Decriminalizing Marijuana Study

Abstract

Decriminalizing of marijuana is an important step that needs to be taken in the United States. This drug has many positive uses that far outweigh the negatives. There are worse drugs than marijuana that need to be controlled and banned to make peoples lives easier and safer. This paper will show the positive and negative uses of marijuana, and how decriminalizing it will help to save resources that can be used on more important policy issues.

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Introduction

Marijuana is a drug that is used by very many people and can be easily obtained anywhere in America. Many Americans have tried it and many school-going students use it almost daily. Policymakers and experts in the field of science in the community have pointed out that legalization of marijuana could potentially cause social problems (Levinthal, 2008). Despite the political and social issues arising, legalization of medical marijuana has been approved in many parts of the country.

Washington and Colorado states legalized limited use of recreational marijuana in 2012, for anyone over the age of 21 (Johnson and Chebium, 2013). The success of medical marijuana has helped to make it easier for some states to legalize marijuana. Some permit the public to possess and consume the drug for medicinal purposes like management of glaucoma or menstrual cramps. Cancer patients can also use it to relieve pain associated with chemotherapy. But there has been a debate for marijuana to be made legal for medicinal purposes, for many years. Some experts argue that the drug can be harmful to public health and safety and that it affects crime rates. They argue that the more marijuana users there are, the more crime increases. When there are more users, the public will accept the use of drugs more readily. The marijuana use is seen as the beginning of using hard drugs like heroin and cocaine.

The medical marijuana dispensaries are attractive to criminals. These dispensaries have high quality marijuana, and customers who go there usually carry around a lot of cash for their purchases (Freisthler et al, 2013). There is a rise in the number of robberies that occur when criminals invade homes and the associated violence that results from those cultivating and possessing marijuana being targeted for victimization by the public. Some studies were taken to compare the amount of crime committed by young people whose urine was shown to contain marijuana when entering detention, with those crimes being committed by young people whose urine did not contain marijuana. The study found that youths who had marijuana in their urine had been referred to juvenile court many more times for non-drug felonies than those who did not (Dembo and associates, 1987).

Many researchers who have studied the relationship between the use of the drug and criminal behavior say that the two are not necessarily correlated. They argue that the connection between marijuana usage and criminal activities only appears to exist because marijuana is illegal. Therefore, if possessing and selling marijuana were to be legalized, the connection between marijuana and crime might not exist (Pedersen and Skardhamar, 2010).

All the criminal cases associated with marijuana use have taken up too many of the resources needed to deal with other more pressing matters. Law enforcement officers across the board are tied up chasing these users, instead of dealing with the hard-core drug dealers and users. A lot of space in the prisons has been taken up by the users of marijuana instead of housing serious crime offenders. Marijuana should be decriminalized so that all these resources being wasted chasing marijuana users and dealers can be used in other important areas.

Literature Review

The use of marijuana as a medicine has been debated for a long time. There are indications that marijuana can be used to reduce pain in cancer patients, to reduce the effects of nausea in patients using chemotherapy, for the control of glaucoma, epilepsy, and many other diseases. Some studies suggest that marijuana is commonly used by people who have HIV/AIDS. However, there are no published surveys of the use of marijuana among people with other conditions. The most common reason the public cited for using marijuana, was for alleviation of pain or nausea. Compared with nonusers, those who used marijuana were seen to be younger, were more likely to have problems with alcohol, and had probably used a stronger drug like cocaine in their lifetime. It was found that only a very small percentage of the public had the right to use marijuana for medicinal use based on their needs being identified by themselves. These findings challenge the policy makers to develop a system that will ensure access to quality-controlled marijuana for medicinal use and it helps in the argument for the decriminalization of the drug.

Colorado is one of the states in the country that legalized recreational marijuana early on and it was forced to carefully consider all the impacts of the drug use to the public health and safety. Medical marijuana was legalized in the state in 2000 and its use was first seen as a decision between a patient and his doctor that was outside the jurisdiction of the public health policy. This view changed when it became permissible to commercially produce and distribute medical marijuana in 2009. But it was the legalization of recreational marijuana that forced the state to look more closely at its impact on the publics health. The sale of the drug recreationally is allowed in Colorado. This status has forced the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to put in place reasonable policies to protect the vulnerable people in the community. The state has also had to define the basic public health functions pertaining to the legalized use of recreational marijuana. Its main goal has been to put policies in place that would reduce the harmful effects of the drug use in the use of the drug and to collect data that measures the possible positive and negative effects on the public.

Marijuana can be smoked, eaten or used as a concentrate. Many issues have arisen from this legalization and the states agencies have to work in collaboration to create a system of retailing the drug that respects the intentions of the public while trying to reduce the negative effects of the drug use. These governmental agencies include public and environmental health, transportation, health care, child protective services, behavioral health services, public safety, revenue, education and all the sectors of law enforcement.  This huge collaboration has ensured that the many issues associated with marijuana decriminalization are addressed, and the message is consistently spread across the state. Second-hand smoke specialists have also joined with environmental health experts, epidemiologists, toxicologists, laboratory experts, communication experts and injury prevention experts. Together, they have developed a framework for public to use the recreational marijuana safely.

To monitor the impact of marijuana on health, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has started to analyze data on marijuana-related cases of people being taken to hospital, visits to the emergency room, mortality and birth defects annually to identify likely trends of the acute and chronic health impacts of the drug. It is also exploring better data sources for those found to be driving under the influence of marijuana although the state has no current coherent method of collecting those reports on people driving while intoxicated on marijuana. The department has also started to do surveillance to monitor injuries related to the drug use in ski resorts and recreational centers in the communities. A study also found unintentional poisoning in younger children after legalization of the drug in the state. A hospital indicated an increase in the quantity of children who were hospitalized because of unintentional use of marijuana.

Medical information reports that marijuana can be contaminated by pesticides, lead, mold, ammonia, bacteria, and even formaldehyde. This can lead to serious health effects brought about by contamination of the drug or too much consumption. Colorado implemented some policy strategies on the legalization of marijuana. They increased the unit price of recreational marijuana in order to reduce its usage. Public consumption of the drug was banned to promote a healthy environment. Only those over 21 years are allowed to use the recreational drug making it a drug felony offense to give or sell the drug or related products to a minor. The hours of operation for marijuana retail stores have been limited. All these measures in decriminalizing the drug have proved useful in the state and reduced the incidences of crime in the state. Public resources have been used to benefit the areas that need them more, instead of being focused on marijuana.

Proponents of decriminalizing marijuana suggested that if a legal system of using recreational marijuana was put in place, the number of people registering for medical marijuana would reduce but that was not the case. Actually, more people continued to register for medical marijuana than before. In decriminalizing the drug, the public health departments have to ensure that the marijuana is free of contamination, is packaged in a way that is inaccessible to children and that the packaging is labeled properly. The departments involved should inspect all marijuana growers, the product manufacturers and retail outlets. This will include the inspection of the pesticides used in marijuana growing, proper labels being used on the packaging, proper packaging of the product, and the safe extraction of the marijuana from the plant. Periodic evaluations should also be done to ensure that retail outlets do not sell to underage buyers. There is no federal infrastructure that regulates marijuana so many state health departments end up with little resources and little support. Tax funding should be allocated in anticipation of the needs of the public health sector.