With Washington State voting to legalize the use of marijuana, many are looking at the act as a large step toward national legalization and an end to a drug war that has been waged for over four decades. Legalization will also significantly reduce the number of drug crimes committed in the U.S., though the federal government still continues to enforce federal drug laws.
The recent votes in Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana without restricting it to prescription use. The drug has been legalized for medicinal purposes in 18 other states and the District of Columbia. According to the new law in Washington, residents over the age of 18 will be able to purchase marijuana from state licensed providers. The sale of the drug will be taxed, generating income for state coffers.
The new law will also significantly lower law enforcement costs. In the last year alone, 750,000 Americans were arrested under existing marijuana laws. Of that 750,000, 90 percent of the arrests were for simple possession charges. The legalization will also cut into the profits of drug cartels and many other criminal enterprises.
The new legalization laws should lower the number of Washington residents arrested for drug possession, but with federal laws still in place, some arrests may still occur.
A strong legal defense can sometimes reduce the consequences of drug arrests either by leading to a dismissal of the charges or a substitution of lesser charges with fewer penalties. The new law may have widespread impact on the legal system throughout the state, with both new arrestees, and those already convicted on marijuana-related drug charges.
Source: Huffington Post, "America's War on Drugs Sputters to an End," Diane Dimond, Nov. 21, 2012