The War on Drugs and The Legalization of Marijuana
Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world. The word “marijuana”, referred to as “herbal cannabis” by the rest of the world, is the American term for dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis sativa plant (Caulkins 2012). The drug can be dated back to as far as 6000 B.C. when the plant’s seeds were used in China as food. It was used as a pain reliever and sedative in Napoleonic France (Spaulding and Fernandez). The flowers on the cannabis sativa plant contain concentrated amounts of a mind-altering chemical known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC varies in potency depending on the plant. The leaves of the plant, which have become the social symbol of marijuana, contain lesser quantities of THC. As John Caulkins writes in “Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs To Know,” marijuana “creates illicit markets with a total value in the tens of billions of dollars per year.”
The legalization of marijuana has generated a large debate throughout the United States. While 18 states have legalized medicinal marijuana, recreational use remains illegal (until the implementation in Colorado and Washington in 2014). Those in support of legalization emphasize how the prohibition of the drug has been ineffective and that there are many benefits of legalizing it. These include the decrease in trafficking and price of the drug leading to the elimination of illegal drug dealers. More importantly, legalization and regulation of marijuana can lead to a hefty increase in tax revenue on both a state and federal governmental level.
In November 2012, Colorado and Washington legalized the use of recreational marijuana for adults over 21. The goal is now to regulate the market and the use of the drug similar to the regulatory laws of alcohol. “In Colorado, individuals over 21 can grow up to six plants for personal use and purchase one ounce of marijuana from dispensaries” (Spaulding and Fernandez 2013). Only...