Political Policy in the USA and its impact (Marijuana)
Although there are various polices and theories that have been formulated and implemented in relation to marijuana usage, evidence available suggest that the current removal of the prohibition of the possession of marijuana does not increase its usage amongst the citizens. Apparently, these prohibitions are more harmful than they were thought before. For instance, studies have shown that legalizing marijuana does not increase its usage. In 1973, around 13 USA states enacted versions of laws that led to the decriminalization of marijuana in their states. In each of these states, marijuana users did not have to face jail terms if they are found to have consumed the drug. This legislation was also spread to other states all over the world. Although some states have reexamined their laws and reduced the maximum penalties that were put for the use of marijuana, according to national academy of sciences decriminalization of marijuana does not necessarily leads to reduction in its usage. On the contrary studies suggested that decriminalization affect either the choice or the frequency of the drug usage. According to Belenko (2000, p.199), the rate of marijuana usage were high in states that did not decriminalize its usage. This paper analyzes the marijuana policy process in the USA, secondly, it evaluates the impact of USA Constitution on modern American politics, institutions and processes, third, it appraises various roles that policy implementers play in policy formulation and implementation fourth, it evaluates the roles of interest groups such as the media, non-governmental organizations and businesses, and lastly it will identify the various theories that are and how they apply to the marijuana usage (Zeese,1999,p.328)
Current marijuana policy
Since 1996, many American states have passed several laws that govern marijuana usage. These laws allow citizens to use marijuana for specified medical conditions that have been prescribed by the physicians. Apparently, these state laws do not interfere with the belief that marijuana usage is still not fully allowed in the country. Moreover, they do not govern the way marijuana should be used in these countries. These laws were formulated to look at the removal of state criminalization of possession of the drug. This led to the evolution of state authorization and state distribution of marijuana. The law varies greatly from state to state in their implementation and formulation. For instance, a law that applies in one state may not necessarily apply in another state. Besides, other governments have decided to put zoning areas to prevent marijuana dispensaries from operating in their areas of jurisdiction. The states that use medical marijuana laws have put in place some laws that have led to the formation of medical registries to control the usage of the drug and ensure that it is not abused. This has prevented state arrests and prosecutions up to a certain level. Although the medical marijuana usage is authorized in some states, they may be limited and controlled according to the amount of drugs that they are allowed to use as per given time. Regulation of marijuana may also exist according to the state, the government, and the city level. Through the MPP (Marijuana Policy Project) the government is currently drafting, funding and implementing the marijuana policy. This has made the states to make history as the first institutions to legalize the usage of marijuana. This even led to the passage of around 15 recent laws on marijuana usage in the USA. Coffman (2008,p.195) expounds that, some aspects of marijuana policies includes the protection of criminal penalties that can arise due to the usage of marijuana, access to marijuana through dispensaries and home cultivation, allowing of various strains of the same and allowing the smoking or inhalation of certain kinds of marijuana products, plant or material extracts. According to research, what led to the development of such policies is the therapeutic value of the drug. For instance, it was found that the drug helps a lot in areas such as pain relief, controlling vomiting and appetite stimulation of in the patient.
There has been constitutional arguments towards the use of marijuana that can be grouped into two major categories that is the challenges that the government in regulating the usage of marijuana in the USA which include the right to privacy, and fundamental basic right that the citizens have. The other one is the argument against the manner in which the drug is currently being controlled in the country. Under the federal law, the usage and sale of marijuana are illegal however, this does not apply to states which have exempted themselves by creating laws that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. This is enshrined in the Controlled Substances Acts. The most relevant amendment was the Florida Rights to Medical Initiative, which was done through the ballot on November 4, 2014. Although the measure did not succeed it would have achieved several things. One of the major cases that involved the use of marijuana was the Gonzales vs. Raich case. This was a decision by the United States government to ensure that under the commerce and the constitution the state has the constitutional right to criminalize the production and sale of home-grown drugs? This law even applied to the states which approved the usage of the same for medical purposes (Benmaamar, 2014, p.100)
Although California voters passed an amendment in 1996 legalizing the use of marijuana, the American government limited the usage of the drug through marijuana tax acts. In this case, the defendant Raich was using home grown marijuana which was illegal under the federal government but legal an under the California law. In 2002 after the USA sheriff destroyed all marijuana plants, Monsoon and Angel Raich sued the government for this act. Raich’s physician stated that without the drug her life was threatened due to the excruciating pain that she was experiencing. She claimed that she uses marijuana to stay alive. Furthermore, her lawyers claimed that her life was at stake if she could not use the drug. On December 16, 2003 the courts gave the appellant an injunction to prevent the state from interfering with both Monsoon and Angel Raich. The courts claimed that the appellants had a strong likelihood of success in their claim. In their ruling, the courts indicated that the state should not prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with the state laws but rather not to tolerate traffickers who hide under the claim that they are complying with the state laws just to traffic the drugs.
