The following is a summary of milestones of federal marijuana enforcement in U.S. history


  • Prohibition, 1919 to 1933 – As use of marijuana became popular in response to alcohol prohibition, conservative anti-drug
    English: Close up shot of some high quality ma...
    English: Close up shot of some high quality marijuana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    campaigners railed against the “Marijuana Menace,” linking the drug to crime, violence and other bad behaviors.

  • 1930, Federal Bureau of Narcotics established – By 1931, 29 states had criminalized marijuana.
  • Uniform State Narcotic Act of 1932 – Pushed states, rather than federal authorities, to regulate narcotics.
  • Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 – Restricted marijuana to persons who paid an excise tax for certain medical uses of the drug.
  • 1944, New York Academy of Medicine – Report finds that marijuana does not “induce violence, insanity or sex crimes.”
  • Narcotics Control Act of 1956 – Set mandatory prison sentences and fines for drug offenses, including for marijuana.
  • 1960s Counter-Culture Movement – U.S. marijuana use grew rapidly. Studies commissioned by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson concluded that “marijuana use did not induce violence.”
  • 1970 in Congress – Repealed mandatory penalties for drug offenses. Marijuana was differentiated from other drugs.
  • 1973, Drug Enforcement Agency – Created by President Nixon.
  • 1976, Conservative Christian Groups – Led by Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, rising conservative groups lobbied for stricter marijuana laws. The coalition grew powerful, leading to the 1980s “War on Drugs.”
  • Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 – Pushed for and signed by President Reagan, the Act raised penalties for marijuana offenses, and established harsh mandatory “three strikes” sentencing laws.
  • 1989, New “War on Drugs” – Declared by President George H.W. Bush
  • 1996 in California – Voters legalized marijuana use for cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and other patients, via a doctor’s prescription.
  • 1996 to 2008 – 12 other states legalized medicinal marijuana use, albeit with widely varying restrictions.

 

Pros

Primary reasons in support of legalizing marijuana are:

 

Social Reasons

 

  • Prohibition of marijuana is unwarranted government intrusion into individual freedom of choice.
  • Marijuana is no more harmful to a person’s health than alcohol or tobacco, which are both legal and widely used, and regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
  • Marijuana has proven medical benefits for cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and other patients.
  • Crime and violence, both within the U.S. and at the U.S.-Mexico border, are greatly increased due to illegal selling and buying of marijuana. Legalization would logically end the need for such criminal behavior.

 

Law Enforcement Reasons

 

  • “National statistics show 872,000 arrests last year related to marijuana, 775,000 of them for possession, not sale or manufacturing – sparking some critics to suggest that the resources of the criminal justice system, including the crowded state prisons and courts, might be better used elsewhere,” per the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009.
  • Drug busts of youth for marijuana offenses often carry harsh penalties that can cause undue social harm with lifelong consequences.

 

Fiscal Reasons

  • Marijuana is one of America’s top-selling agricultural products. One California politician estimates that marijuana sales in his state top $14 billion annually.
  • New tax revenues from legalized marijuana sales could exceed $1 billion just for California. This rich new source of tax revenues nationwide would help lift the U.S. economy out of its worst recession in decades.
  • If marijuana was legalized and regulated, an estimated $8 billion would be saved annually in government spending on enforcement, including for the FBI and U.S.-Mexico border security.

 

Cons

Primary reasons against legalizing marijuana are:

 

Social Reasons

  • Some Americans believe that marijuana ingestion is immoral, and that their moral standards should be required of all Americans.
  • Long-term or abusive use of marijuana can be harmful to a person’s health and well-being.
  • Second-hand smoke from marijuana can be harmful to others.
  • Many allege that regular marijuana use can lead to use of harder, more harmful drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

 

Law Enforcement Reasons

  • Some opponents of legalizing marijuana believe that individuals involved in illegal buying and selling of the drug are more likely than average to be involved in other crimes, and that society is safer with marijuana offenders incarcerated.
  • Law enforcement agencies don’t want to be construed as supporting drug use.

 

There are no significant fiscal reasons against U.S. legalization of marijuana.

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