Public Policy to Enact Social Change: Legalization of Marijuana

Legalization of Marijuana

The public policy includes the decisions and actions that governments take in order to address certain public issues and problems such as crime. Crime in most societies is dealt with through the legal system and criminal justice institutions which outline and enforce set consequences for particular crimes. The fact that crime attracts penalties or punishment is meant to deter criminals from committing a crime. Criminal justice, therefore, involves the threat of sanctions which include the loss of freedom, property and at times life (Ismaili, 2010).

This has been the basis upon which criminal justice policies and the criminal justice institutions operate. This form of criminal justice through fair and effective in most instances has however failed to provide long-term solutions to the prevention of crime. Crime prevention strategies should therefore involve collaboration between criminal justice and public institutions. In this way, criminal justice policies can be made part of public policy thus offering a long-term solution towards the prevention and alleviation of crime in society (Joseph, 1995).

Criminal justice and public policy are consequently interrelated in that it is through public policy that the criminal justice system gains legitimacy. Public policy also outlines criminal justice policy which acts as a guideline for criminal justice institutions. It is also through the criminal justice institutions that the criminal justice policies are enacted and enforced. One of the major crimes that affect our society today is the use of and peddling of illegal drugs. Drugs have also become the major cause of other crimes such as violence, robbery and theft, murder and fraud among others. One of these illegal drugs is Marijuana. As a result, strict policies have been put in place regarding the use and possession of this drug. The criminalization of marijuana has however generated great controversy as some people consider it to be medicinal and religious and therefore view its illegality as unfair and as an infringement on their rights. Others view it as a fairly mild drug similar to alcohol or tobacco which should not warrant the stiff penalties put in place. Its criminalization is also viewed as having an unnecessary strain on the country’s resources.

The criminalization of marijuana is inspired by the adverse health effects that result from its use especially its long-term use. The criminalization of cannabis however does little in the way of reducing its use. In fact, the rate of its sale and possession has increased in the countries in which it is illegal such as the US and the UK. Studies have shown that the use of cannabis is on the rise especially among the youth aged 16-24 in these countries. In the UK in 2000, 25% of the youth in this age bracket were reported to have used cannabis in the past year. In the US 24% of people aged 18-25 were reported to have used cannabis in the past year. These numbers clearly indicate that the use of the drug remains rampant even with its illegality (Room, 2010).

The criminalization of cannabis has also been criticized as a waste of scarce public resources. These resources in the form of judicial resources for prosecution and processing of cannabis offenders could be used for worse crimes than marijuana use (Hall & Paculla, 2003). The penalties are also excessive; in the US for example, simple possession can attract up to 30 years of time (Rosenthal & Kubby, 2003). As the criminal justice system has failed, an alternative public policy should therefore be adopted to deal with this issue. The proposal here, therefore, is for marijuana to be legalized rather than be prohibited as an alternative public policy towards its regulation.

Legalizing marijuana will place the drug in the same caliber as alcohol and tobacco which will make its regulation much easier, more effective and inexpensive. The legalization of marijuana will enable society to better regulate its sale to minors (Rosenthal & Kubby, 2003). This proposal towards the legalization of marijuana is also strongly hinged on the fact that its illegal stature has more adverse effects on society than its use. The illegalization of marijuana is expensive. It is estimated that an amount of 60million is used annually in the fight against marijuana not to mention the resources used in terms of taking care of prisoners, legal fees paid to prosecutors among others (Gerber, 2004).

If legalized, however, the government could gain a new source of revenue through taxation thus earning more revenue for the country. Its decriminalization would also reduce the number of cannabis-related arrests which have adverse effects on the individual and infringe on the basic rights of this individual. The arrested individual is faced with the shame of arrest, possible violence, rape, assault and hardship while in prison. They are also affected economically as they tend to lose property, days of work, or their jobs and money from payment of heavy fines (Rosenthal & Kubby, 2003).

The key step to legalizing marijuana would be to change the perceptions of people (voters) propagated by the media and the government on the ills of marijuana. This would enable the people to think of marijuana like any other drug like alcohol and since they are the voters and major influencers of policy it would draw the legalization of the drug much closer. A campaign towards the disadvantages of the illegalization of the drug would also help change people’s misconceptions about the drug. Sensitization of the vast amounts of revenue spent and the ill effects of arrests on the users will open the minds of the people and the policymakers towards the legalization of cannabis. A comparison between the effects of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco and marijuana will also help clear any bias and misconceptions about marijuana use. This will be done through a comparison of research reports, studies and compiled statistics on alcohol, tobacco and marijuana abuse (Fox, Armentano, & Tvert, 2009). Once the public is convinced the bill can therefore be tabled and put to a vote.

The estimated cost of the implementation of this legalization policy will mainly be incurred in the advocacy campaigns which will include campaign material costs, personnel and staff wages and costs, advertising costs, research costs among others. Volunteers can however be employed to alleviate the costs incurred from hiring the staff. Lobbyists will also be employed to convince policymakers. Other religious organizations and sympathetic organizations such as the MPP will also be brought on board for the campaigns and lobbying and funding (Morgan, 2010).

In conclusion, though cannabis is considered a harmful drug thus its illegality, its illegalization has only caused society more harm than good. With the legalization of the drug, therefore, society will not only be able to protect the non-user but also the user and the society as a whole.


Fox, S., Armentano, P., & Tvert, M. (2009). Marijuana is safer: so why are we driving people to drink. UK: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Gerber, R. J. (2004). Legalizing marijuana: Drug policy reform and prohibition politics. USA: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Hall, W., & Paculla, R. L. (2003). Cannabis Use and dependence: Public health and public policy. UK: Cambridge University Press.

Husak, D. N. (2002). Legalize This! The case for decriminalizing drugs. London: Verso Press.

Ismaili, K. (2010). US Criminal Justice Policy: a contemporary leader. USA: Jonnes and Bartlett Learning.

Joseph, L. B. (1995). Crime, communities and public policy. USA: University of Illinois Press.

Morgan, K. (2010). Legalizing marijuana. UK: ABDO Press.

Room, R. (2010). Cannabis Policy: moving beyond the stalemate. London: Oxford Univeristy Press.

Rosenthal, E., & Kubby, S. (2003). Why Marijuana should be legal. USA: Running Press.

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LawBirdie. "Public Policy to Enact Social Change: Legalization of Marijuana." March 23, 2023.