Reconsidering Drug Policy—Marijuana
Dr. Virginia Beard
When analyzing the policy and decisions of policymakers we want to keep in mind the effectiveness, efficiency, equity, liberty/freedom, political feasibility, social acceptability, administrative feasibility, and technical feasibility of the suggested alternatives. The importance of each of those characteristics is really in the eye of the beholder. For example, drug testing candidates for welfare programs has been shown to be an ineffective policy in the states where it is in place, yet in some places it still has widespread support. Clearly those policymakers are looking at other criteria than just effectiveness or efficiency. That same kind of evaluation can be applied to the federal policy on drug enforcement, specifically in regards to marijuana. In brief, research has shown that African-Americans use marijuana at the same rate as whites, yet are convicted and incarcerated at higher rates. Overall rates of marijuana consumption have also increased over time, including the teen/young adult age, in spite of large budgetary devotions to government agencies such as the DEA and ATF who enforce the federal policy on drugs (Controlled Substances Act). This research will seek to understand both how marijuana became included in the Controlled Substances Act, the outcomes of the policy, as well as propose policy alternatives that may better satisfy the evaluative criteria that political scientists have in mind.
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