Introduction and Background Problem
Marijuana use is prohibited by the federal laws but the state laws decide on the use. In the United States, the drug has been in use for medical purposes in 23 states plus DC while 16 states have decriminalized the drug (Voelske, 2014).In this aspect, decriminalization means that there is no prison time for any amount that is supposed to be of personal consumption.
In the past, marijuana usage has always been deemed illegal but this has not deterred its usage and has always been enforced by the law particularly through arrests and conviction. The arrests have been particularly focused on the youths who seem to have little awareness or just plain arrogance. The aspect of arrest has more than doubled since 1991 but the drug’s use has not deteriorated (Bureau of Justice statistics, 2000).As a matter of fact, the arrests made by police on marijuana-related charges is more than the total number of arrestees for all other violent crimes combined (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2001).
That stated, the move by D.C to legalize marijuana is a huge step considering that the drug has been in use in the state for about 20 years, albeit for medicinal purposes. Initiative 71 was meant to pass the drug for recreational purposes for adults 21 years and older, a move that had been highly anticipated considering that 65% of the voters approved the legalization (Flatow, 2014). The main aspect that may make DC unique is that the legalization will not allow for this substance to be sold in pot stores (Lopez, 2015). In this, it is important to consider some of the major factors that played a role in the decriminalization of this drug in the capital.
To begin with, the drug may increase the tax revenue for the state. By observing a state like Colorado which was the first to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana, the tax revenue to be collected cannot simply be ignored In June 2014, the state of Colorado collected $4.8 million from marijuana-related sales which were an increase by over 0.2 million from the previous year. (GOMN STAFF, 2014).More to this is the fact that legalizing the drug would divert money from punishment and enforcement and would be used to invest in educational programs.
The second reason why marijuana should be legalized is due to its immense medicinal values. Studies have indicated that the usage of this drug relieves the body from several medical conditions which may include muscle spasms, nausea from cancer therapy, and poor appetite among others. Furthermore, in legalizing the drug for recreational purposes, there is likely to be a decrease in the expenditure in the healthcare system.
Another aspect that is intertwined with the legalization of marijuana is the racial implications. In the district of Washington, around 50% of the citizens are mainly of the African-American race and are 8 times more likely to be arrested than whites for the use of marijuana, yet the usage is the same (Flatow, 2014). That stated, considering that the arrest statistics have a racial implication on the usage of the drug, it is a smart move to legalize it.
The last, but not least, argument in favor of the legalization of the drug is the fact that it offers an alternative recreational substance far less harmful than alcohol. Established medical reports indicate that the use of marijuana presents less harmful effects than recreational alcohol. According to Mason Tvert of the marijuana policy project, ‘The use of this drug has always been thought to be more potent when in reality it is not’ (GOMN STAFF, 2014).
On the opposite end, some people have come out guns blazing saying that the legalization of the drug is likely to do more harm than good to the population and generally to the state. The main argument is that the drug serves very little purpose in the society and will particularly worsen the scourge posed by the drug: addiction, violence, disorder, and death (Stimson, 2010).
Policy Analysis of The decriminalization
November 2012 saw the approved ballot initiatives for the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes in the states and Colorado and Washington while other states, as many as 11, were likely to follow suit in 2016 (Dills, Goffard, & Miron, 2016).So, Considering the trend of legalizing the drug at the state level, it is important to look at this policy in detail.
The state of Washington had always prohibited the use of marijuana until 1971 when the state loosened its laws implementing a policy that treated less than 40grams a demeanor. In this, possession of fewer than 40 grams was a criminal offense. However, in 1998, the state allowed marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes primarily because of a court case 3 years earlier that had involved the treatment of a cancer patient using marijuana. Initiative 692 or the state of Washington medical use of marijuana act gave room for the use of the drug for medicinal purposes and allowed people with certain medical complications to cultivate, use and be in possession of the drug.
Initiative 692 stimulated the growth of marijuana users and by 2009, about 35000 people in this state were legally allowed to be in possession of marijuana (Dills, Goffard, & Miron, 2016).This in effect resulted in the legalization of drugs for recreational purposes in 2012.
One major implication of this drug is the increase in adolescent use particularly because of the availability and lower prices as compared to other intoxicants. Furthermore, the adolescents are likely to experiment with this drug with the introduction of different formulations for its use (Hopfer, 2015). Such formulations may include vaporized forms, edible forms etc. and may have far more potent and harmful effects on this population.
Considering the addictive effect of the drug, there is a possibility of a stagnant adolescent population primarily because the drug has some effects such as cognition, impairs the immune system, increases the risk of a heart attack, and causes respiratory and brain damage (Stimson, 2010). Furthermore, another challenge that may also be presented to this addiction problem is the fact that the drug has been legalized primarily for medicinal values and this may tend to make the youths undermine the harmful effects. This policy will, therefore, require the intervention of other policies to counter the adverse effects.
Another factor is that there is a probability that there will be no significant increase in its usage. This has been established by government reports which have studied other states where marijuana has been legalized. These reports state that the belief and attitude towards the drug do not change among the American people. Furthermore, it has been estimated that citizens living in states where marijuana has been legalized tend to consume marijuana at a substantially lower rate than states where marijuana has been legalized. As a matter of fact, the states and regions which have very strict policies on marijuana usage tend to have the highest number of marijuana users (Connecticut law review commission, 1997).
