By Chandler Miller | USA
With the recent legalization of marijuana in states such as Colorado and Oregon, Jeff Sessions’ push to keep it illegal on a federal level and Vermont’s process to legalize it, the debate about whether or not it should be legal is the center of much controversy and oftentimes carries immense weight in the eyes of individuals. While most very firmly believe that marijuana has the capacity to ruin a user’s life and possibly those around them, many cannot bring themselves to agree with the criminalization of it. There are 3 major issues that encompass the majority of arguments, and they are the morality, economics, and the pragmatism involved. The next 3 paragraphs will tackle each issue.
Firstly, there is the morality involved with marijuana. In order to fully comprehend the morality associated with it one must break down the issue to our country’s core principles and evaluate the problem at an individual level. The United States were founded on the values of preserving an individual’s inherent right to their life, liberty, and property. These rights have been fought for and guaranteed under the United States Constitution, perhaps the most vital document to exist in modern history. The Libertarian Party values these over anything else.
Let’s first see how marijuana pertains to the first human right, life. The right to life is a human being’s basic right to live and die as they so choose and protect themselves as necessary. No individual has the right to end another’s life because that is violating the most basic of moral principles. Just as it is fundamentally immoral to end a life, it is also immoral to dictate what an individual does with their life in order to protect them from themselves. When forcing another human being to destroy or preserve their own individual body on the basis of your own standards by which you treat your own body, you are effectively engaging in the violation of inherent human rights as if they were property. Telling someone what they can and can’t put into their body falls under this. Therefore, what one consumes into their body is of no concern to anyone else.
The second basic human right is liberty. This one is simple. The right to liberty is everyone’s right to do what they like and live as they please without being held constraint by the law as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others or incite violence. When an individual participates in the action of smoking marijuana (on and with their own property), they are not doing so at the expense of another’s rights, the only one they are making a decision for their own self. It is completely ridiculous and hypocritical to assume that it is in any way moral to choose for someone how they live their life when they affect nobody but themselves by making their decision to smoke.
Next, we will move onto the third most basic human right, private property. The right to property is the right for an individual’s peaceful enjoyment of their possessions under the protection of the law. The Constitution clearly states in the 5th Amendment that every single citizen of the United States has a fundamental right to own property and be protected from anyone attempting to arbitrarily deprive them of such property. This includes marijuana. Smoking marijuana is indeed the peaceful enjoyment of one’s property and in no way violates the rights of anyone else.
So, as we see, the legalization of marijuana is particularly moral because it is unethical for it to be illegal by violating all 3 of the most basic human rights of an individual.
Now, we move on to the second and most factual issue associated with marijuana, the economic consequences that come from legalizing it. It is pretty obvious that the legalization of marijuana is bound to bring in tax revenue, create jobs and disperse more money into the economy. According to The Denver Post, in Colorado, marijuana is the fastest growing business sector in the state and is credited with providing 18,000 full-time jobs for its citizens. In the year 2015, marijuana contributed $151.1 million dollars in tax revenue and fees to the state. Additionally, this number is expected to increase to $185 according to mpp.org. Colorado also had the biggest drop in unemployment in history after 3 years of legalizing marijuana, going from 7.9% unemployment to 2.3%. This drop is so significant, Colorado now has the lowest unemployment rates in the nation as of 2017. This is not only the case with Colorado, similar results prove to be consistent with Washington, Oregon, and are expected to do the same in California (significant drops in unemployment rates and huge tax revenue after the legalization of marijuana). These states no longer have to use tax dollars to pay for individuals in prison for marijuana offenses. The Urban Institute Justice Policy Center confirmed that the average annual cost for an inmate in a minimum security prison is $21,000. With 757,969 individuals incarcerated for marijuana abuse, it costs $15,921,896,814 per year to take care of prisoners for committing a petty crime. There is no denying the fact that legalizing marijuana boosts the country and state’s economy. Economic opportunities open up on both government and individual levels once marijuana is legalized.
Lastly, there is the pragmatism and logic. At first glance one may assume the legalization of marijuana would result in increased crime rates and social tension. The practical results of the legalization of marijuana have been very subtle – but definitely not negative. Colorado’s Department of Safety found that since Colorado has legalized weed, they experienced a 2.2% drop in all violent crimes and an 8.9% reduction in property crimes. This is due to the fact that gangs no longer have to compete for drugs, dealers are now reliable, and marijuana is no longer as scarce of a substance to obtain. On top of all of this data, we can reasonably infer the black market is going to crumble because of marijuana’s legalization. Criminals are no longer making money, the economy is. Individuals who smoke weed are no longer viewed as monsters and thrown in jail. These are not bad people, and they should not be punished merely because they feel the need to smoke marijuana. As this article is coming to an end, let’s consider some questions relevant to the issue. Is it moral to criminalize individuals who don’t commit violent crimes or infringe on another’s rights? Is the law always moral? Why should taxpayers have to pay to house, feed, educate and provide healthcare for the individuals sent to jail for such a small crime? From a purely logical and pragmatic standpoint, it is imperative that marijuana is legalized, the pros of marijuana legalization most certainly outweigh the cons.
With morality, economics, logic, and majority support on its side, we need to fight Jeff Sessions’ partisan policies and protect our states’ rights. Call your local representative and tell them why you want to join the fight, share this article on social media and spread the word. Anything, whether it is big or small, makes a difference and could change the lives of millions!