A Greater Look into the Decriminalization/Legalization of Marijuana

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Marijuana is one of many drugs that is stigmatized. Although marijuana is considered a drug it has more positive effects than others. Years ago, there had been a “war on drugs” declared, and that has ever since affected minorities in a terrible way. In terms of how there is not an equal. Due to the discovery of the positive effects that marijuana produces there is now a great debate on whether it should be decriminalized and legalized. A couple states have already been on board for this change and there have been ground-breaking outcomes. In places like California, Colorado, Vermont, and Nevada just to name a few, there is crucial evidence that has shown that decriminalizing marijuana has more positive results when it comes to minority groups such as African Americans and the Latinx community than negative ones. How would these new findings change the lives of many.

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People from the African American and Latinx community have often experienced discrimination based on race, even though scientifically it has been proven that race is not biological. In 2015 statistics reported by the National Survey of Drug Use and Health revealed that about “17 million whites and 4 million African Americans stated having used an illicit drug within the last month” (NAACP). One of the many things that impacts these two communities negatively pertains to illegal drugs. Statistics have shown that even though minorities and Caucasians use drugs at similar rates, “African Americans are almost 7 times more likely than their white counterparts to receive jail time based on drug charges” (Lopez 2017).

In the article “Comparing Black and White Drug Offenders: Implications for Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice and Reentry Policy and Programming” it poses the argument that more white people partake in harsher drugs, but black people are the ones that are disproportionately the ones that are being sentenced. Minorities are more likely to be charged with possession and distributing while whites are more likely to be charged for illegal activity related to use like stealing simply to support their habits. A study conducted in Seattle shows that “people of color tend to do more of their drug deals outside in the open and non-people of color tend to do their sales inside places such as coffee shops or restaurants” (Beckett) This signifies an open window where it shows us who is much more visible in drug deliveries and who is not.

For many years’ studies have proven that minorities are disproportionately jailed more often for the same offenses as non-minorities. “Although Black Americans are no more likely than Whites to use illicit drugs, they are 6–10 times more likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses ( Netherland 2007 ) ” The article “White opioids: Pharmaceutical race and the war on drugs that wasn’t” reveals the disproportionate life of being a minority over the majority and also how it effects their communities. Although white and blacks can be affected by drugs the punishments for the same crimes are not equal. There had been a term used which is “White Drug War” which is a racialized American drug policy that has stamped out less penal consequences and began to treat whites with drug use issues as a biomedical disease. This is to preserve their whiteness but leaving disciplinary systems that governs the drug use of people of color.

Marijuana is one of many drugs that is stigmatized. Although marijuana is considered a drug it has more positive effects than others. Years ago, there had been a “war on drugs” declared, and that has ever since affected minorities in a terrible way. In terms of how there is not an equal. Due to the discovery of the positive effects that marijuana produces there is now a great debate on whether it should be decriminalized. The drug of choice for many minorities is marijuana. In the article “It’s time to declare truce in the war on drugs” it examines the reasons as to why so many minorities are affected by the drug crime and how decriminalizing drugs could possibly help balance out society’s injustices.

“Decriminalization of drugs will greatly reduce these two types of criminal conduct by reducing the profit motivation and by eliminating the need for theft to support the drugs addict’s habit (Hite) If marijuana is decriminalized it would bring positive outcomes for people that are minorities. In the book “Drugs and Policing: A Scientific Perspective” it is mentioned that the so-called “war on drugs” and policing had affected and still do affect different communities. Instead of focusing on the actual drug problem of people’s substance abuse it is assumed that once the people that are selling the drugs are locked away somewhere then it will slow down drug use, but they only get replaced.

In the book “Dorm Room Dealers: Drugs and the Privileges of Race and Class” has effectively found evidence that upwardly college student that can lose everything are selling drugs out of their homes on campus grounds and that law enforcement continuously overlook it’s white citizens but they zero in on minorities that are selling them. This also put minorities at a disadvantage when they are most likely the one that are going to be caught or looked more into than their white counterparts. Decriminalizing marijuana would be an advantage for minorities in lessen mass incarcerations.

Marijuana possession is the highest crime arrest that disproportionately affects people of color. Many states have decriminalized or legalized it but many have not. The study of observing the before and after marijuana decriminalization/legalization is a very important one especially for minorities. Many people are affected by these types of arrests. How would the decriminalization/legalization of marijuana affect various racial groups? More people are arrested on drug charges than rape, kidnappings, and murder

Methods and Procedures

“In 2010, for example, black people were 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people nationwide” (ACLA) The enforcement of cannabis possession unnecessarily entangles thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayer dollars. In places such as Nevada (2001), California (2011), Vermont (2013), Philadelphia (2014), marijuana has been decriminalized and legalized. that states with medical marijuana have actually seen decreases in prescription drug overdoses. In California the decriminalization of marijuana went into effect in January 2011. Reports have shown that there was a decrease in school dropout rates, decline in drug overdose, suicides, criminal arrests, drug arrests, and more (Ingraham 2014).
Before the year 2010 school dropout rates were at 14.7%, and two years after (2012), the rates were 11.4%. Drug arrests had decreased from 718.4 percent in 2010 to 551.6% in 2012. In Philadelphia marijuana had been decriminalized in 2014. Three years prior to marijuana being decriminalized the Philadelphia Police Department made nearly 12,000 arrests for marijuana possession and three after the decriminalization of marijuana there had been 2,900 were arrested for marijuana possession, according to PPD data. That is about a 75 percent decrease in arrests between 6 years. In both states represented, there is a great significance in decriminalizing marijuana.