The role various formal political actors play in how the policy is formulated and delivered
According to Miron (2000, p.56), the house of representative has played a critical role in bringing several bills that have led to the legalizing of marijuana. The Senate also introduced the first bill in tackling the issue of medical marijuana. These states have argued that the federal government should remove marijuana from the criminal justice system so that it can be regulated in similar manner just as alcohol and cigarettes usage is being regulated in the country. Moreover, marijuana legalization won the ballot of Colorado in 2012. It was argued that it would bring marijuana sale under the rule of law which will in turn create several jobs and open up many business avenues in the country? The Drug Policy Alliance Leaders (DPAL) played a pivotal role in sponsoring these bills meant to legalize the drug. It also managed to initiate legislative campaigns that led to the amendments of federal laws. These includes the drafting and passing of the new Mexican laws 2007 that made it the first state to legalize the production and usage of marijuana in America. Moreover it also served as model for all medical marijuana usage in the country. For it to succeed, it worked with several local and international allies in formulating and implementing this policy. It was actually involved financially and conceptually in making these laws.
Gerber, R. (2004, p.20) explains that, In San Francisco area, the political environment favored the formulation and implementation of marijuana policies. This was done through a very much determined activism whose aim was to ensure that it succeeds in its process of legalization of cannabis sativa. In this area, a wave of social movement prepared the soil for the development of the policies. This could be linked to the cannabis medical movements that took place in 1993. Eventually, the federal government pitted itself against so many states that were out to legalize marijuana usage in their states. They argued that the usage of the drug should be allowed for medical purposes to ensure that patients do not continue to suffer under certain medical conditions. These states continued to fight so that marijuana could be made legal specifically for medical purposes. Some of the acts that were brought about by political players include Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act of which was introduced in the house by Jared Polis. The other act was Marijuana Tax equity act that was introduced in parliament by Earl Blumenauer which was meant to replace marijuana prohibiting with a comprehensive licensing to ensure that its usage and sale can be licensed and taxed by the government (Borini, GuimarÃ & Borini, 2004, p.40)
Furthermore, some other legislation that were also put in place include the Compassionate and Research Expansion of Respect States Acts which was meant to ensure that the laws which have been formulated by the states are recognized and respected by the federal government. This act was introduced by senators such as Rand Pauland Cory Booker. This law was meant to make the production, distribution and sale of marijuana that was illegal under the federal law became legal under the state laws. The bill was also intended to remove several barriers that had been put on the scientific research on the same and allow physicians to recommend marijuana for medicinal use. It was also to ensure that the national marijuana dispensaries are taxed fairly. Moreover, this also allowed the setting up of several marijuana shops and business in place such as Colorado. This allowed them to access the banking system so that they could no longer operate on cash basis. The senate also introduced a bill that was to address the banking issues that was affecting the production and usage of marijuana. Benmaamar, R. (2014, p.55) explained that, It allowed the interstate transportation of marijuana products in the country. Finally, they also established the Veteran Equal Rights Acts that allowed them to expand access to marijuana for medical purposes in the country and they were also allowed to participate in state medical programs.
The role interests groups; the media, big business and other non-governmental actors play in Marijuana policy creation
NIH in Marijuana Policy Funds Study. (1997, p.3) explains that, the main informal sectors which were involved in the policy creation and formulation were the NGOs and the media. The current organization that is spearheading marijuana policy implementation is the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). Some of the roles that it plays include carrying out policy research analysis and innovative development to come up with the best policies that can cater for both the states and the citizens. They have also challenged the government to come up with facts that be used to prohibit the sale of the drug, to provide alternative evidence based policies to the government which can then be used to legalize marijuana in the states. Throughout the fight against the drug use, these players realized that citizen rights were being interfered with in most occasions making it hard to live a quiet and a peaceful life. In the fight against the drug use, they wanted the government to restore back human dignity and for the marginalized and the disadvantaged guy’s to ensure that they live a life that is devoid of any interference by the state. The believed that the current drug policies had brought several social problems in the country hence they came up with policies that are meant to bring back illegal drugs such as marijuana under effective legally systems that could be monitored and controlled and a dignified manner. Moreover, they will ensure that there are legal regulations and control of the current legal drugs to make sure the drugs do not cause any harm to the citizens. They also created the public health centers where drug control and usage can be managed and controlled under set rules and policies to ensure that there is no problem at all. They also argued that if this is done with proper adherence to ethics, no problems could occur during the process of the implementation of marijuana policies. This would then eventually reduce serious crimes that may occur due the use of the drugs such as marijuana. While doing this, the media offered effective unbiased coverage and public sensitization on various effects of abusing drugs. In the process the public is kept informed about all the issues involving the usage of marijuana (Donnermeyer, 1993, p.255)
Bogg, R. and Hughes, J. (1973, p. 104) argues that, Marijuana Policy project has also been lobbying for the legislation through the ballot initiative that has seen the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use in many states of America. In the process, they have been garnering wide media courage while lobbying for the US Congress to ensure that they advocate for marijuana reforms. They have also been fighting aspects such as imprisonment of the users. Their focus has been that marijuana should be regulated in the same way just like alcohol is being regulated in the country. Their focus is to do away with the criminal penalties that the country has put on marijuana. The media coverage such as the ones that appeared in the New York Times newspapers called for the legalization of marijuana in the country Foley & Lamar Miller (1979,p.164) explains that there are a lot of social costs that are associated with marijuana use. These include the arrests that were made which really interfered with the way they were living their lives. In this process, they argued that moderate use of marijuana does not pose any risks as compared to alcohol and other drug users in the country which were much more risky.
