In relation to marijuana, such as the personal use, cultivation or distribution of, there has long been debate about whether decriminalising the drug will reduce crime rates in society (Siegel, 2008). Decriminalisation of marijuana means that it would be given the status of a legal substance whereby there would be no penalties for using the drug; although it may be regulated in ways similar to other legal substances, such as tobacco and alcohol (DEST, 2003).
The idea of decriminalising marijuana poses its share of advantages, like if it were to be regulated the money allocated to fighting the war on drugs could be better spent on education and economic development. The disadvantages of decriminalising cannabis however, could see the number of drug-related emergency room visits skyrocket (Siegel, 2008). Before legislation can be drawn up the magnitude of both sides of the argument must be critically anaylsed with further research into the decriminalisation of marijuana (Nadelmann, 2004).
Marijuana is a less dangerous drug than heroin or ice, and in small doses, a relaxant; therefore there is no avid desire to commit crime (ADF, 2005). There is very little punishment if you are caught with marijuana on a small basis anyway. Those who are caught are cautioned and attend cannabis cautioning programs or pay small fines, so in essence, possession of cannabis is practically decriminalised anyway (NCIPC, 2009).
Legalisation of marijuana would allow the government to control the price and distribution of the drug, regulating it like other legal substances (alcohol and cigarettes) keeping it away from adolescents, public servants and known felons (Siegel, 2008). This would reduce addict’s cash requirements, ultimately reducing crime rates because users would no longer need to resort to armed robberies or burglaries for a cash flow to support their habits (Atkinson & McDonald, 1995).
Legalisation would also stop drug importation and related gang wars due to drugs being bought and sold so openly; and it would also allow the government to reap tax from both taxes on the sale of drugs and from income taxes paid by drug dealers. The money the government would collect from legalising cannabis with taxes and the money saved from eliminating the need for a crackdown on marijuana could be put towards more important things that society needs (Siegel, 2008). With so little punishment in areas where marijuana is not legalised, after careful and engthy consideration, legislation could potentially regulate cannabis as a legal substance able to be controlled (Ditton 1996). While this approach might have short term benefits, it could also have grave social consequences. If marijuana was legalised it would be made cheap and readily available, increasing the nation’s rate of drug use, creating a larger group of drug-dependant people who need to be taken care of by society and raising the number of drug related emergency room visits (Siegel, 2008).
By legalising an illicit drug this may also create a gateway for a rise in the consumption of other more dangerous and expensive drugs, like heroin or ice, in the general public (Nadelmann, 2004). If this were to happen society would see a dramatic increase in crime and unemployment, the economy would be affected as the Government would have to allocate more money to handle the drug epidemic instead of aiding some of societies more prevalent needs. Violent crime would ruin the reputation of the country and tourism industry also putting the safety of people in the community at risk (Nadelmann, 2004).
As well as the social consequences regarding the legalising of cannabis, there are also many physical and mental health problems that could arise in users due to the accessibility of legalised marijuana (DEST, 2003). Studies have found a link between heavy or regular cannabis use and mental illness, such as schizophrenia; whereby the user can become extremely violent towards others and disorientated (DEST, 2003). On occasions, drug addicts that suffer from a psychotic episode commit suicide by police, arming themselves with weapons causing a confrontation with law enforcement who in turn shoot them to protect their own lives.
Regulating marijuana will create a more accessible and less expensive means of obtaining the drug leading to an increase in mental illness in the general public (DANF, 2007). These problems pose a dangerous threat to society should marijuana be decriminalised, so before legislation of any kind can be prepared the potential risks must be thoroughly reviewed. Overall, the conclusion I have drawn is that the decriminalisation of marijuana holds a dangerous threat to society so for the present time it should remain illegal and potentially stricter punishments should be imposed.
Possibly legislation could be drawn up to allow partial regulation, such as possession of marijuana for personal use but the potential risk of legalised marijuana is too high for it to be regulated and distributed among the community. Although the money used in the war against drugs could be spent on other necessities, like fixing an over burdensome health care system, should marijuana be made legal the possible physical, mental and emotional illnesses and high drug use across the nation significantly outweighs the advantages of decriminalising marijuana.