Costs of Cannabis Laws
Outweigh their Alleged Benefit
Posted anonymously by *Love* to several Usenet newsgroups on 1996-08-02:
From Marijuana: The New Prohibition (1970), by Professor John Kaplan, pp. 48 - 50 (pb):
Despite the criminalization of marijuana, its use is widespread. ...
The most serious cost of the criminalization of marijuana is probably that it makes felons of a large portion of our population, especially our youth. It is a matter of dispute whether this makes further criminal acts come more easily, but it is clear that the younger generation's lack of belief in the harmfulness of marijuana tends to engender a more generalized disrespect for the law and for the political processes. Another cost is simply that involved in any criminal statute that is enforced: the cost of capturing and processing offenders. This cost is rising with the number of marijuana arrests, which in California has risen from 3,291 in 1962 to about 50,000 in 1968.
Since most marijuana arrestees have never been in serious trouble before, there are substantial costs involved in disrupting their lives even temporarily, in exposing them to more hardened criminals, and in alienating them from society. And although by no means all those who are arrested are convicted, even those released are likely to feel resentment in having been "mistreated" by the legal system.
This lack of belief in the harmfulness of marijuana also hurts efforts at drug education: since young people do not believe marijuana is dangerous, they tend to conclude that other drugs subject to similar or less serious prohibitions are also not dangerous. In the case of heroin, amphetamines, and LSD, this conclusion is unfortunately false, and hence dangerous. Moreover, drug education is hurt even more by the fact that drug educators are obliged to defend the criminalization of marijuana, thus injuring their credibility with regard to the more dangerous drugs.
The problems inherent in enforcement of the marijuana laws may result in unequal burdens on various segments of society. Thus college campuses, where drug use is heavy, are relatively free from arrests, while arrests are frequent among minority groups. In addition, the difficulties of detection and collecting evidence that are inherent with "victimless crimes" such as marijuana offenses encourage questionable police practices.
Other costs of the criminalization of marijuana include the increase in the usage of more dangerous drugs. This is caused by several mechanisms discussed more fully in Chapter VI. These include forcing marijuana-users to deal with users and sellers of more dangerous drugs in order to obtain marijuana. Two possible future costs are especially noteworthy: the increasing entry of organized crime into the marijuana field and the problem of sympathetic jurors who, by refusing to convict for marijuana offenses, may lead to an even more complete breakdown of the law as in the latter part of the Prohibition era.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (*Love*)
Date: Sun, 4 Aug 1996
Subject: Re: Costs of cannabis laws outweigh benefit.
On Fri, 02 Aug 1996 John Yates wrote:
>>The costs of the cannabis laws outweigh their benefit!
Good point. Try as I may I can't think of any. Maybe it should read: "The costs of the cannabis laws outweigh their [imagined] benefit!"
Can anyone think of any (however small) benefit from the cannabis laws? Excluding the prison industry (the fastest growing industry in the U.S.) or the alcohol industry (who always has been against any competition — especially cannabis). Or the petrochemical industry (who started the whole thing to crush the hemp industry).
I don't even get a fuzzy feeling that there's any small benefit from the cannabis laws.
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