Recently, narcotics officers raided the house of a suspected marijuana dealer in Wisconsin. The unarmed suspect, who offered no resistance, was shot to death in front of his 7-year-old son. His crime? Possession of 1 ounce of marijuana. In Oklahoma, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic who used medicinal marijuana to control muscle spasms caused by his broken back was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His crime? Possession of 2 ounces of marijuana. Another Oklahoma man is serving 75 years in prison for growing only 5 marijuana plants. (These are not misprints.)
Prohibition is the number one cause of America's exploding prison population. Many non-violent drug offenders are now serving longer prison sentences than murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals. It costs taxpayers $30,000 per year to imprison just one non-violent drug offender. Politicians are spending billions of tax dollars to build new prisons and jails so more and more non-violent drug offenders can be warehoused. Meanwhile, funding for education and other services are being strained.
Reducing drug abuse is a desirable goal, but law enforcement methods used to obtain that goal are counterproductive. Prohibition costs billions to enforce, creates a black market that generates violence and corruption, and makes criminals out of millions of productive and harmless adults. Adult use of alcohol and tobacco is accepted, but adult use of marijuana is considered criminal behavior. Why?
The main rationalization for Prohibition is to keep marijuana away from children. That rationalization does not reflect reality. Several surveys reveal that teenagers can obtain marijuana easier than they can obtain the legal drugs of beer or wine. In Holland, where sale of marijuana to adults is openly accepted, the percentage of teenagers using marijuana is less than half that of American teenagers. Because America's marijuana trade is totally unregulated, marijuana dealers are on the streets selling to anybody--especially teenagers. Regulating marijuana like wine would put street dealers out of business, would make marijuana dealers pay taxes, and would restrict sales to adults only. Prohibition does not make it difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana. Tougher marijuana laws have not reduced marijuana use. Marijuana use has increasedevery single year since 1991.
In 1937 (the last year that marijuana was legal) only 100,000 Americans used marijuana. Now that marijuana is illegal, 30 million Americans use marijuana, and marijuana is easily available to anybody who wants it--including children and prison inmates. 600,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana violations every year and thousands of them are sent to jail or prison, where many of them can still obtain drugs. The government can't even keep drugs out of its own prisons, yet the politicians keep telling us they can rid the entire nation of marijuana by spending more tax dollars. The government now spends $15 billion every year (a 1,500% increase since 1980) waging a war on marijuana smokers--a war that has lasted 60 years and is impossible to win. Another $5 billion per year is lost in tax revenue that could be generated if marijuana was regulated and taxed like wine.
For all practical purposes, Marijuana Prohibition is a $15-billion-per-year government subsidy for drug traffickers, organized crime, and street dealers. Because the government prohibits well-regulated liquor stores from selling marijuana, the government ensures that organized crime and street dealers will flourish. Prohibition escalates violence and corruption as mobsters, street gangs, and thugs fight for control of the marijuana trade. Just as Alcohol Prohibition escalated violence and corruption during the 1920s, Marijuana Prohibition does the same today.
Once all the facts are known, it becomes clear that America's marijuana laws need reform. This issue must be openly debated using only the facts. Groundless claims, meaningless statistics, and exaggerated scare stories that have been peddled by politicians and prohibitionists for the last 60 years must be rejected.
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