The issue of whether to legalize or not to legalize the use of marijuana has become a debatable issue various groups and individuals taking various positions regarding this matter. This has led to the rise of several movements and civil and human right groups advocating for legalizing marijuana. In USA some states such as California has already legalized marijuana simply for medical purposes. It is notable that the American public has a steaming tendency of making the drug legal while other states are concerned with adverse health damages and its underlying effects (Kilmer 2006). From the various the drug is relatively not harmful compared with other substances such as tobacco or alcohol if they are used for moderation, notably is the research studies from doctors which provide that marijuana is not harmful if used in moderation and that the drug is not more addictive as compared with tobacco and alcohol (Kilmer 2006).
In USA different states have varying specific laws and regulations regarding the use of marijuana either for medical as well as those using it for medical purposes. Notably is the state of California which have passed laws and regulations regarding the use of marijuana by it state citizens regarding its medical use, this to a larger extend tend to legalize the use of marijuana in this state. On the other hand in New Jersey the specific laws and regulation on the use of marijuana is tougher which is equalized with criminal activity. The comparison of two state laws each of them has its stand position basing on the pros and cons on the consumption and the use of marijuana. The two passed and enacted laws explained below shows the contrast of the two states in regard to the use of marijuana (Kilmer 2006).
The key specific law and regulation on the use of marijuana in this state is “New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.” This law was amended in the year 2010 by the general assembly Senate. This act concerns the medical use of marijuana and supplementing and this legislation provides that the modern research shows that there is beneficial use of marijuana in the medical field in alleviating pain and other forms of treatment. The compassion provides the difference between the medical and non-medical uses of marijuana giving only authority for medical use and prescription from a registered physician only excluding its state citizens, for the medical use involves the acquisition, cultivation, transfer, transports and dispense of marijuana to only registered patients and the primary registered caregivers. The enforcement of this act in conjunction with other established acts in New Jersey such as “New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substance Act” in which it completely criminalize the use of marijuana which has been in force since 1790 (Single 2005).These specific laws and regulations regarding the use of marijuana has made it to be considered to being illegal as compared to other states such as California where its amended laws on the use of marijuana is less stringent. Although the federal government has establish measures as a way to ease the criminal liability imposed regarding the use of this drug there are no much steps in achieving the liberty on the use of this drug by its citizens. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services have released the draft rules outlining the application and the registration process on the specific acts and regulations on the use of marijuana. As a way to incorporate the public a discussion on a public hearing to discuss the proposed guidelines and rules was discussed, in addition there is provision of the alternative treatment centers which has been established in the northern, central and southern regions of the state which have the responsibility of providing services and treatment regarding the use of marijuana. It is important to note that all of these centers and the other entities providing the same have to be approved by The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (Single 2005).
California is the famous state in USA which does allow the use of marijuana. This is attributed by the specific laws and regulations such as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and this act gets rid of the state-level criminal penalties regarding the use of marijuana, possession and its cultivation by the patients or any other person who has a formal, informal, written or oral prescription from a physician and that the marijuana in question has a medical benefit to him or her. This act provides protection to persons and individuals who are diagnosed with debilitating illness and that the use of marijuana is deemed appropriate. This act and other specific marijuana regulations provide a guideline the manner and the way in which the medical marijuana can be grown and possessed by patients and other persons (Petersen 2001). Caregivers and qualified patients are allowed to posses more than eight ounces of dried marijuana but the provision of this legislation provides that patients with recommendation from a qualified physician can posse’s larger amounts. These laws and regulation provided an affordable and a safe way through which patients could acquire marijuana in the case of medical need and this has been obligated to the federal government and the state. There are other specific policies which apply to most of the other states such as Rockefeller drug laws and the Minnesota drug policy (Gray 2002). Minnesota drug policy has been considered by many to be disastrous because of the way this state dealt with the issues of drugs which led to a poor relations between the citizens and the state government, most of the Minnesotans are not proud on how the state handles the use of drugs such as marijuana and the consequences they are experiencing. A comparison with other states the Minnesota sentencing guidelines regarding the use of marijuana provided that it has a higher threshold compared with other states. It is notable that the Minnesotan drug policies have done a greater damage as compared with other states such as California whom their policies have the tendency of legalizing it (Gray 2002). Another stringent specific law and regulation is the Rockefeller Drug laws which has been used to represent the laws that deal with the possession of narcotic drugs in New York State. This law provided that those in possession or processing drugs such as marijuana and other drugs more than four ounces were imprisoned for a minimum of 15 years and maximum of 25 years. This policy has been adopted by other states such as Michigan and they have all faced sharp criticism from both the political left as well as the right (Zili Amsel 2006).
