One of the major issues that Texas and the rest of the States governments are facing right now is the debate on Marijuana, whether or not to legalize it or decriminalize it. The questions are being asked and discussed, what are the effects? Will legalizing marijuana lead to increased use? Is it a gateway drug? And how many people are getting arrested for minor possessions each year? The illegality of marijuana in Texas is a problem because it is causing users to resort to supporting the black market; it’s a drain on taxpayer’s money and causing major overcrowding problems in the prison system. I propose legalization of medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, and decriminalizing charges associated with marijuana along with age and quantity restrictions to solve this problem.
Texas legislature and the rest of the States are all debating this issue, but most of the common public is misinformed or has a stigma on what marijuana is and how it affects you which can lead to many misinterpretations on the plant or a stigma against users. Most of the time it can lead to loss of a job, prison and permanently stains your criminal record. So, what is Marijuana? It’s a drug made from the dry shredded parts of the Cannabis sativa hemp plant. This plant contains a chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or more commonly known as THC. What studies have discovered is that it’s very similar to chemicals that the brain naturally produces but it disrupts the natural function of these chemicals in the brain by overloading your senses. Marijuana smoke can also irritate the lungs and frequent smokers can have the same respiratory problems experienced by those who smoke tobacco. Any type of smoking leads to risk of lung cancer.
Marijuana has many effects on the brain, this includes but is not limited too short-term memory loss, motor coordination, slow reaction time, mood swings and in some cases can cause severe anxiety. Because of these effects it is believed to be one of the leading causes of car crashes, second only two alcohols. One of the greatest questions asked about Marijuana, is it addictive? While most people believe no, the truth is statistically 9% of those who try Marijuana will become addicted. Youth are more susceptible than adults and about 2.7 million people in the U.S alone meet the criteria for marijuana dependence. (lung.org) THC stimulates brain cells to release the chemical dopamine, which creates a euphoric feeling and can lead to a physical addiction. Similar to tobacco withdrawal, people trying to quit marijuana report irritability, sleeping difficulties, craving, and anxiety.
While there are certainly benefits and proven cases of medical marijuana helping people cope with epilepsy as well as cancer patients using the plant to cope with nausea and other symptoms, we must ask ourselves, do these benefits outweigh the risks? Yes the symptoms from smoking marijuana regularly aren’t good, but the symptoms received from marijuana are some of the same symptoms that people get from excessive smoking of tobacco products. Or you could say that the loss of motor function, short-term memory loss and slow reaction time are also symptoms of alcohol abuse. Yet both tobacco and alcohol is legal, with not one medical benefit. Marijuana is illegal even though it has been proven to help some people cope with their disease in some cases, yet its possible to get jail time for one gram of weed.
Marijuana is a multi billion-dollar industry, but because marijuana is illegal on the Federal level, taxpayers are seeing none of that money put back into the economy. Instead all the profits are going straight into drug dealers pockets through the black market. Its estimated that the market for marijuana in California is about 3 to 5 billion and that Cali makes up roughly 10% of the national drug market so it could be estimated that the National market is about 30 – 40 billion dollars a year. (Canorml.org/) If marijuana was legalized on a National level all of that money would be pouring in and stimulating the economy, which has been on a steep decline for the past decade. The fact is that “roughly 750,000 people are arrested for charges of minor possession of marijuana each year, which is roughly 48% of all drug arrests in the United States” (drugpolicy.org) The taxes required the citizens of the U.S to just maintain the prisons alone cost a fortune.
“The cost of prisons was $39 billion in fiscal year 2012” (vera.org/) This means that its costing regular citizens $18.7 billion to put marijuana users behind bars. This is not only a drain on U.S resources but it’s also a major source of overcrowding of the prisons systems. Currently the U.S incarcerates 1 in nearly 100 American Adults. (alec.org) There are better ways of dealing with crime than mass incarceration. Now how does all this relate to Texas? Currently there are 8 bills in Texas’s house of representatives regarding decriminalizing or legalizing medicinal and recreational use of marijuana. However nothing has been officially decided in the current legislative session. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that lawmakers would not approve legislation that would legalize marijuana. “I don’t think decriminalizing marijuana is going to happen this session,” Abbott said during a news conference.
“I will see Texas continuing to lead the way of diverting away from activity that involves drug use and helping people lead more productive lives.” (Dallas News) But although laws have not been passed to decriminalize possession of marijuana, Abbott did acknowledge efforts to get people off the herb rather than slamming them in jail and crowding the legal system. “Texas has really been a national leader with regard to drug diversion courts and drug diversion programs,” Abbott said. “Our goal is not to stockpile prisons with people who are arrested with minor possession issues, our goal is to help those who are found with minor possession take a pathway that is more productive than what jail provides.” This potentially means that there is a source of agreement in Texas legislature that there are some abuses that are happening within the justice system regarding marijuana laws.
