The recent statements made by President Obama have brought new fervor to the debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana. With the drug being considered for medical uses and legalized in various forms across each state, controversy surrounding the topic has already been running high.
A comment made by the President questions whether marijuana is as dangerous as alcohol. This has tipped off discussion regarding political stances on the issue and the effects of the Obama administration’s position on the topic. However, the President also made some very interesting remarks about the life-altering effects of a marijuana conviction on young offenders. He questioned the severity of the penalties put in place for even minor offenses and if this strategy is truly successful in reforming these individuals or even deterring others from offenses.
This concern is well placed, as an arrest for even simple marijuana possession can alter the course of a young person’s life in any state. In Ohio, a misdemeanor charge of possessing less than 200 grams of marijuana carries the possibility of up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $250. In addition to these sentences, an offender faces a mark on their criminal record that could lead to expulsion from school or prevent them from obtaining a job.
Possessing marijuana paraphernalia such as pipes, baggies, or rolling paper is another common offense that leads to serious consequences. This charge is usually filed in conjunction with another offense, and it carries its own sentence of up to 30 days in jail and steep fines, as well as a possibility of a loss of driving privileges.
With the use of marijuana so widespread across the country, these dire consequences are being faced by more and more individuals. Surveys have indicated that over 42% of people in the U.S. have tried marijuana, and 58% have stated that they approve legalizing its use. Attitudes toward the drug are clearly changing, and many are questioning the continued use of harsh punishments for an action that most citizens don’t even think should be illegal. Some are wondering if the President’s questions about the nature of the country’s laws regarding marijuana could be a sign of major changes that could soon change the way our country views the drug and its uses.