The decriminalization debacle

The residents of Montpelier are currently being urged via petition to introduce legislation that would decriminalize marijuana.If this resolution continues to the state legislature, there is a high chance that the illicit drug will become decriminalized in all of Vermont.This move toward reform will not only please the paranoid users of Vermont, but it will also relieve much of the stress placed upon the local judicial systems due to marijuana-related arrests.Instead of a lengthy judicial hearing, a criminal record and even jail time, those caught with less than an ounce of marijuana would receive a fine of $100 and a slap on the wrist.According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, marijuana laws cost Americans $7.6 billion in taxes every year. This statistic includes costs of police, hearings, incarceration and the war on drugs.Now that certain states have decriminalized the drug, they are witnessing the drop in the costs associated with marijuana-related arrests.At this point, many are even asking, why not legalize it in general? This is where the true debate arises.On the surface, the issue seems obvious: Solve debt by taxing sales, make it safer by regulating how it is grown and produced and educate on how to use it or avoid it safely. Regrettably, the issue is not that clear cut. At what age should marijuana use be allowed?Where is it appropriate to smoke, and is second-hand smoke an issue?The largest question standing in the way of legalization is how to regulate intoxication.Because there is no current method of testing for the immediate concentration of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in the bloodstream or body, there is no way to test if someone is too high to drive.Clearly, decriminalization is a step in the right direction, but it does not address the true problem at hand: lack of research.As with tobacco and alcohol, an incredibly large amount of research has been done concerning their effects and how to make them safer to consume.With little to no unbiased, government-funded research on marijuana, roadblocks such as these are standing in the way of not just legalizing the drug, but the billions of dollars in tax revenue and education possibilities available.For years, the government has ignored the possibility that marijuana may not in fact be pure evil and that it may even be able to help people.Although Vermont may soon be taking a large step toward changing public opinion and state law regarding the drug, the United States as a whole must realize the truth. Marijuana is here to stay and instead of wasting money on fighting a lost cause, the federal government and the American people need to learn to get along with it, one way or another.