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The concept of marijuana legalization has gone in and out of vogue over the past 20 years as several states have decriminalized its possession and use Some describe the cause of decriminalization in the 1970s as a wave of permissive liberalism This is hardly the case however In the early 1970s a presidential commission chaired by the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania Raymond P Schafer called for federal decriminalization and eventual legalization regulation and control of marijuana National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse 1972 The commission concluded that marijuana should be decriminalized In 1977 Senator Jacob Javits and Representative Edward Koch introduced a bill to federally decriminalize marijuana Today government surveys estimate the number of regular marijuana users at about 118 million NIDA 1988 The cost of pursuing and punishing 118 million marijuana users if that is all there are would be enormous both financially and societal The alternatives include 1 continue the present system of catching a few and making examples of them 2 fully decriminalize the possession and use of marijuana in private by adults as 11 states have attempted to do or 3 legalize regulate and control marijuana a substance that DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young called the safest therapeutically active substance known to man Young 1988 Another option actually only an expansion of the current system would mean arresting prosecuting and punishing a significant percentage of the estimated 118 million regular marijuana offenders In 1988 law enforcement authorities made 1155200 criminal arrests for all drug offenses FBI 1989 Of these more than 324000 arrests were for simple possession of marijuana FBI 1989 It is unreasonable to increase by 12 times the number of drug arrests made annually and add the proportionate amount of resources to the criminal justice system simply to crack down on marijuana users There are higher priorities for the criminal justice system and for society as a whole Significant expansion of criminal justice efforts directed solely
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