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Marijuana refers to “a dry, shredded green and brown mix of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves derived from the hemp plant cannabis sativa” (Reinarman and Cohen 837). Marijuana has both psychoactive and medicinal effects. In North America, the legality of marijuana varies from state to state. In some states, possession of small quantities and responsible use of marijuana has been decriminalized. However, the use of marijuana remains illegal is some states such as Texas. Arguments against legalization of marijuana are based on the side effects associated with its use. The use of marijuana leads to a subjective change in the user’s mood. Its use can also lead to heath conditions such as high heart rate, low blood pressure, and impaired psychomotor coordination. Despite being prohibited, the use of marijuana is still very popular in Texas. This has led to high costs of arresting and punishing marijuana offenders (Joffe and Yancy 632). Besides, cases of crime have increased as citizens try to access marijuana through illegitimate means. Thus, it is necessary to decriminalize possession and use of marijuana. I argue that the use of marijuana should be decriminalized in Texas, because it will facilitate the use of marijuana as a medicine, it will reduce the strain on the state budget, and it will create jobs and increase tax revenue. The feasibility of this proposal, as well as, its benefits will be discussed in this paper.
Decriminalizing the use of marijuana in Texas is a legal process that will require widespread participation. Mobilizing all stakeholders to participate in the formulation of laws that will guide the use of marijuana will require significant amount of financial resources. The required financial resources will be obtained as follows. First, funding will be solicited from non-governmental organizations such as NORML which support decriminalization of marijuana (Joffe and Yancy 633). Second, the producers and sellers of marijuana are likely to financially support the proposal to decriminalize marijuana. Finally, the citizens who support the use of marijuana will be requested to make financial contributions that will help in lobbying the government to decriminalize marijuana.
Implementing the proposal to decriminalize marijuana will involve enacting a bill that authorizes responsible use of marijuana by adults. The new marijuana act will guide production and consumption of the drug. It will define who can buy the drug, where it can be sold and the penalties that will be used on those who violate the regulations. Civic education will be conducted to sensitize the citizens on the new law, and the penalties associated with it. The citizens will also be sensitized on the importance of responsible consumption of marijuana in order to avoid its negative effects (Reinarman and Cohen 838). The civic education programs will be conducted by the government, non-governmental organizations, and producers of marijuana.
Decriminalizing marijuana in Texas is likely to meet opposition due to historical facts. Resistance to decriminalizing marijuana is based on the negative effects associated with it. Such effects include increase in crime, addiction, severe health conditions, and promoting the use of other drugs such as alcohol (Reinarman and Cohen 839). The opposition to decriminalizing marijuana can be reduced by convincing the public that the aforementioned side effects can be avoided through controlled use of marijuana. For example, the quantities to be bought or used by an individual can be limited. Besides, the mentioned side effects are also caused by legalized drugs such as tobacco and alcohol. Those who oppose decriminalization of marijuana are likely to change their stance if they are informed about the benefits of legalizing marijuana.
MEDICINAL BENEFITS OF MARIJUANA
Marijuana should be legalized on medical grounds since it has been, empirically, proved that it has therapeutic effects. Modern research indicates that marijuana can be used to treat “neuropathic pain, nausea, spasticity, glaucoma, and movement disorder” (Joffe and Yancy 634). Marijuana can also be used to stimulate appetite among patients suffering from HIV/ AIDs and dementia. Emerging research findings reveal that marijuana can be used to prevent malignant tumors. Besides, an overdose of the drug can not lead to death. This makes it a very safe medicinal drug that will help in improving the health of the citizens. Thus, legalizing marijuana will enable doctors to freely prescribe it to patients who suffer from various diseases. It will also protect citizens from being arrested for using marijuana for medical reasons.
The premise that consistent use of the drag will lead to negative health effects on the users is misguided. This is because research indicates that consistent users of marijuana tend to develop their own etiquette in terms of personal norms and values in regard to the use of the drug (Reinarman and Cohen). Thus, the users of marijuana have a mechanism for controlling their consumption of the drug, and this helps them to avoid the negative health effects of the drug. Besides, the citizens can always be educated by the government and the producers of marijuana on responsible consumption as is the case with other drugs such as tobacco and alcohol. It has also been proven that the users tend to reduce the frequency at which they use marijuana over time. This finding counters the belief that quitting the use of marijuana is very difficult.
