The war on drugs is a very real battle in the United States. Drugs tear apart jobs, lives, and families, but how harmful is a joint or two of marijuana? Is this a war that is truly worth fighting for? According to drugpolicy.org (2018), there were over 1,572,579 arrests for drug violations in 2016 alone. This is an incredible number, which implicates the amount of time, effort, workforce, and money the United States puts into enforcing drug laws every day.
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Now the United States is experiencing a new era of acceptance of marijuana like we’ve never seen before. Many states are pushing for it to be legalized and most of the population is behind it, and we must now consider what to do with those incarcerated for marijuana possession. This paper will consider the statistics behind the problem, the difference between federal and state law and how that affects the issue, and some of the outcomes of inmates in states where medical and recreational marijuana has already been legalized.
The Statistics Behind the Issue
The United States is engaged in a vicious battle with drugs. At the beginning of our history, the Native Americans can be seen sharing a peace pipe with settlers, and with a mixture of tobacco and other substances, many peace treaties were made. As the years have passed, the federal government has become more and more strict about regulations concerning alternative substances. Since 1980, incarcerations for drug-law violations have grown ten-fold in the United States (Caulkins, 1997). This particular paper will not be examining those that were involved in other drug-law violations or violent crimes, but with those who are imprisoned for marijuana possession only. In the Journal of Drug Issues, volume 37, it is stated, In 2003, there were over 750,000 arrests for marijuana, 88% of which were for possession only (Shepard, 2007). This is a ridiculously high number of arrests for non-violent offenders. This costs the criminal justice system time,
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