Legal Issues on Marijuana
Marijuana laws and legal punishments work really well, after all, even with a mandatory minimum sentencing and the possibility of life in prison without parole, there are still almost 50,000 inmates sitting in prison based primarily on marijuana offenses (Schlosser 14). These threats of federal punishments do not seem to deter soon to be marijuana offenders because new offenders are convicted of breaking marijuana laws on a daily basis. A
lthough smoking marijuana may not be the most outstanding or moral thing to do, it is not the most harmful thing you can be locked up for by a long shot; yet marijuana sentences could match up to, or even be worse than many violent crimes including murder. These statistics may suggest that a new approach to dealing with marijuana besides the legal system might be in order. If locking up marijuana offenders will not deter would be offenders, perhaps education and reform might be a better bet to changing the way marijuana is perceived and hopefully help prevent abuse.
In 2016, roughly 724,000 people in the United States were arrested for violating marijuana laws. Most of these arrests were for simple possession, which could lead to jail time. Some of these arrests could even be tried twice and serve two sentences, first by state, then again by different federal laws (Schlosser). With a mandatory minimum sentence, judges lose the power to sentence small offenders based on how morally wrong the crime actually was; in some cases, the person might just have happened to pick up a bag of green and did not even know what it was.
Many people could be sentenced to prison when really, it will not help much on changing the person’s marijuana habits, and will just ruining someone’s life. In addition to ruining individuals, marijuana laws run the country’s economy for expenses to enforce these laws and the penitentiaries to hold the inmates. Although everyone has a different view on the use and distribution of marijuana, it can generally accepted that a marijuana offense is nowhere near the severity of armed robbery, rape and murder, but it is still possible for a marijuana offender to end up serving sentences that could even be harsher than the punishments of these violent criminals.
Although smoking marijuana may not be as destructive as violent crimes, in no way is it a completely harmless drug that everyone should be smoking every day. Unlike many other drugs, including legal ones such as tobacco and alcohol, marijuana is not physically addictive, is relatively physically harmless (if used in moderation), and does not cause the user to become violent or completely crazy, on the contrary, marijuana calms the user down and makes him more mellow and sometimes even inspired. However, this calming and mellow effect of marijuana tends to make its user extremely lazy, which leads to a decrease in the performance of schoolwork, athletics, and work. Like other influential drugs, such as the legal alcohol, you should never operate a vehicle or be around dangerous equipment while high on marijuana.
These effects of marijuana go without saying; if you know you have a big exam or project due, a basketball game to win, you should not be getting high, and the same goes for driving. If you get high before going to work or school, then marijuana is not to be blamed, the user is. Similar to alcohol, marijuana should be used responsibly, so I also propose that laws be rethought to be similar to alcohol laws, such as an age limit, and not being high in public where your high could affect the well-being of other people. Education and rehabilitation will also be extremely beneficial to promote safe and nondestructive marijuana use.
“‘Drug problems are health problems, not criminal justice problems,’ Johnson told an audience at the Yale Law School in November, 2016. ‘The war on drugs is an absolute failure'” (Schlosser 66). This quote brings up a good point: why are we punishing people for putting themselves in a position where they potentially disadvantage themselves, should we not instead be helping them?
There are many cases where a marijuana offender is let out of jail and nothing changes; in many cases such as Mark Young, the marijuana offender will even find some way to obtain marijuana in the penitentiaries and get high even while serving his sentence (Schlosser 72). Instead of locking up marijuana offenders where they will not learn anything about marijuana, there should instead be a system of reform and rehabilitation.
Whenever a person breaks a marijuana law, such as going out in public or driving while high, he should be required to attend some sort of rehabilitation center over a period of time; so as to not tax the public and also for a slight consequence (such as drug testing and failng a drug test), the patient will have to pay for the rehabilitation process themselves. In these rehabilitation centers, the patients will learn about marijuana, all of the effects, the consequences, why there are certain times that getting high is okay and why others are not, and how to use marijuana responsibly. Marijuana and getting high does not have to be a sinful or bad thing in the lives of people, the key idea is moderation. Getting high as a need cannot be good, whereas recreational use of marijuana has almost no ill effects at all. Hopefully, this process will be a productive use of the patient’s time in the education of responsible and moderate use of marijuana instead of just wasting time not learning anything in jail.
Unfortunately, prison time is sometimes necessary, after all, it would be a tragedy if underage teenagers were smoking marijuana. Most teenagers are usually not mature enough to understand responsibility, not to mention the idea of responsibly getting high.
Teenagers have to keep their priorities straight because these are the years that can make or break a person; marijuana is only a hindrance in keeping the priorities of an underage mind straight. Strict enforcement must be used on anyone who tries to hinder the growth of underage minds; we should have no tolerance for the selling and distribution of marijuana to people under the age of twenty one years old. There will also be legal consequences for anyone driving or operating dangerous machinery under the influence of marijuana. These are the main reasons that getting high can be dangerous, so legal action must be taken to prevent laziness and other problems for our children and possible deaths of driving under an influence.
The current system of dealing with marijuana use is not working out very efficiently. Almost one out of every three people in America above the age of twelve has smoked marijuana before, hundreds of thousands of people are arrested yearly for marijuana offenses, lives are pushed back and sometimes even ruined due to harsh sentences, and not much improvement can even come out of the imprisonment of marijuana users.
Marijuana should not even be considered dangerous when compared to other narcotics, including the legal alcohol and tobacco. Millions upon billions of dollars are spent enforcing futile marijuana laws and prison sentences that could be better used on other criminals. Though some cases of legal consequences are necessary, jail time will not be the answer to America’s marijuana problems, instead we should be looking towards rehabilitation, reform, and education to change the future of marijuana use and its consequences. With a shift from legal consequences in jail to consequences and reform in a rehabilitation center, hopefully America will become educated in the effects of marijuana, and abuse and irresponsible use will be ended in the future.