Term Paper: Legalizing Marijuana - Law Enforcement's Waste

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Legalizing Marijuana - Law Enforcement's Waste of Jails and American Court System Resources

Marijuana is one of most common drugs available today. Both the use and possession of marijuana are illegal, but the trade in this substance continues to flourish. This paper argues that Law Enforcement efforts to contain the marijuana trade are futile and wasteful. This effort only serves to further tax jails and court systems that are already strained, whereas these resources could be allotted towards greater law enforcement, public safety programs, and medical research.

Responding to the marijuana "crisis" is currently a central preoccupation of the corrections authorities at all levels. In 2005, for example, more than 37% of all arrests for drug possession in the United States are for marijuana offenses. This amounts to more than 500,000 arrests just last year, and the trend has increased yearly since 1985. The results of such arrests contribute to prison overcrowding. Statistics from the Bureau of Justice show that up to one-fifth of all prisons are incarcerated for marijuana possession (FBI 2005). Given these crowding conditions, legalizing marijuana would certainly alleviate prison overcrowding. More prison space could therefore be allotted for more violent criminals. Also, since legalizing marijuana could lead to less crowding, there would be less chances towards fighting and other forms of violence between inmates.

In 2003 alone, state and federal courts processed an estimated one million marijuana convictions. This figure does not even include the marijuana convictions that are handled by lower or municipal courts (FBI 2005). Failing to legalize the possession of marijuana therefore further taxes the corrections system and slows down the workings of judicial courts.

The legalization of marijuana would also free up valuable law enforcement resources, so that police could address other, more dangerous crimes. In his analysis of the costs of enforcing marijuana laws, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that the taxpayers spend $7.7 billion annually (Lazarus 2005). This figure could certainly be allotted towards other vital activities, such as the training and recruitment of more police officers. A recent FBI study, for example, notes that violent crime has increased 28% in 2005 (Fitzgerald 2007).

This trend was most noticeable in the Gulf States, which were still recovering from the displacements and economic downturn caused by Hurricane Katrina (Fitzgerald 2007). Many other law enforcement organizations are experiencing an alarming lack of safety equipment such as bulletproof vests and investigative technologies like DNA collection kits. Even a small portion of the $7.7 billion could contribute much to law enforcement efforts.

Legalizing marijuana would not only save the government and the taxpayers money. If the possession… [END OF PREVIEW]

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