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Marijuana should be legalized and regulated

Some UMBC students will be able to breathe a sigh of relief after learning that the Baltimore State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby, recently announced that she no longer plans to prosecute marijuana possession cases. Her plan is in favor of improving police community relations which have suffered in Baltimore due to instances of injustice, racial profiling, police brutality and targeting.

The website for the State’s Attorney’s office now says that her office “no longer prosecutes any marijuana possession cases, because prosecuting these cases has no public safety value, disproportionately impacts communities of color, erodes public trust and is a costly and counterproductive use of limited resources.”

The State’s Attorney has also filed a petition to vacate previous marijuana convictions. These measures only apply to Baltimore City, so it does not mean that students can carry around marijuana openly on campus for several reasons.

The move is a positive step though, considering the increasingly common nature of marijuana usage for recreational and medicinal purposes. The fewer barriers there are to people’s ability to use marijuana at their discretion, the better.

Everyone who wants to use marijuana as treatment for illness has to be placed in a registry to obtain the card they would need to use marijuana legally. But not everyone is treating a chronic problem. People who just need pain relief from an occasional headache should be free to reach for their Tylenol or for a bowl at their discretion.

Another reason the State’s Attorney’s decision marks a positive change is that there are crimes that are much more harmful to the Baltimore Community than that of having and using marijuana. The State’s Attorney’s decision encourages law enforcement to focus on these larger issues.

Baltimore has a growing homicide rate that the State’s Attorney wants to focus on, freeing up resources that were being used to arrest people who engage in an activity that is statistically less dangerous than drinking alcohol.

While alcohol is regulated by age limits and driving laws, people are free to consume it at their discretion even though it is linked to more detrimental health effects than marijuana. Alcohol is not the only drug or substance that people have more freedom to use than marijuana.

It is not illegal to smoke cigarettes even though they have been linked to cancer, but it is illegal to use marijuana to alleviate symptoms of treatment for cancer, unless a person has engaged with the bureaucracy and red tape.

Maryland decriminalized marijuana possession in 2014, but possession of more than 10 grams can still lead to prison time, so there is still a ways to go before people are able to act according to their own judgement.

Moves like this are important as marijuana becomes decriminalized and legalized in many states across the country. We should all be moving toward regulating the use of the substance with age limits and restrictions the same way that alcohol is regulated, because marijuana is not going anywhere.

Photo courtesy of Marco Verch via Creative Commons.