Half of Americans have used marijuana.
If we want government out of our lives, why doesn’t this apply to marijuana?
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Thirty-five years of supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. Post Master’s degree-Johns Hopkins University.
Crime in America.Net has published since 2009; we get two million page views a year.
I’m a former cop and I have been in the criminal justice system for close to fifty years.
As I write this, California and four additional states will vote on Tuesday to legalize marijuana. They are Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Four states and D.C. have previously legalized pot.
Twenty-one states have decriminalized marijuana to some degree.
This is a difficult post to write
This is a difficult post to write. Marijuana legalization or decriminalization has risks.
The primary drug detected via blood tests after a criminal arrest is marijuana. Driving under the influence of pot will increase; it’s almost impossible for it not to be a factor in DWI arrests and facilities.
Marijuana is psychologically addictive; there are endless numbers of people who shouldn’t touch anything stronger than aspirin.
Yes, you and endless others either use or have tried pot without residual difficulties, but I can assure you that your experience is not everyone’s. There are thousands of people where marijuana use has been a harmful experience.
Marijuana advocates will dispute everything offered above and my biggest problem with legalization has been the use of misinformation when describing the benefits of endorsement.
Legalization won’t end the involvement of organized crime. It won’t fill state coffers to overflowing. It’s not a cure for every conceivable medical issue (I now hear that marijuana can revive the dead, cure late-stage cancer, as well as eliminate the national debt).
If you believe that marijuana is harmless, you do not understand addiction.
Many in the justice system strongly feel that legalization will create harm. It may cause some who support this site to question our commitment to public safety.
But American’s Have Already Chosen
There is more support for the legalization of marijuana than ever before. Twenty-five states have legalized medical marijuana with Florida and North Dakota voting on the issue soon.
Support for legal marijuana use is up to 60% in U.S.
This is the highest percentage of support recorded in 47-years.
Favoring legalization is up among all age groups in the past decade.
Large majorities of Democrats and independents favor legalization.
One in eight U.S. adults say they smoke marijuana. This is probably a considerable undercount.
The Criminal Justice System
Just in case you haven’t noticed, the criminal justice system is struggling with increasing violent crime. With approximately 700,000 yearly arrests for marijuana, it’s obvious we could spend our time and resources on more important things. Over 20 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana offenses since 1965.
Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages that remained in place from 1920 to 1933. It made countless law abiding citizens criminals. It eroded respect for government and the justice system. It was a form of class warfare. It didn’t work then. It’s not working now.
In 2013, an estimated 24.6 million Americans aged 12 or older—9.4 percent of the population—had used an illicit drug in the past month. It is time to cut our losses as to marijuana and to refocus existing justice and treatment resources elsewhere. Government and the justice system simply cannot be all things to all people. Let the health system focus on marijuana; it will need all the help it can get if legalized.
But there is a Larger Issue
I watched Republican representatives this morning on CBS declare that it’s time for government to get out of our lives.
Well, considering the strong support from Americans for marijuana legalization, doesn’t this philosophy apply to pot?
Look, Americans of all political persuasions want less government wherever possible. We want our guns, we want to ride our motorcycles without helmets, we want to eat whatever we want without a nanny state telling us not to.
I could make a convincing case based on reasonable research that guns harm more people than they protect, that motorcycle use without helmets is dangerous, and that our unregulated food consumption is killing us. Having said all that, you would justifiably tell me to mind my own business.
Americans want what they want when they want it, legal or otherwise.
And at the moment, Americans want the legalization of marijuana and yes, it’s time for government to get out of the lives of those choosing to consume pot.
Background From Pew in 2015:
Attitudes about marijuana have undergone a rapid shift in public opinion, paralleled by few other trends in the U.S. Our recent data, along with historical figures from Gallup and the General Social Survey, reveal how views have shifted about the drug over time. Our most recent survey, conducted in March 2015, finds that many more Americans now favor shifting the focus of the nation’s overall drug policy. Here are six key facts about public opinion and marijuana:
Support for marijuana legalization is rapidly outpacing opposition. A slim majority (53%) of Americans say the drug should be made legal, compared with 44% who want it to be illegal. Opinions have changed drastically since 1969, when Gallup first asked the question and found that just 12% favored legalizing marijuana use. Much of the change in opinion has occurred over the past few years — support rose 11 points between 2010 and 2013 (although it has remained relatively unchanged since then).
Not all groups support legalization. Only about four-in-ten Republicans (39%) do. While most non-Hispanic whites and blacks say marijuana should be made legal, only 40% of Hispanics share that view. Among generations, 68% of Millennials say marijuana should be legal while only 29% of the Silent Generation (those 70 to 87) share that view. Baby Boomers, who were the most supportive generation in the 1970s before becoming opponents during the “Just Say No” 1980s, are now about as likely to favor (50%) as oppose (47%) legalization.
About seven-in-ten (69%) Americans believe alcohol is more harmful to a person’s health than marijuana while 15% pick marijuana as worse (14% say both or neither), according to a February 2014 Pew Research survey. If marijuana became as widely available as alcohol, 63% still believe alcohol would be more harmful to society.
While support for legalizing marijuana has grown, 62% of Americans would be bothered if people did their smoking in public even if marijuana were legal. On the other hand, 57% say they would not be bothered if a store or business selling legal marijuana opened up in their neighborhood. And just 15% say they would be bothered if people used legal marijuana in their own homes.
Nearly half (49%) of Americans say they have tried marijuana, and 12% in the past year, which the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health says is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S. The government survey showed that 18.9 million Americans 12 or older (7.3%) had used marijuana in the prior month.
Four states – Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska – and the District of Columbia have passed measures to legalize marijuana use, while an additional 14 states have decriminalized certain amounts of marijuana possession. Including those five locations, nearly half of U.S. states (23 plus D.C.) allow medical marijuana.
Normal at http://norml.org/
Government drug facts at https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends
Crime in America at http://crimeinamerica.net
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