Essay: Marijuana Laws in the United States Today

Pages: 3 (895 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Drugs  ·  Buy This Paper

Marijuana Laws

In the United States today, the prison system is full of nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom have never been involved in any criminal activity besides smoking marijuana. They are locked up alongside violent career criminals and often victimized in the prison environment where those who are not predatory by nature become prey to those who are. Certainly, individuals who commit crimes against others deserve to be incarcerated, partly as punishment and partly to protect potential victims from perpetual criminals. However, the enforcement of many penal laws, such as those prohibiting smoking marijuana or other victimless so-called "vice" crimes is unjustified and immoral.

The unfairness of criminalizing marijuana use is only highlighted by the fact that similar use of other substances such as alcohol and tobacco is perfectly legal. Cigarettes in particular are known to be responsible for directly causing more disease and death than all forms of crime, drunk driving, and AIDS combined, accounting for approximately 300,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone. Nevertheless, the production, advertising, and sale of cigarettes are perfectly legal and amounts to billions of dollars of revenue for tobacco companies every year.

Similarly, alcohol is also manufactured, advertised, and sold for commercial profit legally even though alcoholism is a significant social problem that destroys many individuals and families. Alcohol is also associated with thousands of deaths of innocent people every year who are killed in drunk driving accidents by individuals who drink and then operate motor vehicles. Meanwhile, in many states (and under federal law), marijuana is strictly prohibited and its use or possession in even the smallest amounts can result in arrest, prosecution, and incarceration as a serious criminal offense.

Government may have an obligation (and the moral right) to enforce certain paternalistic laws for the good of society and the welfare of the individual. However, that right presumes that any such paternalistic legislation will be logically sound and enforced fairly and equally for comparable types of behavior. In the case of anti-marijuana laws, those principles of logical consistency and fairness are completely violated without any justification.

Consider that it is perfectly legal to consume so much alcohol that one vomits and passes out unconscious, provided one does so in private or in an establishment where alcohol is served legally and that one does not commit any other crime in the process. It is perfectly legal to drink so much on a regular basis that one becomes ill or until one's liver fails without violating any law. Similarly, it is perfectly legal to chain-smoke cigarettes until one develops lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease, even at the expense of the general public through the un-reimbursed costs of medical… [END OF PREVIEW]

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