soclaw - Professor Mullis Nolan Phillips 4/12/04 The Policy...

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Professor Mullis Nolan Phillips 4/12/04 The Policy Window for Decriminalization I. Legal to Ban to Decriminalize During alcohol prohibition a new drug began to assimilate into society. Marijuana was growing as a social drug and partly taking the place of alcohol. Then there was a metamorphosis of the drug. Marijuana, which had only been viewed as a threat in the Southwest and West due to Mexicans, was now a social evil. Race had a large part to do with this change by attaching the drug to “murderous immoral” minorities. This combined with the negative stigma attached to the Harrison Narcotic Act led to the eventual criminalization of marijuana. However this is not our first or last example of this: Historians have documented the racial biases in drug control policies. Our first drug laws, aimed at prohibiting opium smoking (but not consumption by other mean), were passed after an influx of Chinese immigrants in the 19 th century. Restrictive state marijuana laws during the 1930s were justified by contentions that marijuana-intoxicated black and Mexicans were responsible for the bulk of violent crime. Harsh federal penalties were adopted during the 1950s after federal law enforcement officials argued that drug use by blacks and Puerto Ricans had increased dramatically. When drug use by white, middle-class young people became
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Phillips-2 common in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the federal government and many state governments relaxed their drug laws (Meier 1992:42) This law was not only spurred by race but also by the alteration of an addict into a fiend. Social factors had a major impetus in the creation of marijuana legislation, first on the state level and eventually undertaken by the federal. Although social factors aided in passing the Marijuana Tax Act, that does not explain the transformation of the federal government. Initially established to see our rights were not infringed upon, how is it now then we live in a welfare state? The remodeling of the federal government came with the Progressivism movement and solidified itself during the depression. Also, the types of laws the federal government is enacting now, are moralistic in trying to refrain from hurting ourselves. However if the government originally did not have the power to intrude on our lives, can these new laws be considered moral, or do they violate or basic rights as member of society? Lastly what type of deterrent effect exists? Deterrence is considered moral by some but other feel it creates a martyr. The period between initial prohibition and decriminalization was the most pertinent fifty years of the drug war. In this time period the drug became associated with Hippies and was used as a social control on them. However the high rates of use, especially by more affluent whites created a moral dissonance in advent of socializing the drug. The moral dissonance raised awareness and consequently the drug laws began to be viewed as too strict. Following this perception police began to be more selective, less likely to arrest for small amounts in order not to “ruin life.” The lack of uniform
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This note was uploaded on 06/04/2008 for the course WRC WRC 1013 taught by Professor Wood during the Spring '05 term at Texas San Antonio.

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soclaw - Professor Mullis Nolan Phillips 4/12/04 The Policy...

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