Societal Consequence of Rockefeller Drug Policy Model
The model and the approach in which the New York state has adopted is perceived and considered by many to have many damages to its state citizens than its advantage. Notably is the damage on the minority groups and the communities mainly the African Americans as compared with the whites and the Latinos. The adoption of Rockefeller drug laws attributed to the New York State having the toughest laws compared to other states and this law was soon adopted by other states such as Michigan in which they enacted the “650 Lifer Law” in which life imprisonment was imposed on persons in possession or manufacture of at least 650 grams of marijuana or other narcotic drugs. The adoption of this law has been criticized by the political groups as well as the human right activists because of its perception to being discriminatory and racist (Zili Amsel 2006). Examining these laws and regulations regarding the use of drugs notably marijuana and the enforcement of the underlying enacted laws there is a lot of unfairness as it compares it with murder case which is not rational. The failure of this approach is the believe that jailing and imprisoning the drug addicts and users is the only available social and medical treatment for this case, it is because of this reason that the model drew an intense opposition from the various groups across the states that had adopted this approach. This model in dealing with the use of drugs by the New York state has limited the creation of life chances and the available opportunities for its state citizens for this to be reversed the state has to reformulate the existing laws and policies in regard to the use of drugs such as the marijuana. It is apparent that these policies have caused much harm than what it is aimed to prevent in the state and its society the enactment of this approach has led to the increase in the number of prisoners related to the use of these drugs increase sharply. This has resulted further into the societal challenge in adopting sensible and moderate policies in dealing with the crime and drug abuse within the state (Zili Amsel 2006).
Specific Policy Change
As provided by the above affects on the adoption of this model in the counter of the use of marijuana there is a need to moderate this approach to ensure equality and fairness in the various states in USA that have adopted the same laws and regulations such as Michigan and the New Jersey states. More important is the consideration on the use for medical purposes which have seen intense pressure to moderate the laws in regard to the medical use of these drugs. The following are the proposals which points out the areas and the required action needed to be done in order to change these laws and regulations and these regulations include (Gerber 2004).
The first proposal is to remove all the required and to revise the minimum sentence laws regarding those who are convicted with the drug offenses within the state. This will provide remedy for those who use marijuana for medical purposes. Secondly is that the respective state governments in which these laws and regulations have been enacted should provide enough resources for the provision of the marijuana for the patients, this service should be extended as a drug treatment and to ensure that it is made available to it state citizens notably the drug dependent people. Thirdly is that sentence lengths should be reduced and this should be revised as per the guidelines of sentencing which should be equal to the set out guidelines in other states. The forth point is that the use of law enforcement model should be discouraged in handling public health problems which may not be necessarily drug abuse but simply for medical reasons. Finally is that the state should ensure that there is sufficient drug treatment on the convicted persons in prison or in jail terms (Zili Amsel 2006).
Reason for Changing Policy Model
The current policy model should be changed because of the negative impacts to the society and the general public. The following are the reasons behind the rationale that marijuana laws and policies should be changed.
Right to Liberty
Due to increased modernization the people residing in all the states deserve the right and freedom to use or not to use marijuana. From the ideologies and philosophy of democracy people and citizens should be allowed to make choices for themselves. The federal and the state government should only limit the individual’s actions if it endangers the life of another party. Therefore the government should only put regulations on the harm on others but leave people to decide to use or not to use marijuana (Gerber 2004).