The other aspect to consider is that the laws that restrict marijuana possession do not really prevent marijuana usage. Considering the state of Washington, before the decriminalization on the usage of marijuana, the drug was still in circulation. The use of the drug was consistent prior to enforcement by the law and it has been stated that there is no detectable relationship between the enforcement of the law and marijuana use. Furthermore, it is important to note that these drug users tend to believe that their behaviors remain undetected and therefore do not fear arrest (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse national working group on Addictions, 1998).
Chambers and Bonk Method of Policy Analysis
Elements that are essential to the implementation of a policy include: goals and objectives, forms of benefit or service delivered, eligibility rules, financing method, an organizational structure for the service delivery and the interaction of the foregoing elements. The move to legalize the drug was initiated by eight to 10 people who requested for the legalization of the substance. It is with this that the council of the District of Columbia legalized the possession of the substance on March 4, with the law taking effect in July. The move was not favored by the Congress who went on to stop the funding of the D.C law and an amendment would, later on, require a fine of $25 (Flatow, 2014).
To begin with, the policy aims at ensuring that the citizens of Washington, especially the African Americans, are not in constant battles with the law. As stated previously, the African American population of this state is about 50% but face about 90% of marijuana-related arrest. On a larger scale, the policy aims at reducing the prison sentences that particularly criminalize them mainly because of racial implications.
Another group targeted by the policy are the people who have chronic illnesses. Many studies have been conducted on the drug and the drug has been found to have various medicinal implication. Considering that the population has many people suffering from these illnesses and other medical conditions such as muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, nausea from cancer chemotherapy, seizure disorders among others, the drug will not only provide medicinal benefits to them but will also provide a cheaper form of treatment. Consequentially, marijuana treatment will not only provide a cheaper form of treatment but will also decrease the budget and expenditure meant for district hospitals
Secondly, the legalization of the drug is a move towards an increase in the revenue for the state. Millions of dollars stand to be collected on the legalization of the drug through the revenue returns for the sale and also due to the diversion of the taxpayers’ money from enforcement and punishment of the drug users.
The eligibility of the policy applies to people over the age of 21.The rule applies to eight states where people over the age of 21 are allowed to possess marijuana and get intoxicated. More to this is the fact that when in possession of marijuana, the only requirement for police officers is the name and the address (Smith, 2017).
Furthermore, people over the age of 21 are allowed to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, grow up to 6 plants and gift up to one ounce of pot to another person 21 years and over. On the underside, the sale of the drug still remains illegal and therefore anyone who tries to make a profit from this could face the full force of the law (Lopez, 2015). However, this restriction is not limited to the use or sale of drug paraphernalia that may be related to using, growing, or processing of marijuana. The penalty for being in possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is a maximum of $25.Similarly, there is the maximum fine of $100 for the consumption of marijuana in a public place (Hopfer, 2015). In a recent report, police arrested over 400 people because of smoking marijuana in public (Blake, 2017).
Modification of the Policy
Considering the cognitive effects of the drug, there should be a time frame that should be set for the use of the drug. This is particularly so because the ability to function properly at a workstation may be hindered by the use of this drug, subsequently leading to a deterioration in the economy. Proper educational programs should be set up to ensure that the community is well educated on the short-term and long-term effects of the drugs. Most youths tend to use the drug because of the buzz that comes with it disregarding the mental implication. It is therefore wise to ensure there are proper educational programs.
Blake, A. (2017, July 11). Marijuana arrests nearly triple in D.c after legalization: report. Retrieved from The Washington Times: m.washington.com/news/2017/july/11/Marijuana arrests nearly triple in D.c after legalization: report
Bureau of Justice statistics. (2000). Drugs and crime facts.Table: Number of arrests by drug type,1982-99.
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse national working group on Addictions. (1998). Cannabis control in Canada: options regarding possession. Ottawa.
Connecticut law review commission. (1997). Drug policy in Connecticut and strategy options. Hartford: State Capitol.
Dills, A., Goffard, S., & Miron, J. (2016, September 16). The dose of Reality: The effects of state marijuana legalization. Retrieved from policy analysis no 799: www.cato.orgpublication/policy-analysis/dose-reality-effect-state-marijuana-legalization
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2001). Uniform crime report: crime in the united states,2000.
Flatow, N. (2014). The extraordinary Racial Implication of Legalizing Pot in the Nation’s Capital. Retrieved from ThinkProgress: https://thinkprogress.org/The extraordinary Racial Implication of Legalizing Pot in the Nation’s Capital
GOMN STAFF. (2014, Octy 28). Marijuana on the ballot: the best arguments for and against legalizing pot. Retrieved from game: www.gomn.com/amp/news/debating-marijuana-legalization-the-pros-and-cons
Hopfer, C. (2015). The implication of Marijuana Legalization for adolescent substance use. Substance abuse.
Lopez, G. (2015, February 25). Marijuana is now legal in Washington, DC.Here’s what you need to know. Retrieved from Vox: www.vox.complatform/amp/2015/2/26/8108105/marijuana-legalization-Washington-Dc
Smith, A. (2017, may 26). 10 things to know about legal pot. Retrieved from CNN money: money.cnn.com/2017/04/19/news/leghal-marijuana-420/index.html
Stimson, C. (2010, September 13). Legalizing Marijuana: Why citizens should say no. Retrieved from crime and justice: www.heritage.org/crime-and-justice/report/Legalizing Marijuana: Why citizens should say no
Voelske, M. (2014, July 16). 10 things to know: pot decriminalized in DC. Retrieved from NBC: www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/DC–marijuana-decriminalization-10 things to know