The statutory status of Cannabis Sativa is one of the most heated and polarizing debates of our time. In my previous paper, I explored the key viewpoints and arguments in this debate. Based on the results of my exploration and the analysis of these results I will make two claims that I will support with evidence.
The continued criminalization of marijuana is not only a violation of civil liberties but it is also discriminatory and hypocritical. Therefore, the production and consumption of Marijuana should be legalized and taxed in the State of California, if not for any other reason than to cease the financing of the war the Drug Cartels are waging against the Mexican State.
The continued persecution of non-violent marijuana users and growers is a clear violation of the civil liberties of the American public and this can be proven within the framework of the American constitution. A culture of hypocrisy has also been bred due to the legal status of a harmless plant, not only in terms of the legal treatment of far more detrimental products such as alcohol and tobacco but also in the highest echelons of power concerning its usage.
Based on the above and for several other reasons the only remaining rational course of action on this matter would be to legalize the production and consumption of marijuana and to tax it in order to generate revenue. The current policy of criminalization and prosecution has been an absolute failure that has lead to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue and an unnecessary burden of law enforcement resources, it is also directing billions of dollars in to the pockets of Mexican Drug Cartels
Violation of Civil Liberties
There is insurmountable evidence that existing laws on marijuana lead to a violation of the American public’s individual freedoms and liberties. Many of these freedoms and liberties are enshrined into the constitution and known as the bill of rights. Both the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary have used very narrow and biased interpretations of the law to harass and incriminate marijuana users and producers while legitimizing the violation of the rights guaranteed to them in the constitution.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right to privacy and yet the judiciary never enforces this right when the case in question concerns marijuana. In the 1984 case of Oliver v. United States the police violated the defendants right to privacy by bypassing a locked gate and a no trespassing sign and found the growth of Marijuana. An institution as respected as the Supreme Court responded with a spurious rationale for this violation and upheld the conviction of Oliver. In the case of California v. Ciraolo, the Supreme Court condoned an aerial surveillance mission usually reserved for Al Qaeda members in the caves of Afghanistan over an American citizens home because Law enforcement agencies found marijuana there. In the tragic case of Donald Scott an individual lost their life because of this violation. Based on an unverified hunch that Scott possessed thousands of marijuana plants in his home DEA agents managed to obtain a warrant and raided the victims home, having been woken up abruptly and naturally quite startled Scott drew his handgun only to be assaulted with a shower of DEA bullets. The subsequent search of Scott’s home yielded absolutely no signs of the presence of cannabis sativa.
According to Judge Gray: “ nothing in the history of the United States of America has eroded our bill of rights as much as the government’s war on drugs” (Rabbani).
Marijuana Laws Are Discriminatory
The existing laws on marijuana have lead to extremely discriminatory enforcement practices that have contributed to the disproportionate representation of African American’s in the prison system. In the year 2008 22% of marijuana arrests in the state of California were of African Americans. Furthermore, 33% of all marijuana related felony arrests were also of African Americans. The truly alarming fact is that the disproportionate arrests of African Americans do not coincide with the usage rates. According to the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Associate African American males between the age of 18-25 (who incidentally happen to constitute the bulk of arrests) use the substance ay a substantially lesser rate than White Americans. This is leading to a vicious cycle for African American youths who are being perpetually scarred by the prison system from a young age (Gutwillig).
The criminalization of marijuana is also discriminatory towards individuals who use the substance for religious ceremonies and are permitted and encouraged to use the substance by their religion. Marijuana is used in religious ceremonies in many different religions such as Hinduism, Sufi Islam and Rastafarianism. The continued prohibition is a violation of the right to practice one’s religion something that is also enshrined in the American Bill of Rights.
Hypocrisy of Marijuana Laws
In his article for the International Business Times Romaine states that: “cigarettes can put holes in your throat, harm your children, mess up your lungs, take a chunk of flesh off your lips, and ultimately kill you.” Considering the fact that cigarettes are entirely legal and acceptable and are openly marketed the continued criminalization of marijuana is a decision that is wrought with hypocrisy. In comparison to 433,000 annual deaths caused by tobacco marijuana has caused none. Alcohol another legalized substance is responsible for 79,000 deaths a year through alcohol poisoning or diseases such as cirrhosis and yet these substances are entirely legal to produce and consume.
