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Introduction One option available to drug policy makers is the removal of incarceration as a sentencing option for cannabis offenders In the instance of cannabis perhaps more debate has been devoted to the question of whether or not simple possession of cannabis should be treated severely for example with possible or probable jail terms or more leniently in the case of treating cannabis possession as a ticketable offence which largely consists of leveling a small fine Currently most countries treat cannabis possession as a criminal offence in that persons convicted of simple cannabis possession charge are subjected to the possibility of a jail term being given a criminal record for their crime and being affected by the unintended and intended consequences of the conviction In some jurisdictions in the US cannabis possession is treated less severely and those charged with this offence are rarely given more than a small fine This situation offers an opportunity to assess the impact of this approach relative to other jurisdictions which treat cannabis offences more severely The aim of this essay is to explore decriminalization I will examine the effects this approach has on overall levels of cannabis use the individual cannabis possession offenders and the criminal justice system Methodological problems will also be addressed The History of Marijuana Decriminalization in the US Between 1973 and 1978 11 states in the United States effectively decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana Single 1989 Model 1993 DiChiara and Galliher 1994 The reason for these changes in drug laws can be generally explained by the liberalization of public attitudes toward drugs especially marijuana during the 1970s DiChiara and Galliher 1994 explain that part of this change is due to cognitive dissonance caused by the arrest of high-status offenders In general relaxed attitudes toward marijuana combined with the criminalization of greater numbers of high-status youths and the support of more efficient use of limited resources in law
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