The social policy pertains to the enacted government policies and procedural measures critical to the society's overall well-being. It concerns the study of social welfare, in addition to its relations with both the society and the existent politics of a state. Its primary focus is hence on the provision of social services, by the existent welfare state. With the above in mind, social policy refers to the legislation, principles, guidelines, and activities which affect the existent living conditions of human beings that are conducive for overall human welfare.
As the London School of Economics portends, it is an applied and interdisciplinary discipline/ subject that is primarily concerned with extant societies and the analysis of their responses towards human social needs. Basic requisites for Man's comfortable living include shelter and food, safe and sustainable living environment, training and education of persons to levels which enable them to become full participants of social development, the treatment of the sick in addition to the promotion of health, and the support and care of those unable to fully enjoy independent life (Dean, 2006).
Hence, from the above, social policy can be broadly defined as pertaining to public practice and policy requirements for the social arenas of: human services, health care, education, labor, inequality, and criminal justice. Through its aim of improving human welfare, in addition to meeting the aforementioned human needs, social policy, therefore, concerns itself with the welfare state, environmental policy, health care, social security, pensions, unemployment insurance, social care, housing and exclusion, child protection, child protection, education policy, in addition to crime and criminal justice.
Further, used to refer to existing government policies regulating human behavior, it also pertains to issues of abortion and its regulation, homosexuality, rules on issues of divorce, marriage, adoption, and the legal status of prostitution and recreational drugs. It is upon the latter recreational drugs that this paper will focus on, specifically on Marijuana and its legalization.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (USA), provides statistical proof of high levels of Marijuana consumption amongst its citizenry and especially by the youth. Accordingly, it is the most common drug used in the nation, with nearly 17 million users reporting its use figure is inclusive of the youth (from 12 years and above), in addition to adult populations. According to surveys carried out, the late 1990s downward trend of marijuana use amongst the North American youth has reversed, with the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showing a rise in marijuana use from the previous 6.7% of 2008, to 7.3% in 2009.
This increase was primarily focused on 12-17 year-olds, not surprisingly coinciding with a softening stance towards its use and associated risks. Overall perceptions of risks associated with drug use declined significantly amongst this age-bracket and hence the increased use of cannabis. With recently increased efforts towards the legalization of Marijuana, I, therefore, pose the question, Should Marijuana growth, sale, and use be legalized? If so, what consequences and resultant effects should be expected? In addition, in the overall arena, would its legalization be positive affecting, or do the negative effects outweigh the perceived positive effects? (The White House Administration, 2013)
Marijuana Use Should Be Legalized
I am of the view that Marijuana use should be legalized, though under stringent measures; with an age limit of 18 years and above being set for one to legally possesses and use the drug. Do a majority of Americans support its legalization or not, and if so, what concrete policy measures exist or should be formulated towards this outcome? If legalized, what challenges will policy-makers face when formulating requisite policies towards the controlled and proper use of the drug, and how does the government aim at providing requisite measures towards proper and controlled Marijuana use? These critical questions and my personal view are informed by the above statistics, in addition to other data, which I shall seek to provide throughout the rest of the paper.
Marijuana is the most commonly utilized drug in the global arena. From medical use in the form of providing anesthetic relief to patients suffering from cancers (painful side effects stemming from chemotherapy), to religious utility as a form of meditative enhancer to the contemporary utility of the same for recreational purposes, it is hence clearly visible that marijuana is here to stay. The Obama administration has consistently reiterated its unconditional position on the legalization of any form of the drug.
Through the partnership with Federal, state, and local governments, the Office of National Drug Control Policy continues to work towards the overall reduction of Marijuana use, in addition to other illicit drugs. This is through the joint effort of developing strategies that are fully integrated with the principles of effective supply reduction, prevention, recovery, and treatment efforts. Thus, any proposals towards its legalization would inadvertently be inconsistent with the administration's approach towards public health and safety.
However, in relation to the personal opinion that it should be legalized, there exist various aspects pertaining to the dangers of its prolonged utility. Amongst these, there are the resultant drug dependence, impaired immune system, and cognitive functioning, poor motor performance in addition to mental and respiratory illnesses apart from other effects which are negative.
Further, the danger associated with marijuana use is the fact that marijuana intoxication may lead to difficulty in problem-solving and thinking memory and learning difficulty, distorted perception, and human motor-skills imbalance; with chronic usage resulting in increased anxiety rates, schizophrenia, suicidal thoughts, and depression. When legalized, the drug, as evidenced by the RAND Corporation report Altered State, would cause a plummeting of its price, hence triggering increased usage of the same.