Financial Benefits of Legalization
The current laws on marijuana are depriving the state of California from a large and vital revenue stream. Sales of Marijuana in California alone are estimated to be 14 billion dollars per annum. According to California Assembly member Tom Ammiano if a tax of 50$ is imposed on every ounce of marijuana sold than tax revenue in the amount of 1.4 billion dollars could be generated. The already financially overburdened law enforcement agencies could also be saved an estimated 1 billion dollars should the crop be legalized due to a lack of arrests, convictions and other related legal procedures in dealing with cannabis users and producers (Stateman).
War In Mexico
According to a report conducted by the government of California in 2010 60% of the revenue that the Mexican drug cartles generate originates from the sales of Marijuana in the United States. The criminalization of the drug gives the cartels a large revenue source to conduct their criminal activities and to cause general mayhem in Mexico. Legalization of Marijuana would result in legitimate growers and producers being able to trade in the market and remove it from the hands of the cartels simultaneously causing a huge loss in their stream of revenue. This is a view that is endorsed by former Mexican President Vicente Fox (Grillo).
Medical Benefits of Marijuana
Despite the disputed medical status of cannabis, I have personally born witness to the medicinal properties of marijuana. A close friend of mine had to go undergo orturous chemotherapy after being diagnosed with cancer, the resultant nausea was only soothed by the anti-emetic properties of marijuana. There is no doubt that cannabis has the ability to treat symptoms of diseases such as nausea if not the properties that would cure the disease itself. It may be used as an analgesic, anti-convulsant, anti-spasmodic and anti-emetic agent (Hal, Pacula 165-170). This view is certified by the American Medical Association who accepted that marijuana did indeed have medicinal properties in 2009. The legalization of cannabis will allow individuals who suffer from the above mentioned symptoms a relatively inexpensive treatment in comparison to the expensive medication available in the market. Furthermore cannabis has been found to be more effective than traditional painkillers such as highly addictive and nausea inducing opiates as well as codeine (Rabbani)
Countering False Perceptions
False perceptions over the use of marijuana are endless and are the primary basis fro a flawed and willfully ignorant drug policy. Therefore it is important to counter them in order to affect a change. One of the most popular false perceptions is that legalization would dramatically increase usage of the product. In order to study this assertion Reinerman et al conducted a study comparing the usage of cannabis in the cities of San Francisco CA and Amsterdam. San Francisco is a city that employs limited punitive measures to curtail usage and production while Amsterdam employs none. It was found that there was no discernable difference in the usage rate between the two cities debunking a popular argument of the proponents of criminalization.
Growing Demand for Legalization
Several bills and proposals are being tabled at federal and state level calling for the reform of existing laws on marijuana. Tom Ammiano’s bill has been discussed earlier. Former Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul along with Congressman Barney Frank recently tabled a bill that would make the matter of marijuana legislation a matter of the state and not the federal government. While presenting the bill Frank stated that: “Criminally prosecuting adults for making the choice to smoke marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources and an intrusion on personal freedom,” (Malcolm). This proves that there is a growing realization of the futility of the anti-cannabis campaign not only amongst common American’s and Californian’s but in the corridors of power where the decisions are made.
It seems that the campaign of disinformation and promotion of ignorance about the crop by the US Government will have to cease as changing attitudes begin to demand reform. This concurs with the hypotheses of author Daniel Okerent who sees many similarities between the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s and 1930’s and the current prohibition of marijuana. Both substances were popular despite prohibition and loopholes existed to acquire them. The nature of the economy at the time was similar to how it is now and the revenue generated from the tazation of alcohol was similarly a major incentive at the time. All of these factors point toward eventual decriminalization (“Prohibition Life: Politics, Loopholes And Bathtub Gin”).
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