Should the US Government Legalize Marijuana? Research Proposal

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¶ … U.S. government legalize marijuana?

The Legalization of Marijuana: Cost-Effective?

Marijuana use has been rampant in the United States for quite a while, and was just recently brought back into the spotlight with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps caught using it. Marijuana was banned in a peculiar way in 1937. Marijuana usage was illegal if you did not purchase a tax stamp, but you could not obtain a stamp unless you had already produced marijuana -- which you grew before purchasing a stamp -- making it illegal. Many critics argue that marijuana should be legalized because a great amount of revenue could be made from taxation of the plant. Others argue that marijuana should stay illegal because it is a gateway drug leading its users on a path of more hardcore drugs.

As of the date of this writing, fourteen states have made possession of marijuana in small amounts legal. However, the United States government still recognizes marijuana as a schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 is the highest rating a drug can get, meaning it has a high potential for abuse or no accepted medical use. My goal is to analyze the potential economic impacts of legalizing marijuana, as well as examine the impact of legalization in the aforementioned fourteen states in order to determine the 'value' of legalization of marijuana from an economic standpoint as opposed to a moral or ethical one.

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Right now, most states and the federal government look upon marijuana as being unhealthy and dangerous, but they say little about the economic impacts of legalization. It is an area which warrants further exploration largely because it has not been addressed clearly in the past, and also because of the current state of the economy and the argument that legalization of marijuana and other drugs would generate enough revenue to correct any economic problems that this country is facing.


The Uniform State Narcotic Act

TOPIC: Research Proposal on Should the US Government Legalize Marijuana? Assignment

Marijuana was made illegal by the Uniform State Narcotic Act in 1932, and this Act made it and many drugs illegal to possess or distribute (Anslinger & Tompkins, n.d.). If there were legitimate uses for a drug - such as in the medical field - there were special provisions for those kinds of things. However, any other use of these drugs was completely prohibited and there were strict penalties for any person who was caught with these substances (Anslinger & Tompkins, n.d.). Each state was given the right to deal with search and seizure and addiction issues in ways that they saw fit, and that was not regulated by the federal government. Despite that, the Act was not something that the federal government took lightly or that they did not intend to strictly enforce (Anslinger & Tompkins, n.d.). The Act was very clear on what constituted marijuana for purposes of being illegal, as well, stating that:

Cannabis" includes all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds, or resin; but shall not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination" (Anslinger & Tompkins, n.d.).

Marihuana Tax Act of 1937

The Marihuana Tax Act, passed in 1937, was another way for the U.S. To try to gain revenue. Anyone who possessed the drug had to pay a tax on it, and there were serious fines for evasion, even for tiny amounts (Solomon, n.d.). Thousands of dollars in fines and up to five years in prison seem pretty harsh for an amount of marihuana that would bring in hardly any tax revenue (Solomon, n.d.). That did not mean that the drug was legal, though, and anyone could possess it if they just paid tax. The Act was designed for doctors and others who could legally possess the drug and offer it to their patients (Solomon, n.d.). The name and address of the patient and what was wrong with that person then had to be reported to the government (Solomon, n.d.).

Not following these rules made both the doctor and the patient liable for fines and imprisonment, and was just too risky. With that being the case, most doctors simply refused to prescribe marihuana to their patients for any ailments (Solomon, n.d.). This Act effectively made the drug illegal simply because it was so very difficult to use it legally and carried so much risk. The government had made it illegal not by officially saying so but by making it just too risky to use for any purpose (Solomon, n.d.).


Currently, marijuana is illegal. There are some states where small amounts of it are not jailable offenses, and there are some states where medical marijuana is legal with a prescription for patients who have glaucoma and for those with certain cancers (Miron, 2005). However, overall marijuana is an illegal drug in this country, and more people are pushing for it to be made legal so that the government can get the huge tax revenues from it (Miron, 2005). The theory behind this is that people are going to use the drug anyway, legal or not, and if it remains illegal the revenue and taxes that the government could receive will not be available. Making the drug legal 'fixes' the problem because it can then be taxed and there will be a lot more revenue from something that the government has spent years ineffectively trying to stop (Miron, 2005; Austin, 2005; Schlosser, 2003).


Prohibition Era vs. Current Marijuana Era

In the 1920s prohibition was in full swing (Miron, 2005). Alcohol was illegal, and people could not purchase or make it. They wanted their alcohol, though, so they started making it and selling it illegally, and they had plenty of buyers. They would have stills built in the woods where their alcohol would be made, and they hid from the law fairly well (Miron, 2005). However, there was a 'war on alcohol' declared, much like the 'war on drugs' today - and it did not work. People still made their alcohol in their stills in the woods and they did not get caught as much as the law would have liked. Eventually, people gave up on the idea of prohibition because it just was not cost effective (Miron, 2005). Many businesses saw their revenues go down significantly because they had no alcohol to offer, and it did not help towns prosper and grow.

Repeal of Prohibition

The repeal of prohibition created a lot of celebrating, but it also created some strong economic growth (Miron, 2005; Lemieux, 1992; Williams, 2001; Williams, 2004). People could get a drink with dinner, they could go out to bars, and they could purchase alcohol to consume in their own homes. Businesses flourished and many more opened up so that they could cash in and sell alcohol to the people who were out there wanting to buy it (Pacula, 2003a). There was a lot of celebratory purchasing which leveled off after a while, but alcohol sales remained strong even after the initial surge died down.

People still made their own, too, but they could do it legally. They did not have to worry so much about it, and some of the people who were making their own decided that it was too much trouble so they went back to buying it from the stores. All in all, the repeal of prohibition was a great economic choice for the country and it did not cause the kinds of problem with crime and debauchery that many people argued would take place (Pacula, 2003a; Saffer, 1999; Pacula, 2000; Dubner, 2007). Those who believe in legalizing marijuana today say that the same type of experience would likely be seen and that the worries that 'everyone will be stoned' are not at all realistic.


State Decriminalization

Fourteen states currently say that medical marijuana is legal under their laws (Seamon, 2007). However, it is still illegal under federal guidelines, so there is a serious 'gray area' regarding this issue. These state laws do not simply allow anyone to possess marijuana, however (Seamon, 2007). There has to be a medical reason, they have to be under a doctor's care, and most states make them register. In addition to all of this, there is a specific amount that they are allowed to possess, and if they have more than that it is still illegal (Seamon, 2007).

Analysis of States

The laws in specific states have changed several times, but they are relatively stable now and they all have basically the same requirements (Seamon, 2007). Becoming a patient in one of these states is not that easy, however, and people who think… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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