Emma Carpenter, Staff Writer
Ideology: Liberal | Writing In: Vienna, Austria

In the 2010 election, decriminalization of marijuana will be on the ballot of several states, such as California. This is a sensitive issue, sparking much controversy and strong opinions from both sides. Personally, I find it a vile substance, but despite my negative feelings towards Marijuana, I do find benefits in decriminalizing it and/or legalizing it.

One of the main arguments cited for is the potential tax revenue that could be reaped through sales tax. It was calculated that if marijuana was legalized, it could potentially become a cash crop, bringing in more than a billion dollars a year (estimated for California alone).

The extra tax revenue would be extremely helpful in this faltering economy – amid falling state revenues. Also, the money used for War on Drugs programs would be subsequently saved. Currently, we spend over $19 billion dollars a year on the so-called War on Drugs, yet have we seen any results? Decriminalization and/or legalization would mean saving money by not prosecuting suspects, not imprisoning offenders, and simultaneously earning money from the taxes the government could impose on it. On top of all this, legalization would create more jobs in every community. Small businesses would take off and there would be new competition with tobacco and liquor companies, forcing them to spend billions more on advertising. The financial benefits are hard to deny. It certainly wouldn’t solve our economic problems, but decriminalizing marijuana has the potential to bring a small amount of prosperity.

But it is illegal for a reason right? Marijuana is potentially hazardous to your health, so in keeping it illegal isn’t the government just trying to protect you? I don’t think it’s that simple. If you want to smoke, who is the government to say that cannot? Again, I think it’s stupid, but I’m not in favor of the government limiting the choices that we have. After all, the government allow us to drink and to smoke cigarettes, which are equally as dangerous, if not more harmful – so why is marijuana illegal?

Individuals have the right to make their own decisions. The government has the right to step in only when that individual harms someone else. Smoking a joint isn’t going to harm anyone but the person that’s actually smoking. Of course, there should be regulations to prevent those who want to smoke from harming those who don’t – just as citizens are allowed to drink, but they aren’t allowed to drive aftwards. It would be irresponsible for legalization not to come with some regulations, but that doesn’t mean the government would be over stepping its control. The government controls (or attempt to control) alcohol consumption to a degree, so the same rule and regulations should apply.

Clearly, prohibiting it is not an effective tactic. Over half of the drug busts every year involve marijuana. That means wasted time and money in courtrooms, wasted space in prisons for a minor crime. Its not the best thing to do, but I hardly think that time behind bars is an appropriate punishment for getting high. Over half of the people in jail for drug related crimes, committed a crime involving marijuana. This is a little disturbing for a drug that is less harmful than alcohol.  This time and money and space could be used to prosecute real criminals instead of petty offenders. Legalization would also help eliminate organized crime.

Let’s face it: Marijuana is available. Once you reach high school, it’s easy for anyone to get and there is little evidence that keeping marijuana illegal will actually keep people from smoking. In fact some studies say that usage will go up at first, but then drop dramatically as it loses its appeal. It will no longer be forbidden, meaning it will no longer be as tempting, especially for young people. Prohibition of alcohol failed miserably, so why can’t we see that perhaps the prohibition of marijuana is just as pointless and part of the problem? If we want to keep the drug problem at bay, focusing on education, rather than banning it is a better use of time and resources. To say that just because you can get it means that you should be allowed to would be a logical fallacy. But I am saying that its wide availability is evidence of the failure of prohibiting it. The law doesn’t stop anyone, so maybe its time we adjust the law so that it works to regulate and lessen incidents involving marijuana, rather than banning it so it becomes more appealing.

Again, not a fan, but I’m also not a proponent of trying to control other people’s lives.If you want to smoke a joint, that’s your business. The government can stay out of it and stop wasting resources and money on a lost cause.