Legalization of Marijuana in the US

Introduction Legalization of marijuana inthe United States of America has continued to attract immeasurable and ever growing public concern and attention. Every person in America whether young, rich, poor, old, educated, saved, unsaved, uneducated, employed and unemployed is discussing and contributing towards the ongoing discussion on legalization of marijuana. Since the founding of the American union, federal and state governments have established and amended many laws governing the use as well as demarcating the legality of the drug within the American societies. Lately, discussion and push for legalization of the drug by pro-marijuana activists has intensified to an extent of triggering serious political interests. This has manifested through the recent comment by President Barrack Obama that marijuana is just like cigarette and alcohol with a promise that Federal government will not interfere with marijuana laws established by individual states. Moreover, governors and state legislatures have publicly commented alongside declaring their positions as far the discussion about the legalization of the drug is concerned. History of marijuana laws in AmericaApart from initial introduction of marijuana in America in 1545 by Spanish, marijuana laws began to exist as early as 1920s. Michael and Renee (2003) attribute the wide spread popularity of marijuana in 1920s to the prohibitive laws established during the Prohibition Era. The era saw the outlaw of alcoholic drinks and people had to resort to marijuana that came from widespread hemp plant. The laws restricted the use of recreational marijuana to the jazz musicians who only took the drug when in dance clubs entertaining people. According to Pfeifer (2011), between 1850 and 1942, the government of USA listed marijuana in Pharmacopeia, and prescribed for conditions like nausea, labor pains and rheumatism. During 1850s through to 1930s, marijuana gained popular use as an intoxicant. Another marijuana law called Marijuana Tax Act came into force in 1937 (Hart amp. Ksir, 2011). The purpose of the law was to levy tax of one dollar on all growers, importers, buyers, sellers, veterans, physicians and any person prescribing it, using commercially or possess it. Failure to adhere to the Act and handling o marijuana without tax stamp of the Treasury Department would attract a fine of up to $2000, five year imprisonment or both (Michael amp. Renee, 2003). Regulation 1 later inserted in the Marijuana Tax Act required the Bureau of Narcotics and police of the Treasury Department to conduct inspection and monitoring the use, distribution, consumption and buying of the drug by the authorized individuals (Hart amp. Ksir, 2011). The regulation also required that physicians possessing the one dollar tax stamp to constantly report means and moments of dispensation to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. When making such reports, physicians had to swear and issue attested details that reveal the name of the patients, time of use, reason and nature of sickness and quantity prescribed (Michael amp. Renee, 2003). Amin (2012) reports that in a court hearing in 1969, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Marijuana Tax Stamp Act of 1937 was unconstitutional and violated the Fifth Amendment noting that it required people having tax stamp to self-incriminate. It was after the ruling that federal government rushed to introduce the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 that classified marijuana alongside LSD and heroin as Schedule 1 drug (Pfeifer, 2011). The classification portrayed marijuana as having high abuse potential with no medicinal use. The Controlled Substance Act made it illegal for any person to use, manufacture, distribute, prescribe or dispense Schedule 1 drugs. The federal government also used the Controlled Substance Act as an opportunity to amend the Tenth Amendment by introducing the Commerce Clause that would ensure a more powerful federal government that would dictate laws passed by states (Pfeifer, 2011). In move to consolidate its powers, the federal government through the Supreme Court in 2005 referred to Supremacy Clause to declare that state laws legalizing the use of medicinal marijuana were subservient and inferior to the federal laws on the same. Concisely, the rule declared that Congress had power to impose ban or regulate use of marijuana despite the legality of use granted by state laws (Pfeifer, 2011). Current issues regarding legalization of marijuanaMost of the imminent issues surrounding legalization of marijuana are taking place at the state levels with the main being increased call to legalize the drug. State of California ought to have taken the lead in 1996 by approving laws that decriminalize medical marijuana (Grovum, 2013). In 2010, citizens of California narrowly rejected laws that wanted to legalize possession or acquisition of small quantities of marijuana (Archibald, 2013). In 2000, the voters in the State of Colorado voted to approve Amendment XX that legalized the use of marijuana by patients and their caregivers for medicinal purposes (Teesson, Farrugia, Mills, Hall amp. Baillie, 2012). Later, the State of Colorado would lead other American States in the efforts to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. The approval happened in 2012 when citizens of the state went for a referendum to determine the fate of recreational marijuana. In fact, the State of Colorado is the first to have opened marijuana shops that run under the regulations established by the state and local authorities. Even though the government of Colorado legalized the sale of marijuana, the law allows communities an opportunity to refuse the sale of the drug as enshrined in the new law. This has seen communities living in Colorado Springs and Greeley move slowly to accept open sales of marijuana (Hemphill, 2013). The State of Alaska is the third state inching closer to legalize the use and distribution of marijuana for recreational purposes. The effort to legalize the use of the drug manifested when pro-marijuana activists presented a petition to court with over 45,000 signatures to amend the law to allow legalization of marijuana (Archibald, 2013). Validity of at least 30,170 of the signatures presented will prompt citizens to vote in August to determine the fate of recreational marijuana in Alaska. According to poll released in April 2013, about 54% of Alaskans support the efforts to legalize the use of recreational marijuana (Archibald, 2013). The proposed marijuana seeks to limit possession of the drug to an ounce as well as permit individuals to grow a limited of six marijuana plants on their private firms. The remaining states including Maryland, Nevada, Delaware, California, Arizona, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Vermont among others are facing increasing pressure from pro-pot activists who are optimistic of achieving their goals by the end of 2014 (Hemphill, 