In order to test my hypothesis, I would gather a total of 129 participants that engage in the use of marijuana. Gathering 43 African Americans, 43 Hispanics, 43 Caucasians, female and male, ages 18-45. Three years prior to marijuana being decriminalized/legalized I would have each participant fill out a self-report survey concerning their opinion on their own stress, their arrest history, their job history, how long they’ve used marijuana, is there any specific reasons why they use marijuana, and their family/life history and also I would take a physiological measure on stress levels.

Three years after decriminalizing or legalization of marijuana, I would compare my earlier findings to what my findings are now. I would gather those same people, to administer another self-reporting survey concerning their opinions on stress now, their employment status, their recent arrest history, education status (if they are in school or in the process of continuing their education), and if their usage of marijuana has increased or decreased.

After receiving samples three years prior to marijuana being decriminalized/legalized and three years afterwards, the outcomes are expected to be astounding. Prior to, people would show high stress levels, high arrest rates, high dropout rates, high overdose rates, and many are unemployed especially for the African American and Latinx community. After three years, the results would show a drastic decline in arrest rates, stress levels, dropout rates, the actual usage of marijuana, and unemployment rates. Results that were once so high one year and comparing those results to the same peoples, 3 years after made such a difference. There had been a great significance and improvement in the lives of minorities.


Many lessons can be learned from places that have given leeway to people that choose to indulge in marijuana. Places where people of color are disproportionately imprisoned for marijuana possession should take a step back and take notes. There are more positive reasons to decriminalize/legalize it than not to. Marijuana is the #1 most looked at reason why Blacks and Hispanics are the most found race in prisons. There are ways society can work towards making things more equal and decriminalizing marijuana can be one. Many minorities drug of choice is marijuana and they are targeted.

More people are employed, less are going to prison, families are staying together, people are staying enrolled in schools, and stress levels are down. These outcomes prove so much good can come out of looking into decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana. In the states where marijuana has been decriminalized, much evidence has shown great declines in the arrests of minorities. Places like Colorado and Philadelphia has gotten on board with the idea of lessoning the offense of marijuana possession and so much positivity has come out of this change. It has not solved the issue of racism and inequality when it comes to race, but it has enlightened a situation that many people may not be paying attention to.


1. Lopez, G., & Zarracina, J. (2017, March 07). Study: Black people are 7 times more likely than white people to be wrongly convicted of murder. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/3/7/14834454/exoneration-innocence-prison-racism
2. Netherland, J., & Hansen, H. (2017, June 28). White opioids: Pharmaceutical race and the war on drugs that wasn’t. Retrieved March 28, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5501419/
3. NORML. 1997. Still Crazy After All These Years: Marijuana Prohibition 1937-1997: A report prepared by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) on the occasion of the Sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Washington, DC; Federal Bureau of Investigation’s combined Uniform Crime Reports: Crime in the United States (1990-2000):
4. Mohamed, A. R., & Fritsvold, E. D. (2012). Dorm room dealers: Drugs and the privileges of race and class. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
5. [bookmark: _Hlk5952475]Netherland, J., & Hansen, H. (2017). White opioids: Pharmaceutical race and the war on drugs that wasn’t. BioSocieties, 12(2), 217-238.
6. [bookmark: _Hlk5954010]Hite, N. J. (1994). It’s time to declare truce in the war on drugs. Western State University Law Review 22(1), 93-110
7. Rosenberg, A., Groves, A. K., & Blankenship, K. M. (2016). Comparing Black and White Drug Offenders: Implications for Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice and Reentry Policy and Programming. Journal of drug issues, 47(1), 132-1421
8. Hrodey, M. (2016, August 08). Coffee Wars. Retrieved March 10, 2019, from https://www.milwaukeemag.com/coffeewars/
9. Ingraham, C. (2014, October 15). After California decriminalized marijuana, teen arrest, overdose and dropout rates fell. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/10/15/after-california-decriminalized-weed-teen-arrest-overdose-and-dropout-rates-fell/?utm_term=.9245008d8786
10. A. (n.d.). Marijuana Arrests by the Numbers. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/gallery/marijuana-arrests-numbers”

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A Greater Look into The Decriminalization/Legalization of Marijuana. (2020, Apr 17). Retrieved November 26, 2022 , from

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