Drug Possession

A case for legalization

Illinois has entered the marijuana legalization debate. According to NPR, the state is in the process of debating a change to the law to end the criminalization of the drug, although, according to the article there are still details to be worked out.

Should Illinois legalize the drug, it would be the largest state in the country to have done so, although there appears to be a good chance California, the most populous state will also legalize soon.

After the success seen in Colorado and elsewhere, the arguments for criminalization have weakened significantly, and opinion has reflected this. A majority of Americans now favor legalization. That majority includes a majority of Democrats, and recent polls suggest, a majority of Republicans too. There is now no coalition in the country that is against legalization. It is a rare bipartisan issue.

Legalization makes sense for some reasons, but here, this article will highlight two.

First, the drug is nonviolent, and when used appropriately (like alcohol or other legal substances), it is in many ways less dangerous than those drugs that are already legal. The long-term effects are less pronounced than those for alcohol or cigarettes. This makes it extremely immoral to arrest, try, and imprison those guilty only of having some amount of marijuana. Being in possession of marijuana can be a Class 1 Felony, which can carry a hefty sentence. For a drug that does so little harm in and of itself, this seems extreme.

It is worth pointing out two further things here. First, that legalization did not increase the crime rate in states where the move has already been made. In fact, it appears to have gone down. And second, those who would do illegal activities like driving under the influence would still be punishable by other laws.

Second, Colorado has already proven that marijuana can be a massive cash crop for a state. Colorado is bringing in billions of dollars to its economy through the sale of legal marijuana. Even if some do not find the moral point convincing, the extra revenue is indisputable.

In summation, there are very few reasons not to move forward with the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. Many lives are unnecessarily ruined for selling and using a relatively benign drug, and that drug, when legal, can bring in massive amounts of money that Illinois desperately needs.

The state government should feel confident that the people of Illinois will be behind any measure that pushes for an end to criminalized marijuana. If Illinois and California should legalize the drug, it is likely a stronger push could be made to compel the federal government to follow suit, at which point the entire country could move past the errors made over the last few decades in the ill-advised war on drugs.

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