Cannabis Criminalizing: Risks, Arrests, and Cost Impacts
Marijuana, also known as cannabis, weed, pot, is a commonly used substance in many countries, both for recreational and medicinal purposes. It is classified as an illegal substance by some states and by the federal government in the US. While its legality and cultural perception continue to evolve, the question of how dangerous marijuana is remains a topic of debate.
In this article, we will look at some of the statistics, Marijuana arrest by numbers, the cost impact to the society due to the prohibition, and finally, cannabis legalization. So how dangerous is marijuana?
Opponents argue that marijuana use increases the risk of addiction, bronchitis, and reduced lung function. They also state that it can affect memory and concentration. Their biggest claim against marijuana use is that it can increase the risk of accidents while driving or operating heavy machinery. Some of these risks mentioned factors can be found in alcohol, tobacco, and even prescription drugs.
Weed vs Alcohol Which One Is More Dangerous
Alcohol is a legal, and socially accepted drug that people have used for thousands of years for its mind-altering effects. It is a depressant that slows down the central nervous system. Some of the side effects include feelings of relaxation, and decreased inhibitions. Alcohol can cause a range of negative physical and mental effects, such as hangovers, addiction, and liver damage. Additionally, people have exhibited violent behavior towards oneself and others while under the influence of alcohol.
Alcohol use is also linked to more auto accidents occurring due to impaired judgment while under the influence. According to www.niaaa.nih.gov (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) “In 2019, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 10,142 deaths (28.0 percent of overall driving fatalities)”
The data relating to fatal car crashes due to cannabis use is practically non-existence. Therefore, it will be difficult to support the claim that the influence of weed while driving leads to auto accidents. According to www.frontiersin.org. “At least 2.5% (1.5–3.5%) of fatal crashes were estimated as being attributable to cannabis, compared with 28.6% for alcohol (26.8–30.5%)”
Graph: Percent of Fatal Car Crashes per Cause
Cannabis Incarceration by Numbers
Based on the numbers that we just saw on alcohol related death; we should expect more people to be incarcerated on alcohol or other drugs related offenses. Let’s take a closer look at some of the statistics. According to ACLU.org, “marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States”. Get this, most of the people that the cops are arresting are not drug lords but rather people with small amounts of weed, simple possessions
Graph: Percent of Weed Arrest vs Other Illicit Drugs
Research suggests that young people from 18 years old to 30 years old tend to smoke pot or use it in the form of an edible. The studies found that White smokers and black smokers use weed at the same rate. However, the rate of arrest for marijuana within these two groups is highly disproportionate. The enforcement of marijuana laws has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color and has contributed to the high rates of incarceration in the United States. Blacks are about five times more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts.
Graph: White Arrests vs Black Arrests
Cannabis Incarceration Cost Impacts
The cost impact of cannabis related incarceration is a critical issue in countries where this herb remains illegal. The economic impact of this policy can be significant, both in terms of direct costs to the criminal justice system and indirect costs to society.
Direct Costs To The Criminal Justice System
The direct costs of this natural herb incarceration include the expenses of law enforcement, prosecution, and imprisonment. These costs can be substantial because the criminal justice system must allocate resources to arrest, detain, and prosecute individuals for cannabis offenses. In recent years, due to the high rate of arrest, the prison system has experienced overcrowding. Overcrowding increases the cost of housing and caring for inmates.
Indirect Costs Impact To The society
Some of the indirect costs to society because of marijuana incarceration are for example, individuals who are incarcerated for cannabis offenses may lose their jobs and face difficulty finding employment in the future. This can result in reduced income and increased poverty, which can have a significant impact on the economy. Additionally, the resources could have been used on other critical areas, such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure.
The economic impact of cannabis incarceration also extends to the offender’s families. Many families must support their loved ones while they are in prison by paying the collect calls that the inmates make, replenishing the inmate’s commissary, loss of time away from work while visiting the loved ones, and the transportation cost to visit them in prison. This can result in financial strain and stress.
Cannabis Legalization Status by State
States With Cannabis Medicinal Use
As of 2021, 35 states and Washington D.C. have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. These states include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
States With Cannabis Recreational Use:
15 states and the District of Columbia have also legalized cannabis for recreational use. The states that have legalized cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use are:
13. Washington, D.C.
15. New Jersey
Individuals should check their state’s laws and regulations before obtaining or using for medical recreational purposes since these laws and regulations vary from state to state.
Cannabis Federal Legalization
The federal level cannabis legalization remains in a standstill despite growing support from the public and various states legalizing it for medical and recreational use. This has caused confusion and difficulties for businesses and individuals who are operating legally under state laws but are in violation of federal law. The current cannabis federal classification is a Schedule I drug. That means the federal government has not accepted it for medical use and it is considered a high potential for abuse. The classification has slowed down research into its medical benefits and impacted its legalization efforts.
The following are some of the benefits of cannabis federal legalization:
- Provide clearer regulatory framework for the industry.
- Allow easier access to banking and financial services
- Create new business opportunities in a rapidly growing market.
- Allow better tracking and regulation of the product by reducing the risk of diversion to the illicit market.
- Collect significant tax revenue.
- Reduce the number of individuals facing criminal charges for marijuana offenses
- Help the expungement of prior cannabis-related convictions.
Cannabis federal legalization is a complex and controversial topic that has been the subject of much debate. Although there are many potential benefits to its legalization such as economic, social, and criminal justice implications, there are also valid concerns that need to be addressed. As the conversation continues, it is important to consider all perspectives and ensure that any legalization efforts are done in a responsible and well-regulated manner.