A Promising Step Forward in Drug Policy: Alaska Legalizes Recreational Use of Marijuana

Marijuana has seen another major win in Alaska where legislation came into effect on Tuesday making the recreational use of marijuana legal for those aged 21 and older. Alaska becomes the third state to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, along with Colorado and Washington implementing similar legislation in recent memory.

The new legislation does come with a few reasonable restrictions. Marijuana can only be used by those aged 21 and older. Drivers cannot be under the influence of it, and it is illegal to use in public. People can only legally carry one ounce of marijuana, and harvest four ounces of it at home.  Additionally, selling it is not legal in the state because the regulations for this have yet to be implemented. In time a regulatory system will be put into place allowing for the sale of marijuana.

This represents a major step forward for drug policy in the United States. A number of states have already legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal use, but only three have done so when it comes to the recreational side of things. Alaska making this step forward puts pressure on other states to rethink their current laws. If a number of states were to continue this legalization trend, it would also put pressure on the federal government to take a look at their own laws which currently deem marijuana as a schedule one drug, which means it’s a federal offence to use it or possess it. So although it’s legal to use it in the states that have legalized it, in the broader sense of things, it’s still illegal as the federal government doesn’t seem to have much interest in changing their laws.

There are people against the legalization of marijuana for a long list of reasons. Many suggest that it could be a gateway drug; while others simply think it’s ‘dangerous’. In the grand scheme of things, there are far worse drugs out there in comparison to marijuana. Should the government really put people behind bars because they possessed some marijuana, and happened to be using it? The answer is no; doing such is an absolute waste of government resources. Put people who have committed actual crimes behind bars, not those that have decided smoking a plant is something they want to do.

If someone decides they want to use marijuana within their own home, then no one should have the right to tell them otherwise.  Some even argue that marijuana is beneficial to health in a number of ways. Whether you believe in it, or call the medical benefits of marijuana pseudoscience is up to you, but if you’re on the side of the non-believers, at least have an open mind.

The biggest problem with prohibiting the use of marijuana is the fact that so many people are put behind bars every year because of it. 50% of those in federal prisons are there serving a drug related sentence, with 27.6% of them being marijuana related, topping all other drug related offences. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money. It creates a strained prison system full of people that would be better off elsewhere. The authorities should focus on sending those who belong in prison there instead of harassing those who have decided they want to take up marijuana use. If the individual is over the age of 21 and decides marijuana is something they want to use within their own home, then no one should have the right to say no. It’s their business.

That is what makes legislation such as what has recently come into effect in Alaska, or what has been in effect for some time now in Colorado and Washington so promising. It shows that marijuana really isn’t this evil thing so many have portrayed it to be, and also puts pressure on other states, and ultimately the federal government to take a look at their current drug policy and ask the question: Should marijuana be illegal? The answer to that is no. There are far worse drugs out there that probably deserve to be illegal, but when it comes to marijuana, the clear answer is no. There are far more important things law enforcement could be doing instead of arresting those who use marijuana. It’s time for drug policy to enter the 21st century once and for all, and these pioneer states are going to lead in the fight to change such policy.

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