Indeed, with high prices, the youth and young people are hence less likely to obtain and thus use the drug. The fact that usage of tobacco and alcohol (legal substances) greatly outpaces marijuana use is a clear indication that existent laws do reduce both acceptability and availability of substances (RAND, 2013).
Also included is the official government's stand that experiences related even to closely regulated prescription drugs like Oxycontin portend to the fact that the legalization of drugs only widens the scale of availability and resultant use/ misuse even when requisite control measures are enforced. In addition to the above stand, the Obama administration"s stand is rooted in perspectives that the combined revenue (tax) received from both alcohol and tobacco is far outstripped by the resultant social costs, generated through their utility.
Tobacco, for example, when taxed does not provide any net revenue, as annual spending, estimated at about $25 billion is outweighed by existent social costs of smoking estimated to be in excess of $200billion. Alcohol, on its part, provides an estimate of $10 billion in federal revenue (excise taxes) with state governments raking in another estimated $5.5 billion, which when combined amount to less than a tenth (10%) of the annual estimated $185 billion in alcohol-related costs pertaining to lost workplace productivity, criminal justice, and healthcare costs (Fairchild, 2013).
It further proposes that legalization would instead provide further burden to the already stretched criminal justice system. This correlates with 2008 statistics where 2.7 million arrests of alcohol-related crimes were carried out in comparison to 750,000 for marijuana possession. This and other statistical evidence show that marijuana possession imprisonment is nearly zero, with the range being 0.5-1.0% of all state inmates.
With the rise in fierce drug-related violence, a negative resultant social factor of drug use and sale, the legalization of marijuana would do little in curbing the above scenario. The bulk of profits that are gained by criminal gangs and organizations are from other drug substances sold, in addition to human trafficking. The most stringent regime proposed towards the legalization of marijuana one, which is inclusive of high taxation on the drug existent cartels, would only need to undercut legal prices, and hence maintain their market share.
Legislation, resulting in increased marijuana demand, will lead to the situation in which such group entities would only grow stronger and hence more lethal. All the aforementioned is per the US government's stand, as led by the Obama administration (White, 2013).
Though a law-abiding citizen and in agreement with the existent government's stand on drug sale, possession, and use, it is through the following that I intend to provide divergent views as they pertain to Marijuana. From existent data and the research I will conduct, I will provide different views and opinions on the overall resultant effects of Marijuana legalization on the existent American social policy and crime index.
I plan to use mixed research methodology which will entail the utility of a combination of both qualitative and quantitative research methods, in particular involving conducting a survey and making use of the available data-analysis method. The strengths of the selected approach include the existence of tested statistical results, input methodology, an actualization of data collected, the availability of academic and scientific critical and recent empirical researches and surveys carried out. By way of survey, I will be able to get firsthand information/ opinion by divergent criteria from the participants that will include both youth and adults.
Weaknesses may include limitations of data collection on my part, through my utility of survey conduct and restricted sampling. Specifically, the survey will be conducted in a specific region and hence may not portray the overall American social perspective. Augmentative data of a larger national size/dimension will be provided through already existent data and earlier surveys to further strengthen my stand.
It is also possible that in surveys, not all questions will be answered truthfully, especially concerning such a sensitive subject, given the fact the official government's stand is known by participants. This may result in a larger margin of error that may render resultant statistical evidence not being accurate to the (+_ 0.5%) margin error.
With measurement, I will base my survey on around 2000 citizens, with the youthful population entailing half of all total respondents. I will also proportionately distribute my survey to capture all existent aspects of the American multicultural arena. I will therefore aim at surveying not only Caucasian Americans, but also the ethnic minorities and, to some extent, foreigners, just to enrich the final statistical outcome and make it objective enough.
The sampling method to be used will be random sampling which will allow me to cover the widest possible field of existent American citizens. Both genders will be considered, the nationality, race/ ethnicity, creed, inclination, and political affiliations notwithstanding. With this sampling method, I will be able to cover divergent populations and to maximize my capabilities pertaining to reducing the targeting of like-parties/ groups. This survey method will, of course, necessitate the distribution of questionnaires, in which I intend to provide variants of pertinent questions related to the legislation of marijuana.
