Decriminalization: Splitting the baby
Although decriminalization of cannabis is a step in the right direction, it is not a viable alternative to legalization.
There has been much progress in the medical community on the subject of marijuana prohibition. Today, even those physicians and medical organizations that oppose legalization generally oppose the war on marijuana. They believe that the drug should be decriminalized, reducing penalties for users and low-level dealers. Although decriminalization is a step in the right direction, it is not a viable alternative to legalization:
- If cannabis is decriminalized rather than legalized, the government cannot regulate its production and sale, leaving it vulnerable to contamination and adulteration.
- The lack of product labeling standards make consumers unable to judge the potency of marijuana, which is like drinking alcohol without knowing its strength.
- Where marijuana is decriminalized, the point-of-sale remains in the hands of criminals who will sell marijuana—as well as more dangerous drugs—to children.
- The underground cannabis economy remains untaxed, and the drug’s illegality serves as a price support mechanism that only profits illegal producers and dealers. This also occurred in the 1920s, when Prohibition fueled the rise of widespread organized crime.
- New York State decriminalized marijuana in the 1970s, yet New York City still makes tens of thousands of marijuana possession arrests every year.