The issue of whether or not to fully legalize all uses of marijuana has been a major debate facing the United States in recent years. Marijuana has been illegal in all states for decades under the Controlled Substances Act, until California legalized medical marijuana in 1996. Then, in 2016, Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana recreationally, and since then nine other states have followed. This has provoked the issue among Americans of whether or not to legalize recreational use of marijuana across the country. I believe that all states should legalize the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana because it will boost the economy, be more safe for consumer use and free up police resources to focus on serious crime.

Currently, lawmakers in Connecticut are considering a bill that would establish a framework for a legal marijuana industry in Connecticut. Lawmakers are going to set provisions that only allow the sale of marijuana to people who are 21 years of age or older. Also, there will be penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana, and criminal records will be erased for individuals who were arrested for possessing one point nine ounces of marijuana or less.

This new bill will also be particularly beneficial for minority groups. The bill includes provisions designed so that minority entrepreneurs have an entry point into the multi-million dollar marijuana industry by granting them first access to cultivation and other types of licenses. Kebra Smith-Bolden, who is a marijuana entrepreneur and member of the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, stated her support for the legalization of marijuana by saying, “I know firsthand the effects the war on drugs has had on communities of color…Because of the failed war on drugs, which was really a war on people, restorative justice is not just the right thing to do, it is necessary to do in order to repair the damage that was done to countless communities as a result of the prohibition on cannabis.”

The current marijuana industry in the United States could exceed $24 billion in revenue by 2023. In states where marijuana is legal, like Colorado, it brings in three times more tax revenue than alcohol. In the first two years of sales, the state raised $220 million. This money goes to funding the police, drug treatment and public schools. The industry would also become another source of jobs, therefore decreasing unemployment rates and drastically helping our economy.

Another reason for legalizing marijuana is that if it were regulated by the government it would be much safer than what is currently being distributed by drug dealers on the street. People buying marijuana on the street have no way of knowing whether it is contaminated with other harmful substances that could kill them. Therefore, if the government regulated it they would be able to enforce laboratory testings and regulations to ensure it is safe for use.  

The government spends between $1.19 billion and $6.03 billion annually to arrest people for use of marijuana. These costs include police, judicial, legal and corrections expenses. Instead of wasting money and police resources on arresting people for marijuana, they should be focused on using resources for more serious crimes like sexual assault, homicide and robbery.

There are reasons as to why the legalization of marijuana could be a negative decision, but there are solutions to these problems. If marijuana were to be legalized, it should be regulated just the same as alcohol and tobacco are. For example, you should not be able to smoke indoors or around children.

There has been a long fight for better laws regarding drugs in the United States, but hopefully with this new bill in Connecticut, it will pave the way for all 50 states to follow in Connecticut’s footsteps. Legalizing marijuana would not only help the country and Americans economically, but it will also add to what it means to be an American. Being an American  means having the freedom to choose, so why should choosing what goes into your body be any different?

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