Policy Analysis: Decriminalization
of Recreational Marijuana
Definition of the Policy
• Amend the Controlled Substances act to exclude marijuana.
• Amend other acts to establish procedures regarding marijuana commerce.
• Order FDA to include marijuana in its oversight.
• Tax marijuana similarly to tobacco and alcohol.
Goals of the Policy
Ultimately, in the eyes of activist groups and politicians, it would be liked to
see that marijuana is treated and regulated on the same level that alcohol
and tobacco are. Doing so would lessen the burden that anti-cannabis
laws put onto the American taxpayers and would end the punishment of
marijuana’s nonviolent offenders.
• In 2012, 749,825 people were arrested for marijuana law violations.
• 88% (658,231) of these people were arrested simply for possession.
• About $7.5-$10 billion are spent on these arrests.
• An extra $1.2 billion per year is also spent keeping some
marijuana offenders behind bars.
Political Support for the Policy
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) California Gov. Jerry Brown (D)
Fmr. New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (L)
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R)
H.R.499 (Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013) was
introduced in the house by Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D).
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D)
Recent polls have shown that around 54% of Americans now support the
legalization of marijuana for trade.
red = opposegreen = support
Advantages of the Policy
• If taxed similarly to tobacco and alcohol, it would yearly generate an additional $8.7
billion in federal & state taxes and also remove $8.7 billion from expenditures (2010,
• Would allow law & justice resources to be directed towards more serious crimes.
• Would make marijuana easier to acquire for medical purposes.
• Legalizing the production, transportation, and sale of marijuana will take the business
right out of the hands of gangs, drug cartels, and other organized crime. (See
• Will unlock a new market which will open up new jobs and promote economic growth.
Disadvantages of the Policy
• Long-term health risks similar to that of smoking cigarettes.
• Legalization will make it easier for youth to acquire marijuana.
• Marijuana can be a “gateway drug”, leading to the use of hard drugs.
• One could become addicted to marijuana.
Alternative Policy: Legalize Medical Marijuana
Evaluating the Policy
Possible societal and
receipts, reduced government
spending, economic growth,
and medical uses
Legalizing marijuana for medical use would help people
struggling with medical conditions, but really wouldn’t tackle
the problems that surround America’s “War on Drugs”
“The prohibition of marijuana has failed and the
benefits of legalizing marijuana far outweigh the
"Drug War Statistics." Drug Policy Alliance. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2014.
"H.R.499." Congress.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2014.
Miron, Jefferey A., and Katherine Waldock. "The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition." Cato
Institute (n.d.): n. pag. Cato. 2010. Web. 21 May 2014.
Wing, Nick. "All The U.S. Senators And Governors Who Support Legalizing Marijuana." The Huffington
Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 09 Apr. 2014. Web. 21 May 2014.
"Working to Reform Marijuana Laws." Marijuana Decriminalization Talking Points. N.p., n.d. Web. 21