marijuana under it. This is what Kevin Sabet wants.

    Citizens will STILL be forced to the dangerous black market and a shady illegal street drug dealer to purchase their marijuana. Getting caught buying it is STILL a crime they will arrest and jail you for. Then, they will also most likely try to FORCE you to either mandatory community service and/or rehab, and if you don’t comply, guess what? JAILTIME!

    They also fail to mention the additional huge cost of court costs which can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars on top of the relatively small ticket/fine.

    If you fail to pay these expensive court costs you will be in “the system” as a criminal. With a warrant out for your arrest and incarceration.

    No thanks!

    Also, we will still be wasting our tax dollars sending police around to ticket marijuana users and wasting police manpower and resources.

    Instead of allowing our police the time, manpower and resources to protect us all from real, dangerous criminals who actually commit crimes with victims and pose a real threat to society.

    Why else do you think some politicians are so EAGER to “decriminalize”, instead of LEGALIZE?

    Don’t Let’em Fool Us!!!

    If you can’t purchase it legally, then it isn’t legal.

    If you have to fear a monetary fine/ticket which if you don’t pay and/or show up in court to handle, you then become a criminal with a warrant out for your arrest, and when convicted (yes convicted, as in crime.) you will then be forced into free manual labor and/or forced drug rehabilitation to be used as another statistic prohibitionists love to flaunt about supposed “marijuana addicts”, then….No, it’s not legal!

    This will not suffice! Getting caught purchasing marijuana is still considered a serious “drug deal” and you will be prosecuted for it!


  4. “Just as ineffective”

    Based on ONE YEAR of retail sales, in ONE STATE, dismantling large organized criminal organizations is an unreasonable expectation, and an effort to find fault where there is none.

    • The legal cannabis market is barely established in Colorado. It has only been a year and they have already received millions in tax (plus millions in savings from less arrests, prosecutions, and incarcerations).

      Including industry fees, Colorado has received $76 million from legal cannabis in 2014 on $700 million in sales. This is millions, probably well over a billion when production and distribution is included, that did not go to fuel a crime-ridden underground market that also sells hard drugs. They only need to lower their tax rate to accelerate this transition of the market from the underground to legitimate businessmen who can be easily monitored, actually check I.D., pay taxes, and follow other regulations.

      Cannabis sales continue to shift to the legal market in Colorado:

      Monthly Colorado License, Fee, And Tax Income From Recreational And Medical Cannabis

      Total Total Rec Total Med
      Jan: 3,519,756 2,109,876 1,409,880
      Feb: 4,092,575 2,316,234 1,776,341
      Mar: 4,980,992 3,187,047 1,793,945
      Apr: 5,273,355 3,730,786 1,542,569
      May: 5,715,707 3,921,199 1,794,508
      Jun: 6,522,085 4,650,861 1,871,224
      Jul: 7,407,450 5,658,190 1,749,260
      Aug: 7,741,167 5,976,507 1,764,660
      Sep: 7,232,870 5,534,084 1,698,786
      Oct: 7,642,800 6,222,903 1,419,897
      Nov: 7,465,568 5,991,873 1,473,695
      Dec: 8,558,141 6,933,785 1,624,356

      Total: 76,152,466 56,233,345 19,919,121

      [SOURCE: Colorado Department of Revenue, “Colorado Marijuana Tax Data – State of Colorado Marijuana Taxes, Licenses, and Fees Transfers and Distribution”]

      There is Colorado cannabis leaving the state and supplying other states, but this should not be considered part of Colorado’s black market as it is not sold in Colorado. Once the rest of the U.S. legalizes cannabis, its entire underground market will greatly shrink just as was the case for alcohol when it was legalized in 1933.

  5. No, this article is all wrong. there is no drug-related crime, violence, and corruption. Aspirin is a drug. Where are the aspirin-related problems? The crime, violence and corruption are due to prohibition, not to molecules. What is the cure for prohibition-related problems? Repeal prohibition, restore liberty.

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