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Decriminalization of non-medical marijuana in the United States
Decriminalization of marijuana in the United States began in the 1970s and several jurisdictions have subsequently decriminalized marijuana (also referred to as cannabis) for non-medical purposes, as views on marijuana have liberalized, peaking in 1978. The decriminalization movement supports efforts ranging from reducing penalties for marijuana-related offenses to removing all penalties related to marijuana, including sale and cultivation. Proponents of marijuana decriminalization argue that a substantial amount of law-enforcement resources would be freed, which could be used to prevent more serious crimes, and would reduce income earned by street gangs and organized crime who sell or traffic marijuana. Opponents argue decriminalization will lead to increased crime, increased marijuana usage, and subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.
Additional recommended knowledge
Multiple states, counties, and cities have decriminalized marijuana. Most places that have decriminalized marijuana have civil fines, drug education, or drug treatment in place of incarceration and/or criminal charges for possession of small amounts of marijuana, or have made various marijuana offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement. A few places, particularly in California, have removed almost all legal penalties for marijuana possession, including personal cultivation.
After the 1960s, an era characterized by widespread use of cannabis as a recreational drug, a wave of legislation in United States sought to reduce the penalties for the simple possession of marijuana, making it punishable by confiscation and a fine rather than imprisonment or more severe charges.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon commissioned a study on marijuana use from the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. The Commission found that the constitutionality of marijuana prohibition was suspect, and that the executive and legislative branches had a responsibility to obey the Constitution, even in the absence of a court ruling to do so. The Nixon administration did not implement the study's recommendations. However, the report has frequently been cited by individuals supporting cannabis rescheduling in the United States.
In 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize marijuana possession. By 1978 Alaska, California, Colorado, Mississippi, New York, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Ohio had some form of marijuana decriminalization. Certain cities and counties, particularly in California, have adopted laws to further decriminalize marijuana.
Attempts to decriminalize marijuana
In recent history, there have been multiple places that have unsuccessfully attempted to decriminalize marijuana:
On November 7 2000, voters in Alaska rejected Measure 5 by 60-40 percent. Measure 5 would have removed civil and criminal penalties for use of marijuana or other hemp products by adults age 18 and older and would have regulated the sale of marijuana similar to the sale of alcoholic beverages.
On November 5 2002, voters in Nevada rejected Question 9 by 61-39 percent. Question 9 would have legalized possession of marijuana under 85.5 grams (3 ounces) by adults age 21 and older and would allow marijuana to be regulated, cultivated, sold and taxed. Question 9 would have also made low cost marijuana available for medical marijuana patients and would have created laws against "driving dangerously" under the influence of marijuana.
On November 2 2004, voters in Alaska rejected Measure 2 by 44-56 percent. Measure 2 would prompt the state legislature to tax and regulate marijuana, and would have removed criminal penalties for marijuana use by adults aged 21 and older.
On November 7 2006, voters in Colorado and Nevada rejected propositions that would have legalized possession of up to 28.45 grams (one ounce) of marijuana. In Colorado, Amendment 44 would have legalized possession of 28.45 grams or less by adults age 21 and older, but the amendment was rejected by 60-40 percent. In Nevada, Question 7 would have allowed adults 21 and older to purchase marijuana from government-regulated shops and possession of 28.45 grams or less in a private home would have been legalized, but the Question was rejected by 56-44 percent.
Arguments in support
In 1972, President Richard Nixon commissioned the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse to produce an in-depth report on marijuana. The report, "Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding," found marijuana prohibition unconstitutional and stated regardless of whether the courts would overturn prohibition of marijuana possession, the executive and legislative branches have a duty to obey the Constitution. "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 proponents of marijuana decriminalization have argued partially decriminalizing marijuana would largely reduce costs of maintaining the criminal justice and law enforcement systems, while fully decriminalizing marijuana to allow the cultivation and sale would generate a substantial amount of income from taxing marijuana sales. Other arguments assert that the funds saved from marijuana decriminalization could be used to enforce laws for other, more serious and violent crimes.
