Politicians like to argue over the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana, but a majority of Americans want to see it legalized based on polls by the Pew Research Center.
Currently, marijuana is legal for recreational use in 15 states across the country, meaning it can be sold in stores for anyone over the age of 21 to buy. Many states have also decriminalized marijuana meaning that anyone caught in possession of or using marijuana will not face criminal charges. This prompts the question of why the states are so divided in their decision-making in regards to marijuana.
Munem Raja, a graduate of Jamaica High School who continues to study the history of the war on drugs and the effects of marijuana legalization, stated “I think that people may be hesitant to embrace the idea of legalizing marijuana because of their fear of possible addictions and deaths that could occur from drug use. However, if they do legalize weed, they would only sell to adults and would also be selling much safer products, rather than letting various drug cartels sell a dangerous product like how it is right now in states that have very strict drug laws.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced his plans to legalize marijuana in New York. He has also announced his plan as to how the money collected from the sale of marijuana will be used. Cuomo has stated that this “provides the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also enables us to directly support the communities most impacted by the war on drugs.”
This highlights the idea that legalizing drugs, such as marijuana, would make our communities a lot safer, and make it so the money that is collected from taxing and regulating marijuana could go towards various places that promote the well-being of citizens, such as schools. We have seen in recent years that the number of people in support of legalizing cannabis has increased dramatically based on Pew Research Center data.
“I think there are numerous reasons as to why Americans are calling for the legalization of weed. It would be much safer to buy it from an actual shop rather than sketchy guys in alleyways. The money collected from taxes would actually help the community, specifically communities of color that have been impacted the most by these strict drug policies,” said Munem Raja.
Communities of color have been the biggest target by law enforcement and have a much higher incarceration rate. The focus on finding Americans illegally using marijuana has been highly concentrated in communities of color and low-income communities. This ties into why the war on drugs actually began in the first place.
“Former President Richard Nixon actually admitted that the war on drugs was actually his way to eliminate any of his political allies from having any influence in the political discourse. Locking them up would make it so they would not vote against him, making his reelection easier,” said Munem Raja.
This story about a former Nixon advisor admitting that the drug war targeted black people and hippies was reported on in March of 2016 by various news outlets including CNN and Vox. They included statements from a former advisor of Nixon, John Ehrlichman, from an interview conducted 26 years ago that proved that Nixon’s war on drugs was racially motivated and targeted people of color and hippies. These were the same people that would not have voted for Nixon due to his policies’ positions.
The federal government now has announced plans to legalize marijuana. The Chairman of the Senate Chairman Committee, Ron Wyden from Oregon, looks to propose a way to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana. If the bill is passed, it would mean that marijuana would be legal at a federal level.
Nowadays, more and more states are deciding to legalize and or decriminalize various drugs, such as marijuana. In November of 2020, Oregon decriminalized all drugs, becoming the first and only state to have all drugs decriminalized. It seems likely that this wave of legalization and decriminalization of drugs will continue all throughout the United States.