This paper will be about the criminal justice system and how it relates to marijuana. It will look closely at the current trend in crime rate, both violent and overall, throughout the past couple of years as well as the within the past 40 years. The paper will look at legalizing crime as a solution to lowering crime rates as well as solving numerous other issues such as racial discrimination and giving states a budget surplus to make citizens’ lives better. This paper will note several statistics and studies, as well as look closely at states which have already legalized marijuana such as Colorado and Washington. The goal of this paper is to inform the reader about the current relationship between the justice system and marijuana as well as persuade him or her to evaluate their position on legalizing marijuana in order to reduce crime, encourage equal justice, and boost their economy.
Key words: marijuana, economy, legal
Despite what many believe, crime-especially violent crime-is at an all-time low within the past fifty years. While critics would point to outliers such as Chicago, which saw an uptick in violent crimes, such as shootings, in 2016 to assert their point that crime is at an all-time high, that is simply not the case in the majority of cities and urban centers. Let’s look at St. Louis for example: in 1993 there were just under 4000 violent crimes, and in 2013 the number of violent crimes was seen at just above 1500, which is the lowest violent crime rate since 1985. Since 1991, violent crime has fallen by 51 percent and it reached its lowest point in 2013 since 1970. Lastly, overall national crime rate has been halved since it peaked in 1991, and this has been credited to aging population, income changes, and decreased alcohol intake (Eisen & Roeder, 2015). Unfortunately, many Americans seem to think crime is increasing over the years, while it’s been the opposite. While some may view this perception as unacceptable, it speaks to the fact that Americans view any crime as unacceptable no matter how much it occurs. Instead of trying to curb public opinion, American officials should try and instead improve daily life to decrease the crime rate at a more rapid pace. I believe that this can be done first and foremost through relaxing marijuana laws so less people are charged with crime. By relaxing focus on crimes that a majority of Americans view as harmless, law enforcement can focus more on the more violent types of crime that most people fear such as homicides and shootings.
The crime statistics for marijuana are rather shocking and somewhat disturbing. According to the ACLU, marijuana arrests account for over half of all drug arrests. While the majority of Americans, around 55 to 60 percent, now favor legalizing marijuana, law enforcement continues to crackdown on users. Marijuana had a negative stigma in the 1970s, and this has caused it to be viewed skeptically, especially by the older generation who still believe the 1970 studies saying how harmful it is. For example, in 1969 Gallup says that only 12 percent wanted to legalize marijuana. While more and more states are now legalizing marijuana, it remains to be seen if the current administration on the national level will adhere to public opinion. Here’s another positive for legalizing marijuana: it may help in the fight against racial bias within law enforcement. The ACLU also found that black people are about 3.7 times more likely than white people to be arrested over using marijuana. And in places like Iowa, D.C., Minnesota, and Illinois, they were around 8 times more likely to be arrested than whites for possessing marijuana. Legalizing weed would also save a ton of money. Per year, states waste 3,613,969,972 dollars enforcing marijuana laws. This money could be spent on the homeless, healthcare, and food stamps, but instead is used to implement an institutional system which favors one type of person over the other (“According to the,” n.d.).
Case Studies and Conclusion
The crime numbers could actually be overestimating crime as well-that is if you don’t consider possessing marijuana a crime. A study by Human Rights Watch found that law enforcement made 574,641 arrests for possessing marijuana in 2015, while making 505,681 arrests for all violent crime in 2015. This study also found that marijuana laws were hurting African-Americans more than whites because they had a tougher time paying court fees and finding jobs (Williams, 2016). States which have legalized marijuana such as Colorado and Washington are seeing positive results. While marijuana arrests have decreased by 98 percent in Washington from 2012 to 2013, legalizing the substance has not exactly solved the racial disparities that occur in the criminal justice system. That is, these arrests aren’t happening due to these legalizations, so that is a plus altogether. Drug Policy Alliance found that states who have legalized marijuana have saved hundreds of millions of dollars, and has also increased tax revenues which fund education and general services (Ingraham, 2016). Therefore, legalizing marijuana would decrease the crime rate, help in the fight against racial disparity within institutions, give states more money to fund general services, and do what the vast majority of the American people want.
- Eisen, L., & Roeder, O. (2015, March 16). America’s Faulty Perception of Crime Rates. Retrieved July 09, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurenbrooke- eisen/americas-faulty-perceptio_b_6878520.html
- Ingraham, C. (2016, October 13). Here’s how legal pot changed Colorado and Washington. Retrieved July 09, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/13/heres-how-legal-pot- changed-colorado-and-washington/?utm_term=.391a121da893
- Marijuana Arrests by the Numbers. (n.d.). Retrieved July 09, 2017, from https://www.aclu.org/gallery/marijuana-arrests-numbers
- Williams, T. (2016, October 12). Marijuana Arrests Outnumber Those for Violent Crimes, Study Finds. Retrieved July 09, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/13/us/marijuana- arrests.html