In this thesis project, I analyzed the reasons marijuana was originally criminalized by the government. I looked at the claims that marijuana was a drug that lead to an increase in delinquency and criminal activity in individuals. I also looked at the claims that said marijuana was a gateway drug that would lead users to abuse harder, more dangerous drugs in the future. Claims such as these ultimately led to marijuana being deemed an illegal substance in the early twentieth century. However, there is an abundance of evidence available to us to disprove many of these claims made about marijuana. There have been many studies conducted that prove that marijuana does not lead to any noticeable increase in criminal activity in individuals. There are also many studies that disprove the gateway drug claim, showing that marijuana itself does not lead people to abuse more dangerous drugs after years of usage. In addition to evidence that disproves many of the government’s claims about marijuana, there also exists evidence that shows the terrible consequences that have resulted from criminalization of marijuana. Because of marijuana criminalization, the United States has a disproportionately large number of its citizens locked up behind bars. Many of these inmates are from minority groups in the United States, showing that there is discrimination in who is targeted for marijuana crimes. Finally, I show that marijuana has many beneficial effects that could be fully realized if the drug were made completely legal.

Semester/Year of Award

Fall 12-4-2015


Victoria E. Collins

Department/Professional Affiliation

Justice Studies

Access Options

Restricted Access Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars


Justice Studies