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What impact would the decriminalization of marijuana have on the US criminal justice system?

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Currently it is illegal for anyone in America to produce, sell or possess cannabis except for a small handful of people working in conjunction with State legislation for medicinal marijuana use.  Other than these select few who have access to the drug to ease the pain of serious diseases, the drug is used as purely recreational and it is viewed as a dangerous and highly addictive substance by the American government.  The U.S. criminal justice system is often dealing with cases of pot users and traffickers and thus much money is spent on tracking such people down, prosecuting them and placing them in prison.  With proposed decriminalization of the drug, however, the system would have to change and take on a more tolerant attitude towards people who use the drug personally.  While trafficking and production of cannabis is still considered intolerable, a growing percentage of the population believes that personal use of marijuana is not a punishable offense.

Decriminalization would focus on those people who use pot for their own personal use, but who do not make sales to others or actually grow the drugs themselves.  The key to determining the difference between a trafficker and someone who has drugs on them for personal use is in the amount found; traffickers deal in large amounts of cannabis and therefore will have a very large stash at home or in their vehicle for sale.  Personal users will only carry a small amount at any time, much like a smoker will carry one package of cigarettes and not an entire carton.  What this means for the U.S. criminal justice system is that changes will need to be made so that drug possession is counted as a ticketable offense and not a criminal one.

When you aren’t wearing a seatbelt, this is normally a ticketable offense; the same goes for speeding and if marijuana possession was decriminalized the same would go for it.  Instead of facing a court date and criminal charges that will stay on your record, if you were found with a small amount of marijuana on you or in your home you would simply be written a ticket, have it confiscated and be required to pay a fine.  This is strictly different from the current criminal justice system in place regarding marijuana possession that could see you in jail for several years for holding even a small amount of the drug. 

There are many Americans who feel that the current drugs laws surrounding cannabis are unfair since the drug is in widespread use, it is not one of the most addictive drugs found on the streets and its negative effects are so few.  Other countries have decriminalized this particular drug because it is obvious that people will never stop using it despite legislation and that it is not as harmful as many of us have been brought up to believe.  The division between ticketable drug charges and criminal drug charges will be the major issue facing law enforcement if marijuana was to be decriminalized in the United States.

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