One aspect to be noted is that the segment of participant/ respondent name and address will be omitted to protect such participants' privacy. Instead, the numbering (codification) of these questionnaires will respond to the numbers of participants who will be sampled through the survey. Target areas will include more affluent gated societies and suburbs in addition to the inner-city arenas to get data from both ends of the social spectrum. It should be noted that the economic status greatly influences the chances of drug use and/ or abuse.
The questions to be included in the questionnaires will range from issues such as:
- What age limit should be set for one to be able to utilize the drug?
- What is the dosage (quantity/ number of rolls) that should be permitted, and against what set periods/ periods?
- What socio-economic, religious, cultural, and political impacts will result from this legalization?
to the following questions:
- If legalized, will this improve your (the participant's) overall wellbeing and that of the American society?
- If so, how will these resultant impacts portray themselves as pertaining to the existent social cohesion and well-being?
- Will youth delinquency, crime, and resultant crime rates go down?
- If not, what measures do you (the participant) think the government should take in order to enhance social cohesion in the face of drug legalization?
- What penalties do you (the participant) think should be enforced towards a stringent observance of provided laws, rules, and regulations as stipulated in resultant legislative laws pertaining to marijuana use and possession, in case of actual legislation?
These and others are amongst the questions that I intend to pose to the sampled participants while aiming at capturing all requisite angles that pertaining to the legislation of the drug and its resultant outcomes and consequences on the larger American social arena. The key variables I intend to measure include youth population vs. adult population samples; racial and gender diversity as they relate to the agreement or disagreement of the legislation and general opinions of Yes/ No towards proposed legislation of the drug.
Targeting the youth, I will aim at a better understanding of their reasons towards not only their usage of the drug but also to overall legislation of the latter. On the adult population, I will aim at finding out why they prefer this legislation, considering the effects it would have on overall social cohesion and wellbeing.
Further, I will reveal how they intend to cope with resultant outcomes, as perceived in the context of drug use by the youthful population if this was to unfortunately occur. Each variable would be measured in an overall percentage result (%); with my target population being 2,000 persons, 1% would be representative of 20 YES (affirmative) responses, and thus calculated out of the overall percentage.
The above will further be divided into youth and adult ratios vis-?-vis their comparisons, in addition to gender and racial/ ethnic opinions vis-?-vis- total existent respondents and their resultant responses. Limitations of existent data may include data being outdated (i.e. not carried out in the recent past) and data being regional/area specific and hence not capturing the divergent American population in its entirety.
Further, the existent disagreement/ diversity of resultant statistical data in the variants of surveys carried out over different periods should be considered. Additionally, there may exist diverse resultant outcomes in a given period, thus affecting my survey's error margin amongst other finer statistical details. As pertaining to demography and socio-economic conditions, the sample population will be of existent American economic spectrum being informed by the fact that the two existent opposite ends may have both agreeable views as well as divergent ones, as proposed throughout the survey.
With the pertinent question at hand, I will delve more into existent data as the survey is to be carried out later. Accordingly, it is opinionated that marijuana legislation would, contrary to the official White House stand, generate billions of dollars in collected revenues. According to a libertarian think-tank Cato Institute, marijuana legalization would provide the federal government with a huge revenue stream that would augment existent revenues requisite for the balancing of America's national budget. State estimates are at $8.7 billion in both state and federal tax revenue on an annual basis.
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States That Has Already Legalized Medical Marijuana
Adding on to this is the fact that there would be extra revenue (billions of dollars) saved currently on the regulation of marijuana use, were the drug to be legalized. The states of Colorado and Washington attest to this by providing good litmus tests towards the measurement of possible fiscal impacts of the drug's legalization at the national level. With eighteen states in addition to Washington, D.C. has already legalized medical marijuana, in addition to 10 other states currently considering the drug's legislation, it is hence without a doubt that this proposal is critically looked at.
State laws are a wholesome representation of a national policy, rules, and regulations, hence with such a big number of states inclining towards legislation, it is evident there is a need for many consultations, debate, and consideration at the policy level of administration. Accordingly, a recently conducted poll by Pew Research Center alludes to the fact that a majority of American citizens are in support of the legislation of marijuana.
According to the survey poll, 45%-52% are in support of legalization, with 72% of total respondents being of the opinion that the existent federal enforcement effort/ laws are not worth it. This goes in comparison with a survey conducted a decade ago which portrayed about a third of the total American adult population surveyed as being of a similar opinion. This support has gone up by 11 points (percentage) since the year 2010.
