One of the most notable events of the 2012 election season was the legalization for recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. Other recent attempts at legalization include a ballot measure in Oregon in 2012 and prop 19 in California in 2010. Recent polling has shown that a majority of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana across the country, and it’s apparent that it’s about time that legalization is passed nationwide. Not only is it significantly more practical from an economic standpoint, but it is also the moral thing to do as well.
As it stands right now, the cost of drug law enforcement far exceeds any perceived benefit. The DEA had a budget of two billion dollars in 2012 which could have been going to improving education, dealing with America’s homeless problem, or solving one of the other numerous problems plaguing the United States. Beyond monetary costs, drug enforcement also wastes time that police officers could otherwise use to catch dangerous citizens who actually deserve to serve jail time. Sources estimate it takes around “two and a half hours as a minimum average amount of time one officer spends making a marijuana possession arrest.” Considering there were 12,408,899 arrests nationwide for drug-related offenses in 2011, that’s a great deal of man-hours that could be better spent elsewhere. And, with the high numbers of arrests, prisons are becoming so overpopulated that conditions degrade to the point that the Supreme Court ruled the Eighth Amendment rights of prisoners were being violated. Legalizing marijuana would reduce costs, save valuable time for law enforcement, and depopulate a prison system that is already heavily strained.
Much like ending prohibition, legalization would serve to reduce criminal activity related to the possession of pot. The current non-legal status of cannabis greatly increases the street price, which leads people towards theft and other criminal activity as a means to pay for it. If the criminal elements of marijuana were removed, there will be fewer secondary crimes committed and fewer people in jail.
Most importantly, pot should be fully legalized nationwide because it is the only moral course of action. The current system where pot is semi-legal, medically for some and recreationally for Colorado and Washington (but remaining illegal under federal jurisdiction), has lead to gross injustices being committed. Medical marijuana dispensaries have been more frequently raided under Obama’s presidency than any other administration. The DEA has stated that they will continue to treat marijuana as an illegal substance in Colorado and Washington. Federal penalties for those engaging in statewide legal activity will continue to face harsh penalties such as fines up to 250,000 dollars for cultivation of a single plant. Such extreme penalties don’t fit the crime, and should be ended immediately. Furthermore, pot smokers are not harming other people through their own usage of marijuana, so criminalizing their actions is wrong. Legalization makes both economic and moral sense – so what are we waiting for?