- The American Citizens
- United States of America
Driven by the Drug War, the U.S. prison population is six to ten times as high as most Western European nations. The United States is a close second only to Russia in its rate of incarceration per 100,000 people. In 2000, more than 734,000 people were arrested in this country for marijuana-related offenses alone.
The US war on drugs places great emphasis on arresting people for smoking marijuana. Since 1990, nearly 5.9 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, a greater number than the entire populations of Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming combined. In 2000, state and local law enforcement arrested 734,498 people for marijuana violations. This is an increase of 800 percent since 1980, and is the highest ever recorded by the FBI.
As has been the case throughout the 1990s, the overwhelming majority of those charged with marijuana violations in 2000-- 646,042 Americans (88 %) -- were for simple possession. The remaining 12% (88,456 Americans) were for "sale/manufacture", an FBI category which includes marijuana grown for personal use or purely medical purposes. These new FBI statistics indicate that one marijuana smoker is arrested every 45 seconds in America. Taken together, the total number of marijuana arrests for 2000 far exceeded the combined number of arrests for violent crimes, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Like most Americans, people who smoke marijuana also pay taxes, love and support their families, and work hard to make a better life for their children. Suddenly they are arrested, jailed and treated like criminals solely because of their recreational drug of choice. State agencies frequently step in and declare children of marijuana smokers to be "in danger", and many children are placed into foster homes as a result. This causes enormous pain, suffering and financial hardship for millions of American families. It also engenders distrust and disrespect for the law and for the criminal justice system overall. Responsible marijuana smokers present no threat or danger to America or its children, and there is no reason to treat them as criminals, or to take their children away. As a society we need to find ways to discourage personal conduct of all kinds that is abusive or harmful to others. Responsible marijuana smokers are not the problem and it is time to stop arresting them.
Once all the facts are known, it becomes clear that America's marijuana laws need reform. This issue must be openly debated using only the facts. Groundless claims, meaningless statistics, and exaggerated scare stories that have been peddled by politicians and prohibitionists for the last 60 years must be rejected.
ANNUAL AMERICAN DEATHS CAUSED BY DRUGS
TOBACCO ........................ 400,000
ALCOHOL ........................ 100,000
ALL LEGAL DRUGS ................ 20,000
ALL ILLEGAL DRUGS .............. 15,000
CAFFEINE ....................... 2,000
ASPIRIN ........................ 500
MARIJUANA ...................... 0
Source: United States government...
National Institute on Drug Abuse,
Bureau of Mortality Statistics
The Marijuana Tax Act was introduced in 1937. It required sellers to obtain a license. Blanket prohibition was not the intention. Harry Anslinger (Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner) testified in hearings on the subject that the hemp plant needed to be banned because it had a violent "effect on the degenerate races." This specifically referred to Mexican immigrants who had entered the country, seeking jobs during the Great Depression.
The law passed quickly and with little debate. The American Medical Association (AMA) protested the law soon after, both on the grounds of actual disagreement with the law and the supporter's lies on the subject, claiming the AMA had vocalized support when, in fact, the opposite was true.
There was some legal wrangling over the issue after it was passed. The people who were allowed to issue the licenses did not do so, effectively banning the drugs. The judicial system did not accept, at first, that being arrested in possession of drugs was a tax violation because it must have come from an unlicensed source (because there were no licenses), thereby avoiding taxes. Thus, the federal government did have the right to regulate the ingestion of drugs.
Prohibition must be weighed against the loss of personal freedom. Countries have a responsibility to respect individual free will and the right of self-determination.
The immorality of marijuana use can only be based on one set of moral beliefs. For example, it is discriminatory to claim that Judeo-Christian abstinence from intoxication is the correct set of moral beliefs.
The War on Drugs serves the immediate interests of politicians. By taking a "moral" stand against recreational drugs, or fighting the evils caused by the illegal drug trade they increase their popularity amongst constituents.
Legal prohibition does not stop consumers from consuming drugs, it does not stop trafficants from producing and selling it. The price of the final product increases to abnormally high values because of the black market status, which together with the powerful effects of drug addiction causes users to commit crimes in order to fund their addiction.
Critics of the War on Drugs advocate the partial or complete decriminalization of illegal drugs, combined with a system of regulation, as happens with alcohol and prescription drugs. By providing legal supplies of currently illegal drugs the price will fall, leading to a collapse in the illegal drug industry, and a reduction in crimes committed by both drug suppliers and users. They also argue that the reduction in the price will lead to little, if any, growth in drug addiction, due to the inelasticity of demand. Some even state that in a strictly regulated market, drug use may fall overall, by removing the marketing activities of the illegal drug industry.
It is not worthwhile for a law to forbid people from willingly exposing their own bodies to harm by using drugs, any more than by overeating or bungee-jumping. Obesity is a national epidemic, killing millions every year, but the government has no right to regulate how much citizens eat.
Drug users exercise free will when they chose to use drugs; a person has the right to give up his or her own freedom. A Government does not have the right to dictate them. No drug eliminates free will. It is possible to quit using any drug. Many banned drugs are significantly less deleterious to free will than legal alcohol or tobacco. Severe physiological addiction has been demonstrated for tobacco (stronger than cocaine), but no strong physiological addiction has been shown for marijuana.
Legalization would reduce health care costs by reducing the probability of overdoses and accidental ingestion of an unintended drug through standardization of drug purity by state-sponsored production and sale.
There is no clear and obvious third party harm. Such examples are caused by related activities that can be illegal without blanket prohibition. For example, driving while intoxicated is illegal, while drinking alcohol without driving is not.
Harm caused to children by their parents' excessive drug use is criminal insofar as it constitutes child neglect; drug-specific laws are unneeded.
If drugs were legalized, the companies that manufacture and market them would be sued, such as cigarette companies have been exposed to lawsuits. Legalization of drugs would work to increase liability on producers forcing health standards.
Legalization would allow greater regulation. Cigarettes come with warnings. Alcoholic beverages are clearly marked with the amount of alcohol. Currently legal drugs contain a listing of all active and inactive ingredients. Illegal drugs could be sold legally with ingredients lists, warnings and purity levels clearly marked.
Recreational drug has no clear and obvious harmful effect on anyone besides the user (who chooses to accept those risks). The War on Drugs, on the other hand, places non-users' friends and loved ones in jail. The War on Drugs does have clear and obvious harmful effects on third parties.
Countries who have experimented with legalization have had positive results.
Please, Let your voices be heard. Stand up for what you beleave in. If we all stand tall than we can change the law.
We, the undersigned, call Congress and The DEA to eradicate the prohibition on marijuana.
The Legalize marijuana for home use only petition to The American Citizens was written by Adam and is in the category Law Reform at GoPetition.