Marijuana, often also known as pot or weed in urban terms is a greenish gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds and flowers of the Cannabis Sativa. For several years marijuana has been a misunderstood substance in American society. It was demonized in the war on drugs, has been touted as a gateway drug to other hard drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin. While marijuana use has been subject to legal ramifications in the United States, countries in Europe such as Amsterdam have not only legalized marijuana, their society seems to be flourishing despite its use. This topic will focus on the comparison between the legal uses of Marijuana in Amsterdam with that of California.
According to many supporters against the illegality of marijuana the main reasons for its status is the fact that it has been classified as a schedule I drug with a high potential for abuse since the 1970s and has been banned since the 1937 creating an environment where the perception of its danger is far more potent than it really is. There have also not been enough studies to determine its medical benefits and historically has been perceived as being linked to harder drugs such as heroin and the drug lifestyle.
However in the Netherlands decriminalization of the substance was adopted in 1976. Under Dutch law possession still remain a crime but the state no longer enforces it. Eventually Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Italy followed suit with England also doing so in 2004. However the United States has actually increased the drug penalties for marijuana. Not only do users face fines, citations but also jail time if they grow or sell marijuana.
According to a study conducted by the National Survey on drug use and health an average of 5.1% of people 12 years and older reported using marijuana from 1999-2001 (Natonal Survery On Drug use and health, 2005). Additionally the number of arrests that have occurred due to marijuana possession in New York number over 350,000 between 1997-2006 with 52% of the people arrested being African Americans. Not only that the report these statistic came from stated that most of these arrest came from the stop and frisking of nearly 479,000 people. 87% of them were innocent (Levine & Small, 2008). Thus we can see how the war on drugs has created an environment of a loss of privacy. Additionally although most of these people are charged with misdemeanors, repeated offences can land them in prison among far more hardened criminals. This creates a huge tax burden on the United States government in terms of the war on drugs and the prison system.
The only instance of legalization of Marijuana in the United States is the passage of proposition 215, the compassionate use act made the use of marijuana legal for medical purposes. It permits seriously ill Californians to use marijuana provided they have a doctor’s recommendation. It also gives legal defense to doctors for prescribing marijuana (Institute Of Governmental Studies, 2003). Although many legislators have said that this might be the start of legalization and thus anarchy, a study conducted about the relationship between Marijuana use in San Francisco and Amsterdam found that criminalization of marijuana does not deter its usage and decriminalization does not increase its usage (Craig Reinarman, Peter D. A. Cohen, & Hendrien L. Kaal, May 2004 ). The fact is passage of this bill has actually been considered a boon to Californian economy. It is estimated that Marijuana is the United States biggest cash crop with sales of nearly 14 billion dollars a year. California will possibly make 1.3 billion dollars due to its new marijuana legislation (Stateman, 2009).
It cannot be denied that the issue behind marijuana use is a complex one. However the myths behind the dangers of its use must be dispelled. Amsterdam has legalized its use for years without any significantly associated criminal activity. Not only will legalizing it in the United States bring it some much needed revenue it will also protect the civilian population by removing the foothold that drug dealers are gaining due to the laws surrounding its use.
Craig Reinarman, P., Peter D. A. Cohen, P., & Hendrien L. Kaal, P. (May 2004 ). Cannabis in Amsterdam and in San Francisco. American Journal of Public Health Vol 94 No. 5 , 836-842.
Institute Of Governmental Studies. (2003, June). Medical Marijuana in California. Retrieved May 13, 2009, from Institute Of Governmental Studies: http://igs.berkeley.edu/library/htMedicalMarijuana2003.html
Levine, H. G., & Small, D. P. (2008). Marijuana Arrest Crusade. Ne York: New York Civil Liberties Union.
Natonal Survery On Drug use and health. (2005). Marijuana Use in Substate Areas. New York: Natonal Survery On Drug use and health.
Stateman, A. (2009, March 13). Can Marijuana Help Rescue California’s Economy? Retrieved May 13, 2009, from Time News: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1884956,00.html?iid=digg_share