California marijuana policy a step in the right direction
EDITORIAL | State will see long-term benefits
Published: Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Updated: Monday, February 20, 2012 17:02
In the last few years, more than a dozen states have softened their stances on marijuana, including the state of California. In the next month, voters in California will decide the fate of an initiative that would legalize marijuana. The new law, which is opposed by Governor Schwarzenegger, changes the crime of possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction, the lowest level of offense under California State law, and is a large step forward in the fight to make marijuana use legal.
Under the proposed law, entitled SB 1449, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is punishable by a $100 fine, but offenders would not face arrest or risk a criminal record, much like the law passed here in Massachusetts, making possession a civil offense punishable by an equivalent fine.
Steps like these taken by states across the union have been met with both support and disbelief, but in general, the benefits seem to outweigh the costs. Marijuana has not been shown to be any more harmful than either alcohol or tobacco if used in moderation. The only cause of strong adverse effects come with the abuse of the drug, but the abuse of any substance can be a problem. Health problems associated with fattening foods or even the over-consumption of caffeine can be just as detrimental to one's health, and their legality is not in question. Marijuana has even been shown to have medical benefits, most notable in the treatment of patients undergoing chemotherapy, but also in the treatment of extreme nausea or depression.
The prosecution of crimes related to marijuana would be far easier if it was legalized. Legalization would mean a lower price, thus, related crimes would be reduced. The production, transportation, and sale of the drug comes with heavy risks, and legalization would lessen these risks and thus drive the price down. Since these crimes would lessen, police and court resources would then be available to prosecute more serious crimes. Governor Schwarzenegger stated that the proposed law in California would free up resources wasted on prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket.
Many consider the "war on drugs" an expensive failure, so in addition to saving money on the prosecution of drug-related crimes, the legalization of marijuana may also present a new source of additional tax revenue. Enormous amounts of money are raised through the taxation of "sinful products" such as cigarettes and alcohol, and adding marijuana to the list would only increase revenue.
Throughout history there have been examples of how the government simply telling citizens they cannot do something does not work, for example the time of prohibition. The legalization of marijuana would give the government even more control over its sale and distribution, making the entire process safer and more efficient. California is taking a step in the right direction with its new policy, and more states should follow in its footsteps.