Marijuana has been ranked as the third most used recreational drug in the US, with about 100 million people have used it in America. About 25 million individuals used marijuana last year, while approximately 14 million Americans use marijuana regularly even with the harsh laws regulating its use (Morgan et al., 2013). The legal status of marijuana has been a subject of interest and has been debated over and over for more than four decades now. There have been policies proposed that, if passed, would allow people to possess marijuana in small quantities. Those that are against the liberalization of the existing laws that prohibit the drug argue that the drug is not congenial. They support their argument by basing it on the recent psychopharmacologic information that demonstrates that most features of cannabis are similar to those of other drugs that have agreeably been categorized as illicit.
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Problems Associated to Legalizing Marijuana
Legalization of marijuana is likely to lead to accelerated usage thereby increasing economic, social and health costs. Those pushing for the passing of such proposals counter that marijuana is a safe drug and that the existence of criminal sanctions inhibiting possession usage of the drug at a personal level represents uncalled for penalties at best and excessive harshness at worst. Legalization advocates also argue vehemently that in the United States the mortality, economic costs and morbidity resulting from the use of marijuana is almost negligible compared to those culminating from the use of tobacco and alcohol. Such sentiments were echoed by the editors of The Lancet when they wrote that cannabis per se is not a hazard to the society but driving it further underground may well be (Swift, 2013).
In the recent past legalization, supporters have shifted their argument to concentrate and focus on the medicinal value of the drug. They argue that smoking marijuana helps treat a range of medical conditions. Based on the medicinal value of marijuana, eight states in the USA namely Nevada, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Arizona, Washington, Colorado, and California have allowed for ballot initiatives providing a leeway for the use of cannabis under certain medical circumstances. However, the federal government has been opposing relentlessly and thwarting all efforts being made to permit the prescription of marijuana by physicians on medical grounds. The controversy around the marijuana legalization is not in the USA only. Other developed countries such as Canada, Switzerland, and Australia are reviewing and reconsidering how they approach marijuana (Wilkinson & D’Souza, 2014).
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Federal Sentence and Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is considered the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people which must arise from the morality of the action taken in the determination of whether to legalize marijuana. Every moral decision is made with the consideration of a certain outcome arising from a particular action. The results of your actions are the main consideration in the theory of utilitarianism, hence falling in the consequentialism aspect of emphasis. In a nutshell, utilitarianism encourages the support of democracy by emphasizing that each person is sober enough to be his/her own judge in his or her welfare. The government is left with the responsibility of providing equality and liberty to its citizens as well as guiding them. This implies that adults should be allowed to make their decision in pursuing happiness through the use of marijuana until their happiness restrict the happiness or liberty of a larger number of people (Pacula & Sevigny, 2014). Utilitarianism rejects the use of hard sentences and punishments to the people who are found in possession or doing marijuana as a way of rectifying the lawbreaker by making him pay and inflicting fear of experiencing a punishment. Utilitarianism requires every law and the decision made by the judges in penalizing the offender, to be of good interest to the greatest number of people.
The legalization of marijuana would reduce the number of people practicing the trade of marijuana in the black market. Criminalizing marijuana has increased the emergence of gangs and organized crime in the attempt to acquire the exorbitant profits in illegal marijuana, thus leading to countless deaths. Legalization will enable them to do the business legally thus paying tax revenues which can be used to cater to the larger number of people in the community as well as reduce organized crimes that inflict fear on the community. It meets the utilitarianism theory by delivering happiness to the public. Although the use of marijuana should be accompanied by a threshold of tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC measured in the blood of the user. It is crucial for the lawmakers to establish legal limits for the impairment caused by using marijuana, in the same way, we have limits for alcohol. For instance, when speaking about alcohol, there is a certain level after which a person is regulated not to drive. A police officer carries around breathalyzers to get hold of the lawbreakers. Such a limitation should be considered while legalizing marijuana to ensure people do not use it irresponsibly so as not to interfere with the happiness of others. In such an event, the use of marijuana will be going against the utilitarianism theory. In a nutshell, the police must allow a person’s right to harm himself, he does not put the liberty of another person in jeopardy (Pacula & Sevigny, 2014).
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The public has been quoted to support longer sentences for those people caught trafficking marijuana than the sentences stated by the sentencing guidelines. However, they support the legalization of marijuana through the abolishment of charges to private possession and responsible use by adults. It includes the cultivation of a few plants and the transfer of two or fewer ounces without profit gains. Decriminalization in states like Washington and Colorado has not increased the number of people consuming marijuana. Implementing the laws of marijuana prohibition costs the US government approximately $10 billion per year – obviously its taxpayers’ money. The consequences are an arrest of estimated 693,000 people annually, much more than the people arrested for violent crimes. In 2013, the enacted changes resulted in an estimated 16,000 fewer marijuana arrests. Regarding the federal bureau, the report released as the investigations in the Uniform Crime Report, there was a reduction of non-violent marijuana arrests by 56,000 people with respect to the 2012 report. From these figures, we can comfortably say that the legalization of marijuana would save the county and national government the money used to reinforce law to the marijuana prohibition offenders (Grabarsky, 2013).
Prohibition of marijuana causes more harm than it solves. People have been arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment due to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute a prohibited substance. For instance, Paul Free, a former manager of the Coronado Playhouse, was arrested in 1994, after completing his degree in marine biology. He was found guilty of possessing marijuana with the intention of selling. Consequently, he has served over 21 years and still counting a lifetime in prison. With respect to the utilitarianism theory, the life imprisonment penalty was too harsh for a nonviolent crime of possessing marijuana. Paul argues that he can clearly prove he didn’t commit the crime. Other prisoners serving life in prison include Kenny Kubinski who owned a construction company, Larry Duke who is an inventor and a problem solver, Jeff Mizanskey who received life without parole for purchasing few grams of marijuana, and many more (Duke, 2013).
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The federal trafficking penalties for marijuana from less than 5 years to life behind bars. With the least fine being a minimum of $250,000 for the first offense to $75 million for the second offense depending on the kilograms of marijuana and the number of plants that an offender possesses. For instance, alcohol is illegal to under 21 years and tobacco is illegal for under 18 years of age. These substances are the most abused by adolescents and their effects are much more than those brought about by taking small amounts of marijuana. The penalty for any person under 21 years found in possession of an alcoholic beverage is equal to either $500 or 50 hours’ mandatory community service. This is much fair considering the fine and imprisonment penalty considered on marijuana possession (Swift, 2013).
Efforts to legalize marijuana have been solely focused on adults. On the other hand, no one has agreed to the legalization of marijuana for the adolescent, but the changes to the legal issues on marijuana will also influence the adolescent. In such a case, the legalization of marijuana will lead to advertisements that will also reach the adolescents, those affecting the wellbeing of the community as the adolescents are the heart of the society. Though the federal penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use or with the intent to distribute are very harsh, people still practice trading of marijuana in the black market. For some, serving lifetime imprisonment is too harsh for possession of nonviolent marijuana. It is against the utilitarianism theory because it’s not the happiness of most people. In addition, police do not have enough resources to arrest the federal laws on marijuana offenders and this leads to selective arrests as well as selective prosecution. Moreover, such a prohibition breaks the liberty law of equality and thus violating utilitarianism theory because the public would be happy if every offender was treated equally. I support the legalization of marijuana but with impairment limits and control for children under 18 years.