Marijuana is currently the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. A study in 2013 found that 80.6% of all illicit drug users use the drug in its various forms. Additionally, 8.1 million people used marijuana on a daily or almost daily basis in 2013.
Minnesota currently has decriminalized marijuana, meaning that a person would be charged with a misdemeanor when possessing a small enough amount. This type of charge is comparable to a speeding ticket and makes small amounts of marijuana less likely to ruin a person’s life. Furthermore, bills to legalize marijuana were introduced in late January in both the the chambers of the Minnesota State Legislature.
Governor Tim Walz has also said that he supports legalization. Many of Minnesota’s politicians recognize that legalizing marijuana is a logical decision for both legal and economic reasons but leaders in the House and Senate have said that it is not high on the list of priorities for 2019. Nevertheless, Forbes has predicted that Minnesota will be one of the next states to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
The drug became illegal on the federal level in the 1970’s with the passing of the Controlled Substances Act. This act placed drugs into one of five categories based on their potential medical use and addictive properties. Marijuana was placed among the Schedule I drugs, meaning that it is thought to have no medical use and a high potential for abuse. Other drugs in this category include heroin, ecstasy, and LSD. This ranking seems to demonize the fairly harmless drug as it is the only Schedule I drug that lacks the capability of a deadly overdose. Furthermore, Marijuana has been used for thousands of years as a pain reliever and relaxant. It is not a drug that gives people the desire to commit violent crimes or do much besides sit on the couch and eat inordinate amounts of junk food.
Currently 29 states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. It is used primarily to treat those with muscle spasms, chronic headaches, Crohn’s disease, or seizure disorders. A study conducted by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut found that 93% of those asked supported legalizing medical marijuana. Of the states with legalized medical marijuana, 9 states and Washington D.C. have legalized the use of recreational marijuana. It is still regulated and there are age requirements as well as regulations on who can sell the drug. Of the states that have legalized marijuana, there have been billions of dollars of sales each year. This coupled with the high taxes on the drug have made it a massive industry that is good for the economy of the state.
Although marijuana use does not directly motivate one to commit crimes, the illegality of marijuana has impacted the lives of millions and has caused a large amount of crime. As marijuana is illegal, the people who grow, process and sell it are often those with little respect for the law.
I had a friend from kindergarten whom I read about in the news when he was shot by his drug dealer for trying to steal marijuana. While he should never have stolen the drugs, the young man was shot primarily because it is not a viable option to settle drug related disputes through the legal system.
Between 2001 and 2010, there were 8.2 million arrests for the possession of marijuana. These arrests were made purely for the possession of marijuana and have affected the lives of many. I saw many students arrested when I was in high school and an arrest can ruin the rest of someone’s life. I am not saying that people should disregard the laws, but I am saying that by legalizing a harmless drug there will likely be a sharp decline in the number of people who are negatively affected by laws born of a lack of information.
Although it likely will not happen this year, and it will take a big push in the state government to get the bills passed, it is looking like marijuana will become recreationally available in the near future. The legalization would offer a huge benefit for our state, will decrease crime, and create a new and profitable industry for our economy.