Criminalizing equals to Failure
Criminalizing the use of marijuana will not help the federal and state governments in fighting the menace of the use of marijuana. There is evidence from various studies which shows that law enforcement and regulations contribute greatly to the use of marijuana. This has greatly affected the high school students in most states where these drugs are readily available. In summary the use of forceful laws and regulations will amount to nothing and that education and counseling is the suitable way of addressing the limitation on the use of marijuana (Gerber 2004).
Studies show that the cost of controlling the use of marijuana is very expensive and costly. The government at all levels in USA engaging on the war against drugs spends a significant portion of budget in the fight against persons using marijuana for their personal use. There are increased numbers of arrests on marijuana use and they are flocked into prisons where the taxpayer’s money is used to provide food and gather for the welfare of these people. The government should not spend much money on marijuana but make it legal and spend on other important matters.
Increase government revenue collection
Legalizing marijuana and establishing an efficient system through which it can be taxed could be a reliable source of revenue to the government. Instead of spending revenue on making it illegal it should be turned into an avenue through which it can be turned into a reliable source of revenue (Single 2005).
The Theory of Justice
The theory of justice tries to come up with a philosophy underlying justice who establish person individuals and political structures to preserve individual liberty as well as the social justice. This theory asserts that political structures such as the government and the law enforcers should ascribe to this philosophy by allowing the governed to choose how they should be governed and not imposed unnecessary laws and regulations (Rawls 2000). This theory articulated for the federal and the state governments not to impose laws and regulations that criminalize the use of marijuana that is granting its citizens individual rights and liberty. In addition this theory provides that individuals tends to choose a system of justice that will serve them adequately therefore the government should allow individuals to choose to use or not to use marijuana (Rawls 2000). In summary this theory provides the important tenets of justice in which good relations between the government and its citizens can be based and finally proves that legalizing marijuana will attribute to developing a just society that addresses problems underlying the society (Evans 2000).
In conclusion by the state and the federal government legalizing marijuana is an important step in establishing a just and stable society. The implication of legalizing marijuana include the government will be able to save direct costs which are related to the use of marijuana and other related drugs. For a long time economists have advocated for legalizing marijuana because of the costs incurred thus legalizing will see the government save a lot of money for other important issues. Secondly is that legalizing marijuana will ensure that racial discrimination is reduced this is evident as the convicts who are pushed into prison are mainly black Americans who turn into hardcore criminals later and are discriminated as compared with their white and Latinos counterparts (Evans 2000). Legalizing and taxing marijuana can be profitable hence contributing to the GDP of the country and the state as the business is illegal but it is still carried out. Finally is that by legalizing the use of marijuana ensures that individual freedom and liberty is achieved in the state and this is evident in states that have made amendments and passed bills that have repealed criminalizing the use of marijuana.
Evans, R. e. (2000). The regulation and taxation of cannabis commerce. Chicago: Task Force on Cannabis Regulation.
Gerber, R. J. (2004). Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics. New York:Greenwood Publishing Group.
Gray, C. (2002). Legalize use of marijuana for medical purposes, MDs and patients plead. Canadian Medical Association, 373–375.
Kilmer, B. (2006). Assessing How Marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets. RAND Corporation, 45-62.
Medical Use of Marijuana. (2000). DePaul J. Health Care L, 223-235.
Petersen, R. C. (2001). Decriminalization of Marijuana – A Brief Overview of Research-Relevant Policy Issues . Contemp. Drug Probs , 265-278.
Rawls, J. (2000). A Theory of Justice, Revised Edition. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Single, E. W. (2005). Impact of Decriminalizing Marijuana. Public Health Policy , 459-470.
Zili Amsel, W. M. (2006). Reliability and Validity of Self-Reported Illegal Activities and Drug Use Collected from Narcotic Addicts. Informa Health Care , 96-105.