What Impact Would Legalizing Marijuana have on Drug Charges?

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There are many reasons for legalizing marijuana. New laws would stop the unwarranted government intrusion into a person’s right to privacy and basic individual liberty.  It would also provide access to individuals that need cannabis for medicinal reasons. The question remains, what is the biggest reason to legalize marijuana on a federal level?  At a basic level, it would have a huge impact on drug charges and help keep more innocent people out of prison.

“There are people spending years of their life in jail for something that many states consider legal,” says Dayne Phillips, a South Carolina criminal defense attorney of Price Benowitz LLP. “That is fundamentally unfair, and instead of law enforcement focusing on investigating violent crimes to keep our streets safe, they are busy arresting people for small amounts of marijuana possession. It defies common sense and is certainly not justice.” 

There will always be individuals that will argue that legalization will lead to an increase in crime. However, the statistics show this is simply not true. Colorado and Washington were two of the first states to legalize marijuana for both recreational and medicinal purposes in the country. In both states, legalization did not have any effect on violent crimes or property crimes.  In fact, the number of burglaries was greatly reduced after legalization went into effect in Washington. 

Legalizing marijuana also causes a drop in the crime rates because people are simply no longer being incarcerated for something that should not be a crime.  It becomes a slippery slope. This frees up space in jails that are notoriously overcrowded, making it easier not only on the judicial system, but also the economy. That does not only mean fewer innocent people in jail, but also more money that can be invested in cities and counties. 

Many of the people who face drug charges every day are also disproportionately from low-income communities and communities of color.  Studies have shown that African-Americans are 11 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their Caucasian counterparts.

With so many states having successfully legalized marijuana without any notable harmful effects, it does cause people to question why the federal government has not yet taken steps to end the prohibition. Clearly, new laws would help solve the problem of inequality, and keep more innocent people out of jail. 


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