There is much more to the issue and how it is addressed than that (Seamon, 2007). These states are:
Washington (Seamon, 2007)
Criticisms of Decriminalization
The war on drugs has been in the news for some time now, and marijuana has been included in that war. It continues to be listed as important in the speeches of many politicians, and it continues to be at the forefront of a great many debates about how our tax money should best be spent (Gray, 2005; Pacula, 2003b). One of the main concerns of the war on drugs, however, does not deal with what politicians think about it. Rather, it deals with what police think about it. Police are, after all, the ones that are out there on the streets every day, trying to fight the war on drugs. They have limited resources and limited manpower, but they fight just the same. So is the war on drugs really working, and how is it impacting the bottom line of the economy?
First, the war on drugs is not working as well as it could. Many studies show that drug use has not gone down significantly since this war was implemented 30 years ago, and even though politicians talk about taking a stand and fighting against drug abuse, very few of them do much about it once they are elected (Pacula, 2003b). It is important to note however, that many people seem to think that the war on drugs is really working because they see reports of drug busts on their local news or read about them in the paper. Many of these busts are for marijuana, which is generally thought of to be a gateway drug.
A gateway drug is one that is used as a starting point (Pacula, 2003b). When it becomes not enough for the person using it, he or she will then move on to harder drugs. The theory is that, if the person never gets started on the gateway drug, drug use overall will be much lower than it would have been if they were allowed to easily get a hold of that drug and move forward (Clements, et al., 2005). There is an argument about this, though, stating that many of the people who try marijuana never move on to experiment with any other types of drugs. They simply continue to smoke marijuana, and it is really not a gateway drug.
Critics who do not believe in the legalization of marijuana argue that drugs and terrorism go hand in hand, and that people who support and/or use marijuana are contributing to the terrorists who have harmed this country (Clements, et al., 2005). They feel that the legalization of any kind of drug would be giving money to the people who flew planes into the trade center and other buildings on 9/11 and that there is no good excuse for this kind of government policy. However, much of the marijuana that people in this country are already using is grown in this country and in Mexico, as well as south American countries, and these countries have nothing to do with terrorist activities against the United States.
Another large target for critics are the mental affects that marijuana produces (Clements, et al., 2005). People behind the wheels of cars and working in jobs where they have to have good concentration, etc., could be dangerous if they were under the influence of marijuana. This is true, but those who are for the legalization of the drug find it hard to see much of an argument in this (Clements, et al., 2005). Like alcohol, driving and working under the influence of marijuana would most likely be prohibited behaviors, so this would not be any more of an issues than it already is. The long-term mental affects for people who would choose to use large quantities of marijuana would not be any more severe than the effects on someone who used alcohol for a long period of time (Clements, et al., 2005).
Potential Economic Impacts
Not everyone thinks that the war on drugs is a good idea. A police constable in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is facing a reprimand from his superior officers for comments he made saying that the war on drugs must be stopped because it is dangerous. While this gentleman does not live in the United States many of the comments he has made regarding the war on drugs are very important, and should be examined by United States law enforcement and politicians. His main argument is that, while the war on drugs has the best intentions, there is not the manpower, resources, or money available for it to actually be beneficial to the good of society. He contends that it is actually hurting society instead of helping it because it keeps police officers from dealing with more dangerous criminals (Puder, 1998).
This allegation that the war on drugs is actually hurting society ties in with another of Mr. Puder's concerns. That concern is that while police need to be worried about drugs and drug users, they need to be more concerned about serious criminals such as murderers, rapists, and sexual offenders. The basis of his argument is that while police are spending time arresting drug users and those who sell drugs, they are not spending enough time looking for criminals who might be engaged in far worse activities.
He believes that the reasoning behind this is that drug users, when arrested, make an officer look like he or she is really doing something to benefit society. It is fairly easy to arrest someone for drugs and have that person in jail and the drugs as a piece of evidence. This makes the officer who made the arrest look as though they're actually doing a lot of work to keep crime off of the streets, when in fact most of these officers are arresting small-time individuals, and the officers' time would be better spent dealing with more serious criminal cases (Puder, 1998).
While Mr. Puder offers suggestions to improve the war on drugs, there are many people who do not think that the war on drugs is working at all. These people contend that the war on drugs cannot be fixed, and that it should be abandoned altogether. They point out statistics that show that the production of illegal drugs in other countries is increasing, not decreasing. They also point out that illegal drugs are being made more cheaply now, which means that the user of heroin or cocaine can get a better quality drug for less money than they could years ago (Brazaitis, 2002).
This is very disturbing to those who claim that the war on drugs is doing a lot for society. Those who feel that the war on drugs is very important are not happy with statistics that show that there are actually more, and higher quality, drugs in the United States than there was 30 years ago when President Nixon first declared a war on drugs. Everyone has their own opinion of the war on drugs, but most of these opinions seem to fall into three main categories.
The first category states that police are much safer now, and that there are fewer criminals on the streets because those same criminals are afraid of being arrested for illegal drug use. The second category states that the war on drugs is taking valuable manpower and valuable money away from the prevention of other forms of more violent crime, and it needs some work if it's going to function correctly. The third category states that the war on drugs is simply not working, and that the quality and quantity of drugs in the United States today are actually greater than they were when the war on drugs was first declared 30 years ago.
With this in mind, removing the criminal stigma from marijuana and making it legal would free up officers to do a lot more with other kinds of crimes as opposed to often focusing on small time drug offenders. These people just return to the streets after paying a fine. They can also be jailed, and when they are it is the taxpayers who must foot the bill. Marijuana would bring in a huge amount of tax revenue, and when that was coupled with the lack of cost for jail time for these people as well as court costs and supervision programs, the savings would be enormous. A growing number of people in this country believe that there is already widespread marijuana use, and legalizing it will not really result in that many more people using it than are currently doing so.