COST OF CRIMINALIZING MARIJUANA
Arresting and charging marijuana offenders continues to be a very expensive exercise in Texas. As more people get involved in the use of marijuana, the government spends more money on marijuana arrests. For instance, in 2006, marijuana arrests cost the taxpayers over 655.08 million dollars (Joffe and Yancy 635). The opportunity costs of spending large amounts of money on marijuana arrests include the following. First, allocating more funds for marijuana arrests means that little or no funds are allocated to support other law enforcement activities. Consequently, white-collar crimes have increased in Texas. White-collar crimes are non-violent crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, and corruption. The social and economic impacts of the white-collar crimes have edged up ten times due to the little attention they get from the law enforcement agency (Joffe and Yancy 635). These crimes are likely to increase if the government continues to spend a lot of its scarce resources on preventing the use of a less harmful drug such as marijuana.
Marijuana arrests also limit the availability of financial resources for curbing the possession, sale, and consumption of other illicit drugs. In 2007, approximately, 48 percent of drug arrests in Texas were attributed to marijuana offenses (Joffe and Yancy 636). Other illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin which are more dangerous than marijuana had low arrest rates. Thus, it is apparent that concentrating on preventing the use of marijuana will lead to a rise in the use of other illicit drugs. Criminalizing marijuana has led to an increase in social costs such as violent crimes and illegal possession of firearms. The sellers and users of marijuana are sometimes forced to engage in crimes such as murder and bribery to avoid being arrested. Those who have already been charged with marijuana offenses can no longer possess firearms. Thus, they resort to illegal means of acquiring and using firearms.
FINANCIAL BENEFITS OF DECRIMINALIZING MARIJUANA
Marijuana has a high demand in Texas, especially among the youth. This explains why the use of marijuana is still popular despite its prohibition. Marijuana can only be sold in the black market since it is an illicit drug. Transactions done in the black market are hardly recorded by the government. Consequently, producers and sellers of marijuana continue to enjoy tax free profits from the illegal trade. By legalizing marijuana, the government will receive more tax revenue from the production and sale of the drug (Reinarman and Cohen 839). This is because all licensed producers and sellers of marijuana will be forced to pay taxes. Part of the tax revenue can be used to promote responsible consumption of marijuana through public awareness programs. Besides, the government will make huge savings by eliminating the costs of arresting and punishing marijuana offenders.
Legalizing commercial production of marijuana will enable the marijuana industry to grow tremendously. The producers will have more time to concentrate on production rather than avoiding being noticed by the law enforcement officers (Reinarman and Cohen 840). Besides, their turnover is likely to increase if citizens are allowed to consume marijuana. As the industry grows, more firms will join it, thereby creating more job opportunities. This will help in reducing the high rate of unemployment in Texas. The poverty rate will also reduce as more citizens find legitimate jobs in the marijuana industry. In this context, the overall effect of decriminalizing marijuana will be an increase in the welfare of the citizens.
Marijuana is currently an illicit drug in Texas. The use of marijuana has often been associated with negative effects such as increase in crime and health conditions such as low blood pressure. These negative effects have contributed to the opposition to decriminalizing marijuana in Texas. Contrary to popular belief, legalizing responsible use of marijuana among adults is more beneficial than prohibiting it. As discussed above, the side effects associated with marijuana can be eliminated through appropriate legislation that will guide the production and consumption of the drug (Joffe and Yancy 636). Legalizing marijuana will enable doctors to use it to treat various diseases or health conditions. The government will save its scarce financial resources or utilize them for other projects since legalizing marijuana will eliminate the cost of curbing its use. Production of marijuana will also increase government tax revenues. Consequently, we can conclude that marijuana should be decriminalized in Texas, because it will facilitate the use of marijuana as a medicine, it will reduce the strain on state budget, and it will create jobs and increase tax revenue.