04 Jan Drug decriminalization
Decriminalizing drug use has been a much-debated topic for about five decades or so. Let’s look at some facts and analyze this. Numerous people and social groups in the country have been contending for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. Organizations such as NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project advocate the decriminalization of possession, use, cultivation, and sale of marijuana by adults, even beyond medical applications. In a poll in 1996, 56% of California voters voted for California Proposition 215, which legalized the farming and usage of marijuana for medical purposes. This, in turn, led to legal and policy related battles between federal and state governments. So far, 20 more states and the District of Columbia have authorized regulated medical marijuana usage. State laws restrict state-level prosecution, despite cannabis being illegal under federal law.
On November 6th, 2012, Colorado and Washington’s state made way to legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for private recreational use, and the rules for legal growing and commercial distribution of marijuana were revised. In the 2014 Midterms voters in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. In 2016, California Proposition 64 was passed, authorizing an individual, recreational use of marijuana for adults aged 21 or older in the state of California.
“It’s a matter of individual freedom of choice,” said ACLU President Nadine Strossen in an interview. “Does that mean they should do it? Not necessarily, not any more than somebody should smoke or drink or eat McDonald’s hamburgers.”
Many independent agencies believe that funds saved from cannabis decriminalization could be used to enforce laws for other, more dangerous and violent crimes.
ACLU has always been a strong supporter of drug decriminalization because according to their research drug-related arrests have mostly skyrocketed America’s incarceration rate to unacceptable levels. Drug offenders comprise over half a million of the more than 2 million people in America’s prisons and jails. Drug crimes combined with failed drug tests estimate for a notable number of those returning to prison for parole and probation violations. There were over 7 million arrests in the U.S. between 2001 and 2010 and out of these, 88 % were for possession of marijuana for personal usage.
In 1985, a proponent of anti-decriminalization, Gabriel G. Nahas published – Keep Off the Grass, which stated that biochemical changes caused by marijuana in the brain result in drug-seeking behavior, which opens a gateway to other harmful drugs like cocaine, meth, and heroin. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) claims that drug decriminalization will lead to increased drug usage. All of this proves that there is no clear consensus on this issue and it’s an ongoing battle between the Puritans and the Liberals. Some activists are advocating the practice of harm reduction and giving a second chance to petty offenders by just imposing fines and penalties on them. On the other hand, there are regulatory bodies who view it as the society’s evil and therefore believe that it should be uprooted at any cost for saving the future of this nation. What are your thoughts on it?