The “War on Drugs” has is a waste of Texans taxpayers money and legislative resources as well as causing an overcrowding issue in our prison systems. Not to mention that Texas alone could bring in $166 million in revenue from medicinal marijuana alone which would give a huge boost to the economy. (dallasobserver.com) Legalization would eliminate almost half of the criminal population in Texas resulting in clean records and better chances of getting a decent job in the Texas work force.
It would nearly abolish half the black market drug trafficking since about 50% of drugs being brought in from other states such as California or countries like Mexico is marijuana. Without the stigma and the illegality of marijuana that money would go to the states and the economy rather than supporting the criminal underground. All of these problems could potentially be solved through legalization of marijuana for recreational use but subjected to the same age and quantity restrictions as alcohol or tobacco. The sound evidence for legalization of the herb is causing marijuana opposition arguments to go up in smoke.
Work Cited; Annotated Bibliography
“10 Facts About Marijuana” Drug Policy Alliance, 25 July 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2015. 10 common facts about Marijuana. Will legalization lead to increased use? Fact: There is no evidence that implementing medical marijuana laws impacts the rate of adolescent use. How many people are arrested for marijuana each year? Fact: Roughly 750,000 people are arrested for marijuana each year, the vast majority of them for simple possession, with racial minorities over-represented. Misinformation and misrepresentation are the leading causes for the debate on marijuana legalization. “ERIC SCHLOSSER INTERVIEW.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015. Frontline Interview of Eric Scholsser who has written several articles on impact of marijuana enforcement and how it affects the legal system.
Schlosser makes the point “n a lot of its internal dynamics to the McCarthy era witch-hunts, which I had studied in college. And the deep unreason to it and the hysteria surrounding it seemed very similar. And what concerned me most was how it seemed like another scapegoating. This country traditionally has gone thorough periods of intolerance where we look for scapegoats blame scapegoats and avoid dealing with our real problems. And the war on marijuana seemed like a classic example of that national tendency. So the question that I address myself to in the articles I’ve written is how does society come to punish a person more harshly for selling marijuana than for killing somebody with a gun?”
Under the laws of 15 states you can get a life sentence for a 3rd non-violent marijuana offense but the average prison sentence for a convicted killer is about 6 to 8 years. Henrichson, Christian, and Ruth Delaney. “Vera Institute of Justice: Making Justice Systems Fairer and More Effective through Research and Innovation.” The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers. VERA Institute of Justice, 29 Feb. 2012. Web. 31 Mar. 2015. The main argument for this source is the price of prison and what incarceration is costing taxpayers. Among the 40 states that participated in a survey, the cost of prisons was $39 billion in fiscal year 2012.
“Prison Overcrowding – American Legislative Exchange Council.” ALEC American Legislative Exchange Council. American Legislative Exchange Council, 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2015. Prison Overcrowding: The United States currently incarcerates 1 in nearly 100 American adults. America’s incarceration addiction grew during the late 1980s and early 1990s as state and local governments passed “tough-on-crime” legislation. For example, California’s “three strikes” law called for mandatory sentencing of repeat offenders, and New York adopted the “Broken Windows” strategy that called for the arrest and prosecution of all crimes large and small. The solution to this problem is decriminalization of possession charges on a Federal level.
Marijuana.” American Lung Association. American Lung Association, 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2015 what is Marijuana? It’s a drug made from the dry shredded parts of the Cannabis sativa hemp plant. This plant contains a chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or more commonly known as THC. What studies have discovered is that it’s very similar to chemicals that the brain naturally produces but it disrupts the natural function of these chemicals in the brain by overloading your senses. The source states that many states are debating whether or not marijuana can be used as medicine. As of right now the FDA has not approved medical use because there is not enough evidence that the benefits outweigh the risks. Marijuana has also only been useful in a limited number of symptoms compared to the wide variety it has been promoted to “cure”.
In addition it has been found not to be as useful in curing these symptoms as other FDA approved drugs for the same symptoms. THC stimulates brain cells to release the chemical dopamine, which creates a euphoric feeling and can lead to a physical addiction. Similar to tobacco withdrawal, people trying to quit marijuana report irritability, sleeping difficulties, craving, and anxiety.
“Economics: Drug War Facts.” Economics. Drug War Facts, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015. Data tables of the US Drug Control Spending. Source: “National Drug Control Budget: FY 2016 Funding Highlights” (Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President, Office of National Drug Control Policy) – See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/economics#sthash.MWYakCDP.dpuf
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