On Thursday, Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul and Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank introduced the first-ever legislation designed to end the federal ban on cannabis in the U.S.
They should be applauded for taking a stand against a policy that has unnecessarily criminalized citizens for decades.
The War on Drugs must end because of the terrible side effects it has wreaked on the world economy. Because marijuana is illegal, it is extremely profitable to criminal elements inside and outside the U.S., funding gang violence in the U.S. and Mexico. Its black market status cheats money out of the U.S. government and, therefore, U.S. taxpayers as well.
Ever since former President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs 40 years ago this month, it’s been met with unmitigated failure. It hasn’t eliminated drug use, but, in fact, sparked an increase in its prevalence. Over the same time period, according to drugwarfacts.org, the U.S. has seen the largest increase in prisoners in its history. The U.S. incarceration rate is the highest in the world, at 743 per 100,000 people in 2009, according to prisonstudies.org.
From 1980 to 2009, there have been 11,933,077 cannabis-related arrests – 5 percent of the total number of arrests for that time period, according to drugwarfacts.org. Of those cannabis arrests, 87.6 percent were for non-violent possession.
The outlawing of cannabis has been unjust and unwarranted. Despite common medical use, marijuana remains a Drug Enforcement Administration Schedule I drug, which “has no recognized medical value, and is an addictive substance,” while cocaine remains classified as Schedule II, meaning it has safe and acceptable medical uses.
Legalization of cannabis is about more than just getting high. Studies conducted by the states of Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, Oregon and Vermont have all pointed to the viability of hemp as an industrial material, as well as an agriculturally viable crop.
The prohibition of cannabis should end this year because there are many non-violent and intelligent people whose cannabis use has made them victims of the legal system. Arrests can derail the life of someone who may have only needed something to help them relax or sleep better at night. Cannabis users shouldn’t have to live in fear of having their rights taken away for using a plant that can do much good.
Nicholas Milstrey is an economics graduate student.