In 2003, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) published "Economic Costs of Drug Abuse," which stated without separately analyzing marijuana related costs, the United States was spending $12.1 billion on law enforcement and court costs, and $16.9 billion in corrections costs, totaling $29 billion.
In June 2005, a Marijuana Policy Project funded and published a study by Jeffrey Alan Miron entitled "Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States." The study found an estimated $7.7 billion in government expenditures on prohibition enforcement would be saved if marijuana were legalized and an estimated $6.2 billion would be gained if marijuana was taxed the same rate as alcohol or tobacco, which would total an estimated $14 billion annually; projected marijuana tax revenues by state.
In 2006, a study by Jon Gettman entitled "Marijuana Production in the United States" was published in The Bulletin of Cannabis Reform. The report states marijuana is the top cash crop in 12 states, is one of the top three cash crops in 30 states, and is one of the top five cash crops in 39 states. Gettman estimated the value of U.S. marijuana production at $35.8 billion, which is more than the combined value of corn and wheat. Furthermore, the report states according to federal estimates, eradication efforts have failed to prevent the spread of marijuana production, as marijuana production has increased tenfold in the past 25 years.
In 2006, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released the 2006 World Drug Report, which stated the North American marijuana market is estimated to be worth anywhere from $10 billion to $60 billion annually.
State specific studies
In 1988, Michael Aldrich and Tod Mikuriya published "Savings in California Marijuana Law Enforcement Costs Attributable to the Moscone Act of 1976" in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. The study estimated California saved almost one billion dollars in a twelve-year period between 1976 and 1988, as a result of the Moscone Act of 1976 that decriminalized marijuana.
In 2004, Scott Bates of the Boreal Economic Analysis & Research center prepared a study for Alaskans for Rights & Revenues entitled "The Economic Implications of Marijuana Legalization in Alaska." The study estimated the Alaskan government was spending $25-30 million per year enforcing marijuana prohibition laws. The study found if the purchase of marijuana were to be taxed as a legal commodity, tax revenues would increase by about $10-20 million per year, making $35-50 million per year in funds available.
In 2006, a study by the University of California, Los Angeles found California has saved $2.50 for every dollar invested into Proposition 36, which decriminalized marijuana and other drug possession charges by allowing out patient treatment programs instead of incarceration. In the first year the proposition was enacted (2001), California reportedly saved $173 million, which is likely a result of fewer drug offenders in prison. In the five years after the program was enacted, 8,700 fewer people are in prison for drug offenses.
Reduce income earned by organized crime
The Drug Enforcement Agency has reported that marijuana sales and trafficking support violent street gangs and motorcycle gangs, including white supremacist gangs. Proponents of fully decriminalizing marijuana to allow the regulated cultivation and sale of marijuana, including Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, argue fully decriminalizing marijuana would largely decrease financial gains earned by gangs from marijuana sales and trafficking.
Reduce possible subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs
A National Institute on Drug Abuse brochure entitled "Marijuana: Facts for Teens" states "Using marijuana puts children and teens in contact with people who are users and sellers of other drugs. So there is more of a risk that a marijuana user will be exposed to and urged to try more drugs." There is no evidence marijuana usage leads to subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs. However, if this is true then fully legalizing marijuana to allow the regulated sale of marijuana would decrease the chance that marijuana users would "be exposed to and urged to try more drugs."
Arguments in opposition
Subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs
In 1985, Gabriel G. Nahas published Keep Off the Grass, which stated that "[the] biochemical changes induced by marijuana in the brain result in drug-seeking, drug taking behavior, which in many instances will lead the user to experiment with other pleasurable substances. The risk of progression from marijuana to cocaine to heroin is now well documented;".
