The decisions made this past week to lessen the penalties surrounding one certain leafy green plant has left many proponents of medical and recreational marijuana (not horticulturists) swooning. In Massachusetts, voters elected to decriminalize up to an ounce of the substance. Similarly, voters in Michigan voted in favor of Proposal 1, which will now allow the prescription of medical marijuana in the state.
This decision will positively affect both states, and other states should follow their lead. Fourteen states across the nation allow the use of medical marijuana, and 12 states have decriminalized it. Even though many opponents of marijuana believe that allowing medical use of the substance will only contribute to the deterioration of society, transforming children into drug-obsessed heathens and generating marijuana dispensaries as plentiful as gas stations on every street corner, there are many benefits that will surface with these new decisions.
Crime is everywhere, and we can gather this just by watching the nightly news. Every day, people cheat, steal and corrupt others. In extreme cases, hate crimes, rape and murder are perpetrated. That said, the police have enough crime to tackle without also having to be concerned with what Joe Pothead is doing in his basement or what Sally Smith does to make the pain of her terminal illness more tolerable. There are real criminals still wandering around freely in society who have escaped punishment numerous times. Yet, when Joe Pothead is caught rolling a joint on a street corner with a friend, he is thrown in jail. What a waste of time and money our "marijuana witch hunt" has become. Jailhouse seats should be saved and kept warm for murderers and rapists, not for those people who use marijuana medically and recreationally in moderation. Police effort should be concentrated elsewhere, and the money saved in arrests can be put toward reprimanding those people who really deserve to spend time in tiny jail cells.
As for those people who are suffering from painful terminal illnesses, the decriminalization of marijuana may help them to better cope with the complications of their illness. These people are doing nothing wrong, only trying to make the best out of what is left of their lives. The argument that equates pot smoking to the destruction of society is almost as ludicrous and ill-informed as the argument that allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry will somehow create mass pandemonium and disarray in our society. What people are doing in the privacy of their own homes, as long as it isn't harming the people around them, shouldn't matter to everyone else, and it is ridiculous for anyone to keep pretending that it does.
Massachusetts and Michigan should be praised for their decision to lessen the penalties on marijuana. There are better ways for law-enforcement officials to use their time and resources than to endlessly chase after marijuana users. These two states should be commended for recognizing this fact and for realizing that there are more serious issues to deal with than marijuana use.