Marijuana smoking is illegal is illegal in many places. Yet, many are concerned that the punishment for smoking or possessing marijuana is too draconian, and that it does not fit the crime. The Obama administration, on this premise, spoke about decriminalizing marijuana possession. Is this a good idea?
Marijuana use in Canada is a "norm": 23% of Canadians report using marijuana in their lifetime.
The scientific evidence indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue.
Most resources are now directed at law enforcement, when they could be better spent on the public health and education aspects of marijuana use and addiction.
Most of those convicted of possession of marijuana do not go to jail, but do receive a criminal record. A criminal record causes employment difficulties and problems with international travel.
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.
Over 200,000 people are in prison in the United States due to drug related offenses.
Marijuana possession is not an offense on par with violent crime.
Judges don't usually incarcerate marijuana smokers because it's unreasonable.
Young people experimenting with Marijuana should not be haunted by criminal convictions. Representative Andrew Edwards, a 21-year-old Nashua, New Hampshire Democratic Representative - 'I think the penalty should be reduced. Young people are experimenting, and if they make a bad choice, their conviction shouldn't come back to haunt them later in life,'
Marijuana possession should not carry same criminal punishment as hard-drug possession.
Employers are forgiving of individuals convicted of marijuana crimes. Hudson Police Chief Richard E. Gendron said, in opposition to a decriminalization bill in New Hampshire, "Employers are more forgiving in this day and age."
Police often reduce marijuana cases down to violations. Hudson Police Chief Richard E. Gendron said, in opposition to a decriminalization bill in New Hampshire, "police prosecutors frequently reduce marijuana cases down to violations."
Threat of criminal charges can help leverage youth to enter rehabilitation programs. Hudson Police Chief Richard E. Gendron said, in opposition to a decriminalization bill in New Hampshire, "The threat of criminal prosecution gives them leverage to encourage youths to attend a drug rehabilitation program."
Decriminalization might reduce possible the 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."
Decriminalization of marijuana would 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.
Decriminalizing marijuana would save law enforcement resources. A Massachusetts, USA study concluded that that decriminalization of marijuana in Massachusetts would produce an annual savings in law enforcement resources of approximately $24.3 million.
The funds saved from marijuana decriminalization could be used to enforce laws for other, more serious and violent crimes. Canada police can choose to issue a ticket to someone caught with 30 grams or less marijuana,or requiring community service, instead of laying a criminal charge. They said making simple possession a ticketable offence, as opposed to a criminal offence, would save the justice system money that could be directed to higher level crimes.
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.