In 1995, Partnership for a Drug-Free America with support from The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the White House Office of Drug Control Policy launched a campaign against marijuana use citing a Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) report, which claimed that marijuana users are 85 times more likely than non-marijuana users to try cocaine. However, an article published in The Activist Guide by John Morgan and Lynn Zimmer entitled "Marijuana's Gateway Myth," claims CASA's statistic is false. The article states:
In 2006, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden used twelve rats to examine how adolescent use of marijuana affects subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs. The study gave six of the twelve "teenage" rats a small dose of THC, reportedly equivalent to one joint smoked by a human, every three days. The rats were allowed to administer heroin by pushing a lever and the study found the rats given THC took larger doses of heroin. The institute examined the brain cells in the rats and found THC alters the opioid system that is associated with positive emotions, which lessens the effects of opiates on rat's brain and thus causes them to use more herion. Paul Armentano, policy analyst for NORML, claimed because the rats were given THC at the young age of 28 days, it is impossible to extrapolate the results of this study to humans.
Multiple opponents of marijuana decriminalization have claimed increased marijuana use results in increased abuse of other illicit drugs. However, multiple studies have found no evidence of a correlation between marijuana use and the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.
In 1997, the Connecticut Law Revision Commission examined states that had decriminalized marijuana and found decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana has no effect on subsequent use of alcohol or "harder" illicit drugs. The study recommended Connecticut reduce marijuana possession of one ounce or less for adults age 21 and over to a civil fine.
In 1999, a study by the Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Health at the Institute of Medicine entitled "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," found no evidence of a link between marijuana use and the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs on the basis of its particular physiological effect.
In December 2002, a study by RAND regarding if marijuana use results in the subsequent use of cocaine and heroin was published in the British Journal of Addiction. The researchers created a mathematical model simulating adolescent drug use. National rates of marijuana and hard drug use in the model matched survey data collected from representative samples of youths from across the United States; the model produced patterns of drug use and abuse. The study stated:
The people who are predisposed to use drugs and have the opportunity to use drugs are more likely than others to use both marijuana and harder drugs ... Marijuana typically comes first because it is more available. Once we incorporated these facts into our mathematical model of adolescent drug use, we could explain all of the drug use associations that have been cited as evidence of marijuana's gateway effect ... We've shown that the marijuana gateway effect is not the best explanation for the link between marijuana use and the use of harder drugs.
In 2004, a study by Craig Reinarman, Peter D. A. Cohen, and Hendrien L. Kaal entitled "The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and in San Francisco," was published in the American Journal of Public Health. The study found no evidence that the decriminalization of marijuana leads to subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs. The study also found the mean age at onset of marijuana use and the mean age of marijuana users are both higher in Amsterdam than in San Francisco.
In December 2006, a 12 year gateway drug hypothesis study on 214 boys from ages 10-12 by the American Psychiatric Association was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The study concluded adolescents who used marijuana prior to using other drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, were no more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder than subjects in the study who did not use marijuana prior to using other drugs.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has claimed that marijuana leads to increased crime in the un-sourced pamphlet entitled "Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization."
Studies have found no evidence of a link between marijuana usage and an increase in crime, but rather have found marijuana may decrease criminal behavior when under the influence. In 1973, a report by the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse entitled "Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding" found marijuana does not cause violent or aggressive behavior, but rather "marihuana was usually found to inhibit the expression of aggressive impulses by pacifying the user, interfering with muscular coordination, reducing psychomotor activities and generally producing states of drowsiness lethargy, timidity and passivity."
In 2001, a report by David Boyum and Mark Kleiman entitled "Substance Abuse Policy from a Crime-Control Perspective" found the "high" from marijuana is unlikely to trigger violence and concluded:
In 2004, a study by Scott Bates from the Boreal Economic Analysis & Research center entitled "The Economic Implications of Marijuana Legalization in Alaska," was prepared for Alaskans for Rights & Revenues. The study found there was no link between marijuana use and criminal behavior.