According to Foley& Lamar (1979, p.164) big businesses have also played key roles in ensuring that marijuana is legalized. They have argued that in most states where it has been legalized it has opened avenues such as job creation opportunities to the countries unemployed which have significantly reduced the rate of crime. While working together the informal and the informal sectors have come up with evidence based policies that they have presented to the law makers which have led to the creation of these policies. In some instances, they have even sponsored the passage of some bills concerning the legalization of the drug.
Relevant theories from the literature and apply them to the issue at hand.
Theories such as pluralism theory still believe that absolute power belongs to the people. They also believe that they have a significant influence on the government during the implementation of the policy. For instance, they try as much as possible to influence all arms of the government so that a particular policy can be changed. One of the instances is where activists and NGOs influenced the federal government towards the changing of various laws that were affecting marijuana usage. They used several methods such as lobbying and grassroots campaigns to ensure that policy changes were implemented. The critiques of this policy theory have argued that it is much possible for some interested groups to lose while others could win. Moreover, for the policy to be effective, the groups with enormous resources used them for these campaigns (Change, NIH in Marijuana Policy Funds Study, 1997, p211).
According to the Marxist theory, all government policies had to be considered in relation to those who are power. They also argued that the policy processes have been put in place to make people feel that they have at least some control but in the actual sense they do not have. The Marxist theories further said that there are opposing powers which are influencing the production and sale of cannabis hence those who are more powerful ended up controlling these than those who are less powerful. This is in contradiction to the elite model theory that explains that the public opinions is often influenced by a few powerfully individuals who often dominate the government and institutions that often creates the laws of the country. Like in this case, the marijuana policy was influenced by leaders who are powerfully and groups who dominate the government. Apparently, they can influence the policy members to act in their interests at the expense of other group members. In a nutshell legalization of marijuana had the effect of changing the American economy by opening many business avenues. Some of the social effects of legalization of marijuana include reductions in crimes by creating other avenues of employment. Moreover, it will go a long way in decongesting the jails so that petty offenders could be released. Legalization of the drugs will also ensure that there are a reduced number of drug cartels in the country (Menahem, 2013, p.5).
According studies, there have been many policies that have been created towards the legalization of marijuana. These came about because the citizens realized that marijuana has medicinal values such as controlling pains especially in situation where an individual is chronically ill. Although many states came up with several policies and laws towards these they were often in conflict with the federal government’s laws which insisted that the production of and sale of marijuana was still illegal irrespective of the laws that have been put in place. While coming up with the laws political actors have played critical rules which ensures including developing and implementing he laws. Moreover, apart from the political actors other players who have also played critical roles include the normal groups such as the media and the NGOs. For instance, the media has ensured that there is a constant campaign that analysis some of the benefits that could be derived if marijuana were legalized. Moreover some of them also reasoned that by doing this many social ills in the community such as the crime rates will be highly reduced. Moreover, in the process there have been constant constitution amendments that have been carried out to change the laws that govern legalization of marijuana. The relevant theories that have explained the development of marijuana policy include pluralism theory, elite theory, and the Marxist theory. In the development of these theories what came out is that most powerful intuitions ensured that the policies brought by them won. Ideally, all the formal and informal sectors always interacted to produce policies that are accepted by everybody. Although there is a continued debate o the legalization of marijuana, the bottom-line is that the legalization of marijuana has several benefits than when it is prohibited by the authorities.
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