2013). Social concerns as to the legalization of marijuanaDespite many states struggling with efforts and laws to legalize use of marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes, the stand of the Federal government illustrated by the Controlled Substances Act is still valid and applicable in any part of the union. Under the act, the federal government dismisses the medical value of marijuana and places heavy penalties on any person whether a registered doctor, a patient, trader, grower or any smoker found to possess, distribute and consume the drug (Amin, 2012). The contradictory nature of the Federal stand and the States’ laws seeking to decriminalize use of marijuana has raised immeasurable social outcries and uncertainties. With the validity of the Supremacy Clause and Commerce Clause, the Federal government bears the legal right to arrest and prosecute any person found to use or possess marijuana for any purpose. For instance, the Federal government reserves the right and has arrested many people handling marijuana within the States like Colorado, Washington among others where marijuana is legal (Archibald, 2013). The fact that handling marijuana is tantamount to felony under the federal laws complicates life and raises a serious social concern among citizens of the states that legalize handling of marijuana. According to Amin (2012) many people in Colorado and similar states decry over the inability to access bank loans to grow their marijuana business because of the illegality of the drug under federal laws. In addition, it has been hard for traders to convince investors put their monies in the marijuana business in state where the practice is legal because it violates federal laws. The fear majorly relates to the provision in the federal laws that allows for seizure of a person’s property by federal authorities when caught handling the drug. Another social concern with the controversy of legalization of marijuana is the ability of the authorities to ensure responsible regulation and use of the drug. This concern attributes to the rapid manner in which dispensaries dispensing and distributing marijuana for medical purposes grew in Colorado upon the approval of the medical marijuana laws in the year 2000. During the same time, large number of people applied for cards to handle marijuana as either patients or caregivers (Hemphill, 2013). As described by Grovum (2013), legal attorneys also face dilemma as the position to take when confronted with issues related to marijuana in federal courts. It is legally wrong for any lawyer to support commissioning of an offense or involving in any act that breaches the spirit of the state or federal law. It has also been distressing for lawyers in legalizing states like Colorado to foresee a business contract involving handling of marijuana within the individual states. This relates to the uncertainty created by the two contradicting yet implicative laws. Another social concern with regard to the legalization of marijuana is the increased threats and incarnations committed by the federal government. Amin (2012) discusses that in 2011 federal government began conducting crackdowns in Montana, Washington and other states where medical marijuana is legal. In addition, federal anti-narcotic agencies sent letters to traders and dispensary owners in Colorado implicating and warning them against handling illegal marijuana near schools. This is in accordance with the federal law that prohibits sale of drugs within 1000 feet around schools. Moreover, federal banks have threatened banks within states like Colorado, Washington and Montana with accusation of engaging in money laundering activity by banking savings generated from illegal sale of marijuana. Amin (2012) adds that such threats prompted banks to stop trading with dispensaries selling marijuana in the states where marijuana is legal.Significance of legalization of marijuana to counseling psychologyMarijuana is a narcotic drug that manipulates the reasoning of any person that uses it (Hart amp. Ksir, 2011). The drug also has particular health risks that can compromise life of users and those around them. Despite the control and regulation that still exists, marijuana use has led many people to seeking guidance and counseling after developing mental inefficiencies and relationship problems (Hart amp. Ksir, 2011). Legalization of the drug that will encourage its use in the USA bears great relevance to the field of counseling. The topic on legalization of the drug is important in helping the actors in the field of counseling psychology device appropriate strategies to convince law makers and pro-pot activists about adaptable laws and regulations to lobby for. The debate on legalization of the drug also creates awareness among counselors and psychologists to formulate programs and techniques to address problems likely to occur due uncontrolled and abuse use of marijuana. Future implications of legalization of marijuanaThe debate on whether to legalize marijuana is likely to cause a major division between the federal government that insists on the Controlled Substance Act and the state governments that are in continuous struggle to legalize the drug. The legal difference and divergent viewpoints are likely to cause diplomatic uproars between the federal, state and local governments. Federal versus states government wars is likely to occur due to seizures and crackdowns conducted by the federal government on handlers of marijuana within the states that legalize the drug (Archibald, 2013). County or local governments are also likely to face off with state governments considering certain clauses in marijuana laws that permit the latter government to decide on the fate of the drug. It is also likely that the increasing move by states to decriminalize marijuana will pile pressure on the federal government to review laws to allow consumption and distribution of the drug. Legalization of marijuana, which is a psychoactive drug, is capable of opening avenues that allow easy access to the drug even by the youngest in the societies. Once many states decriminalize marijuana, there will be widespread and unscrupulous sale of the drug even to underage children who should concentrate on building their future. Moreover, the increased access to marijuana that has the potential to manipulate reasoning of the abuser is likely to escalate criminal offenses within the individual states or the entire USA (Pfeifer, 2011). ConclusionThe problem associated with the debate that makes it attract overwhelming public attention relates to prohibitive laws of the federal government against the drug and increasing pressure in states to legalize use and possession of marijuana. This attributes to the unbearable pressure likely to be faced by the federal government. The main task for counselors and psychologists is to develop efficient strategies to address the challenges likely to occur due to misuse and abuse of the legalized marijuana.

You Might Also Like