Increased marijuana usage
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has claimed that marijuana decriminalization will lead to increased marijuana use and addiction in the un-sourced pamphlet entitled "Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization". The pamphlet states in 1979, after 11 states decriminalized private marijuana use, marijuana use among 12th grade students was almost 51 percent and in 1992, when stricter marijuana laws were put in place, the usage rate reduced to 22 percent. The pamphlet also states that when Alaska decriminalized marijuana, the marijuana use rate among youth rose twice as much as the youth usage rates nationwide; even though the law did not apply to anyone under the age of 19, the pamphlet explains this is why Alaska re-criminalized marijuana in 1990. Save Our Society From Drugs (SOS) has also stated that decriminalizing marijuana will increase usage among teenagers, citing an increase in Alaskan youth marijuana usage when marijuana was decriminalized.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon commissioned the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse to produce an in-depth report on marijuana. The report, entitled "Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding," reviewed existing marijuana studies and concluded that marijuana does not cause physicial addiction.
In 1997, the Connecticut Law Revision Commission examined states that had decriminalized marijuana and found any increase in marijuana usage was less than the increase in states that have not decriminalized marijuana; furthermore, the commission stated "the largest proportionate increase [of marijuana use] occurred in those states with the most severe penalties." The study recommended Connecticut reduce marijuana possession of 28.35 grams (one ounce) or less for adults age 21 and over to a civil fine.
In 1999, a study by the Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Health at the Institute of Medicine entitled "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," concluded "there is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use."
In 2001, a report by Robert MacCoun and Peter Reuter entitled "Evaluating alternative cannabis regimes," was published in the The British Journal of Psychiatry. The report found there was no available evidence marijuana use would increase if marijuana were decriminalized.
In 2004, a study entitled "The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and in San Francisco," found strict laws against marijuana use have a low impact on usage rates.
Multiple U.S. based advocate groups exist, such as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, NORML, and Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis. There are many individual American marijuana activists, such as Jack Herer, Paul Armentano, Edward Forchion, Jon Gettman, Rob Kampia, and Keith Stroup; Marc Emery, a well-known Canadian activist, has supported marijuana activism in the U.S. among other countries by donating money earned from Cannabis Culture magazine and Emeryseeds.com.
In June 2005, Jeffrey Alan Miron, a libertarian economist and Visiting Professor of Economics at Harvard University and more than 530 distinguished economists, including nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, called for the legalization of marijuana in an open letter to President George W. Bush, the United States Congress, Governors, and State Legislatures of the United States. The open letter contained Miron's "Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States" report (view report).
In 1997, the Connecticut Law Revision Commission recommended Connecticut reduce marijuana possession of one ounce or less for adults age 21 and over to a civil fine. In 2001, the New Mexico state-commissioned Drug Policy Advisory Group stated that decriminalizing marijuana "will result in greater availability of resources to respond to more serious crimes without any increased risks to public safety."
A few places in California have been advocating marijuana decriminalization. On November 3 2004, Oakland passed Proposition Z, which decriminalized marijuana. The proposition states the city of Oakland must advocate to the state of California to adopt laws to regulate and tax marijuana. On November 7 2006, Santa Cruz passed Measure K, which decriminalized marijuana. The measure requests the Santa Cruz City Clerk send letters annually to state and federal representatives advocating reform of marijuana laws. On June 5 2007, Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to send a letter in support of the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana to state and federal legislators, and the President of United States.
Mike Gravel, a former U.S. senator from Alaska and 2008 presidential candidate, responded to a caller on a CSPAN program asking about marijuana and the drug war, he stated "That one is real simple, I would legalize marijuana. You should be able to buy that at a liquor store."
Dennis Kucinich , a U.S. representative from Ohio and 2008 presidential candidate, has been an advocate of marijuana legalization. During Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, the following was posted on Kucinich's official campaign web site.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Decriminalization_of_non-medical_marijuana_in_the_United_States". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|