To add, the fact is that those polled, in particular those that have used the drug in the past year, are roughly one in 10 (10%). This is in addition to a rough 50% of those having used it in their lives. This is identical in both those states that have legalized its usage, abate on conditional clauses, with those states which have not legalized the drug (Graves, 2013).
The above may be attributed to the apparent shift in the way the American (the 1960s) baby boomers feel about/ portray the drug of their youth. A majority are of the view that as opposed to existent opinions, marijuana use is not a gateway to further usage of dangerous drugs, in addition to viewing its usage as being immoral. In fact, data portray an overall decrease in those of the view that its usage is immoral from a 2006 survey that portrayed half of the respondents were of this view, to the current 1/3 (third) who still hold the same views.
Additionally, half of the respondents were of the view that marijuana use is no longer a moral issue. Of significance is the fact that the Age variable provided marked differences in opinions, with younger Americans being of the view that the drug should be legalized. Closely related is the aspect of Parenthood, with more parents being less likely to support its legalization vis-?-vis those adults who were not parents.
This poll, conducted between the 13th -17th of March, via telephone conversations among 1,501 random American adults contains a margin error of 2.9%. This survey may not be conclusive as pertaining to the coverage of overall existent American populations, but it is an indicator of the proposed legislation.
With the existent near-universal agreement that the contemporary War on Drugs has in fact spurred onwards the illicit drug trade contrary to reducing or stopping it, the prevailing public opinions towards its legalization support the above perspective. By criminalizing a product that a huge proportion of global populations want, need, or require, the government only strengthens criminal activity globally. It is due to existent drug policies that there exists a $600 billion annual drug trade.
This may further be given as a reason why the United States possesses the world's largest judicial criminal/ prison system, in addition to, tagging millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens who use marijuana as criminals. Despite the trillion-dollar expenditure on the War against Drugs over a time-frame of 40 years, in addition to the estimated 750,000 arrests linked to marijuana use and possession, the overall cost of the drug remains relatively low, hence making it easily available.
Due to its relative ease at growing, U.S economists estimate that its product ranges in the top 15 cash crops produced on a par with both grapes and potatoes. Thus, if marijuana usage and availability occurs de facto, why then continue with its prohibition? (Caulkins, Hawken, Kilmer, & Kleiman, 2012)
The above should be considered, along with the pros and cons and their final/ overall effect on existent crime and America's social policy. On a negative note, legalization would most likely lead to an increase in the number of dependent persons based on the fact that it accounts for the second-highest number of admissions relating to drug treatment. With alcohol and tobacco being aggressively marketed, especially targeting the young, questions abound as to the course of action commercial producers of the drug will take.
By legalizing the drug, there will be saved costs pertaining to prohibition-influenced loss of civil liberty, a need for prohibition reinforcement as well as on overall criminal enterprise, which is anticipated to decrease. With legalization, being the opposite of prohibition or criminalization, drug gangs and cartels would lose their share in the marijuana drug market, with resultant possession and usage arrests being cut by a half.
Existent racial discrimination and stereotyping would decrease or even better vanish, as the majority of those arrested over drug possession and use are usually the ethnic minorities; with marijuana arrests of these social category being seven times more than among the American white folks, and with the drug use being on a level plane. It is pertinent to note that the legalization of the drug necessitates requisite policies, rules, and regulations (MacCoun & Reuter, 1997).
In conclusion, the need to assess both pros and cons of legalization, and how this would affect the overall American social arena is required. Pertinent questions would delve into such aspects as will this legalization increase drug dependency, and in how many people's dependence would result? Would the legalization bring benefits with addicts of other harder drugs trading down to the legalized substance?
Would legalization of the drug change the overall focus on the War on Drugs from the present tangle between illegal substances, criminality vs. judicial law to one of treatment and prevention? It is such pertinent questions that need to be focused on during legislation of requisite laws/ rules, regulations, and policies in the advent of the legalization of marijuana. It does not make sense to legalize both alcohol and tobacco while criminalizing marijuana since the resultant socio-economic effects and costs of the former are portrayed to be in excess of billions.
With scientific research portending to the existent utility of the drug as medical marijuana, its legalization would increase the presence and availability of the drug to those who require it, but cannot get medical prescription. Thus, I am of the opinion that the drug should be legalized with all requisite measures being considered. Primarily, the need for regulated distribution taken into account the age factor should be prioritized.