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Marijuana Convictions are Upending Lives and must be Stopped

President Joe Biden issued a proclamation pardoning all those convicted of marijuana usage and possession since the 1970s on Oct. 6th. This was part of a larger policy change that would eventually make marijuana regulated.

As marijuana legalization spreads across the country, people still continue to get heavy sentences and punishments for small possession and usage of marijuana. Such convictions not only upend lives through restricting job opportunities and housing options for those who have been convicted, but they are also unfair given how other people who have committed worse crimes have evaded harsher punishments and penalties.

Marijuana fines and sentences must be less harmful towards those convicted as they are harmful towards the people convicted as well as their futures. 

Mainstream news media often stereotypes marijuana users as being “lazy stones” as well as being involved in illegal and criminal activities. Marijuana usage is still heavily stigmatized across the country, with many continuing to believe that users are dangerous or rebellious people. Marijuana or cannabis is a psychoactive drug from the cannabis plant, with both recreational use as well as medical use and has been used in medicine for a while. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, there is conclusive evidence that cannabis can help chronic pain in adults and help ease nausea in patients who undergo chemotherapy. 

Mass incarceration and even small minor offenses have impacted many lives across the country. Everyone convicted of marijuana will be affected for life. For instance, California law states that possession and usage of more than one ounce of marijuana can result in up to half a year in jail, as well as $500 in fines and probation. In Florida, simple possession of marijuana can result in punishment such as a suspension of the driver’s license for one year.

Such penalties lead to people of all races losing jobs and such, and with a suspended drivers license which can cause more complications and troubles for those convicted. Even having minor offenses can lead to a criminal record, which can permanently stain a person’s record and prevent them from seeking jobs, housing or trying to start fresh and tear families apart. These offenses will forever stain a person’s record, and prevent them from opportunities in life, such as getting an education or scholarships.

President Joe Biden spoke on this topic last week, as he issued a pardon for many convicted of marijuana usage and possessions, in a video posted on Twitter stating “Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives-for conducts that is legal in many states.” 

It is unfair how people are prosecuted and have their lives wrecked by usage and possession of marijuana while the shooter in the Parkland mass shooting, Nikolas Cruz, evaded the death penalty despite killing 17 people and injuring another 17 others. On Thursday, a Florida jury spared Cruz, instead sending him to life in prison instead. The shooter committed mass murder, while people convicted of marijuana are simply using a substance that caused them to lose their entire livelihoods, having everything taken away from them. 

Another example of this, would be the verdict of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old teenager who, on Aug. 25, 2020, opened fire on a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killing 2 people and injuring a third. However, the teen was acquitted of all charges of murder in a case that deeply divided the nation. Where is the justice and fairness in this decision? Why did Rittenhouse get to be acquitted of charges when he killed 2 people, while those convicted of marijuana usage face harsher punishments? How many others do these people have to kill in order to receive the same level of punishment? 

Despite this, not everyone agrees that marijuana should be legalized. Americans who believe marijuana should be legalized say that marijuana as well as other drugs is detrimental to one’s health. Marijuana can be extremely addictive and greatly impact one’s mental health, as well as causing psychotic diseases. Though they make some great points, my point still stands firm that marijuana should be legalized because not all marijuana is used for recreational use. 

On top of that, there are many people who wish to start afresh after using marijuana, and are unable to do so because of their convictions and not clean records. Everyone who has been convicted is greatly affected, costing them their livelihoods. 

Lives are being destroyed by convictions, especially simple people living in minority neighborhoods and people of color. If states are going to continue to convict people of marijuana usage and possessions, then it is better to spend their time convicting people of more serious crimes and giving them the proper sentencing. I hope to see penalties for marijuana convictions lessened, where a person shouldn’t have a stain in their record for marijuana convictions after they have fulfilled their punishments. People should not be held back because of a conviction. In the meantime, stop ruining lives over marijuana possession and usage. 

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