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Should recreational marijuana be legal? Show more Show less

Following a public outcry over the case of Billy Caldwell, a 12-year-old boy with epilepsy who was prohibited from bringing back a life-changing supply of cannabis oil from Canada, the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes has now been made legal in the UK. Unsurprisingly this has re-ignited the ongoing question: should we legalise the recreational use of cannabis?

Recreational marijuana should be legal Show more Show less

Legalising marijuana would help to minimise its harms.
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Legalizing marijuana would lessen the strain on police and prisons

A significant amount of resources are used to arrest and imprison people for marijuana offences. Legalizing marijuana will save the government time, money, space, and decrease racial injustice within prisons.
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Context

The Argument

Legalizing marijuana would lessen the strain on our justice systems. It would save police officers’ time, the government’s budget, prison capacity, and be a step towards addressing the racial injustice in our justice system. Making an arrest takes police officers a couple of hours.[1] Arresting recreational marijuana users is wasting time that could be better spent going after violent criminals that have caused harm in society. Additionally, studies have shown that legalizing marijuana actually decreases violent crime; this most likely stems from the fact that since it is legal, the criminal activity associated with the drug trade is reduced.[2] Enforcing marijuana laws costs the state a huge amount of money every year. More arrests are made in the U.S. per year for marijuana offenses than for all violent crimes put together.[3] Making an arrest costs anywhere from $1,000- $5,000, and in 2018, there were more than 663,000 people arrested for marijuana offenses; this means that taxpayers are paying between $600 million and $3 billion on arresting marijuana users.[1] Additionally, housing an inmate costs between $30,000- $35,000 a year.[1] The state would save a huge amount of money by not penalizing people for marijuana use. This is money that could be better used in other government programs, such as healthcare or education. Legalizing marijuana would also lessen the strain on prison capacity. The U.S. has less than 5% of the world’s population but has almost 25% of the world’s incarcerated population; 1 out of 5 of these incarcerated individuals are in prison because of a drug offense, and between 40-50% of drug arrests are for marijuana.[2] This means that legalizing marijuana would significantly help prisons with capacity issues. It would also greatly lessen the number of people that have their lives severely damaged (because of stress, damage to relationships, and difficulty finding a job or renting an apartment) by having a criminal record. Additionally, legalizing marijuana would help address the racial injustice in our justice system. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), African Americans are about 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than Caucasians, despite that the percentage of marijuana users is about the same amongst both races.[2] Legalizing marijuana will save the government time, money, space, and decrease racial injustice.

Counter arguments

The cost of implementing a law is not a valid reason to get rid of it. All laws cost money to enforce. Additionally, the strain that marijuana offenses have on police departments has been greatly overestimated. Police departments do not focus on arresting recreational marijuana users, those arrests happen in relation to other activities such as at a traffic stop.[4] Since the police are not currently spending their time tracking down and arresting marijuana users, legalizing marijuana won’t relieve the strain on police departments they way that proponents think it will.

Framing

Premises

[P1] Arresting people for marijuana-related offense wastes police officers' time. [P2] Marijuana laws cost the state a huge amount of money to enforce. [P3] The number of people in prison for marijuana offenses puts a strain on prison capacity. [P4] African Americans are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession. [P5] Legalizing marijuana will save the government time, money, space, and decrease racial injustice.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] The strain that marijuana offenses have on police departments has been greatly overestimated. [Rejecting P2] The cost of keeping a law is not a reason to get rid of it.

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://www.boisestate.edu/bluereview/how-marijuana-legalization-would-benefit-the-criminal-justice-system/
  2. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/criminal-justice/reports/2018/05/01/450201/rethinking-federal-marijuana-policy/
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/29/opinion/high-time-the-injustice-of-marijuana-arrests.html
  4. https://www.kpbs.org/news/2010/oct/08/will-prop-19-cut-law-enforcement-costs/

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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 30 Jun 2020 at 01:09 UTC