Marijuana Should be Legalized

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Marijuana use, in the USA, is a hotly debated topic. The federal government has officially labeled it illegal, but 21 state governments have legalized it for medical use (Lee 2014). Two of these states, Colorado and Washington, have recently legalized marijuana for recreational use also (Lee 2014). Despite these minor strides towards legalization, there were 1,531,251 arrests for drug use in 2011 (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2012). Nearly half of those were marijuana related, and over 85% of those were for marijuana possession alone (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2012). The resources required to handle these arrests, the relatively negligible risk marijuana poses to a user, and the positive effects that de-stigmatizing marijuana use may have, are all reasons that marijuana use for recreation should be legalized.
The resources needed for marijuana criminalization are staggering. It is estimated, for example, that the current marijuana related prison population is around 40,000 (Caulkins et al. 2012). Since it cost nearly $30,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate, the total cost for marijuana incarceration is around $1.2 billion (Caulkins et al. 2012). This number does not even account for the cost of local police officers enforcing marijuana laws. Nor does it account for cost to process the approximately 750,000 marijuana related arrests. The ALCU estimated that states alone spent $3.6 billion to enforce marijuana laws (Edwards et al. 2013).
With all the resources spent towards marijuana criminalization, one would expect that marijuana to be a highly dangerous drug. At the very least marijuana should be more dangerous than alcohol which is legal. This does not seem to be the case. In terms of death, alcohol accounts for a...

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