Should Marijuana Be Legal Essay, Research Paper
Should Marijuana Be Legal
This is a topic that has become a bit of concern amongst people in the past few years. Marijuana has been illegal since the early 1900?s, but lately scientists have figured out that there are some uses of marijuana that could benefit people in need, people who are sick of deadly diseases such as aids, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. These are all diseases that are hard for anyone to go through, especially without aid that helps the pain and misery from ceasing. Prohibiting marijuana has just made things worse, by increasing the price of marijuana, the illegal usage, and the money spent on trying to cease its use.
Abraham Lincoln once said two quotes about prohibition, ?Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man?s appetite by legislation and makes crimes out of things that are not crimes,? and ?A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.? I believe that he is right for stating that we have rights and they should not be taken for granted. He may have not been thinking of marijuana when he made his speech, but it involves prohibition, meaning prohibition in general and of any kind.
The first crop of American hemp was grown in 1611 (Grinspoon 11). However, the modern practice of smoking marijuana was not introduced until the 1920?s. This was a time of drug intolerance. America was in the stages of the prohibition of alcohol campaign. Marijuana was introduced and smoked by the early immigrants. In the 1930?s it was a common belief that immigrants were inhumane and violent, so these attitudes were associated and blamed on the marijuana. By 1931 all but two states had anti-marijuana legislation. By 1937 all states had prohibited marijuana use and made it illegal to have anything to do with this drug. No research was ever made on marijuana at this time or its effects. People simply believed in assumptions made about marijuana, such things as it provoked violent crime and caused insanity.
Strategies of fighting marijuana were silence and exaggeration. People believed that by not telling their children about marijuana, then they would not become curious and not experiment with it. In the 1930?s it was deemed that schools could not talk about marijuana. The Motion Picture Association of America banned all films that showed narcotics from 1934-1956 (Musto 46). This approach did not work so people quickly moved onto the next step, exaggeration. The purpose of exaggerating was to scare possible users from trying marijuana. The American Journal of Medicine once wrote, ?Marijuana users will suddenly turn with murderous violence upon whoever is nearest to them (Musto 44).
One modern cause of prohibition was the belief that if the marijuana policy was relaxed, then more people would use marijuana. In 1984 nationwide usage was at 26.3%. In the eleven states that decriminalized it it was 27.3%. In 1988 nationwide use was 15.4% and the eleven states was at 16.1%. The statistics show that by prohibiting it or allowing it, the use would be one and the same. Holland is another example of the effect of legalizing marijuana. Holland legalized marijuana in 1976 and since then they have had a 40% reduction in marijuana users. Another statistic, in 1979 68.2% of the population of 18-25 year olds had tried marijuana at least once, and 30% were users. Those numbers are down now to 50% and 13%, but the point is that after 30 years the drug is still being attained. Now if the purpose of prohibiting marijuana is to eliminate its use, then prohibition has failed.
Prohibition has accomplished some things, one being it has made criminal drug dealers richer. The risks of trafficking marijuana has increased, thus enabling these people raise the price of weed, which increases their profits. Second, marijuana has caused taxpayers tremendous amounts of money on police, court costs, and jails. Last, it has torn apart families with members that use marijuana. Did you know that 58% of marijuana felons have no relevant prior crime history, 91% were not considered organizers, leaders, managers, or supervisors, and 92% did not even own guns (Schlosser 93). Now what does this say about our judicial system to put away people such as these. I believe that we have far more important things to worry about. The average time served in prison for selling marijuana is four years, compared with just one year for rape or manslaughter. So apparently this proves that drug crimes are more important than violent crimes. It treats drugs as more important than God-given constitutionally protected rights.
A way to look at marijuana in a positive point of view is to look at it for its medical purposes. In 1972, the federal government had an extensive research of marijuana and found that there is no physically addictive traits. Dr. Jack Henningfield of the National Institute on Drug Abuse?s Addiction Research Center and Dr. Neal Benowitz, Of the University of California, ranked six drugs: heroine, cocaine, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and marijuana, on their ability to produce psychological dependence. Nicotine was found to be the most addicting, and marijuana the least. Not only did marijuana rank as the least addictive, but it also ranked least likely to get a tolerance, and least likely to show signs of withdraw after quitting smoking marijuana (Schlosser 92). In comparing marijuana to alcohol and tobacco you see that alcohol causes cirrhosis of the liver, cigarettes cause lung cancer, or the plain fact that both are carcinogens which speed up all cancers. Looking at this you could see that marijuana is not that different from things that are legal today. Alcohol and tobacco have no good points to them, they are harmful and are taking more lives everyday. Alcohol is the factor of half of all highway fatalities, half of all arrests, half of all homicides, and a fourth of all suicides (National 15). So ask yourself this, how much worse is weed really?
In January of 1997, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy asked the Institute of Medicine to conduct a review of the scientific evidence to assess the potential benefits and risks of marijuana and its constituent cannabinoids. They found that marijuana smoke contains 39 cannabinoid drugs, THC being the most common one. The cannabinoids in marijuana are effective treatments for symptoms such as pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation. It can also reduce anxiety, can cause sedation, and euphoria. The most adverse effect is reduced psychomotor performance, meaning it is dangerous to operate heavy equipment or automobiles. Patients would not be doing this anyway, the serious ones that are using it. There is no evidence that usage causes cancer. Dependence on the substance is rare, and withdraw symptoms are mild and short-lived. There are 30 symptoms for which people are currently claiming that marijuana help, however there has not been any studies on them. Although, it is known that marijuana helps muscle spasms for multiple sclerosis sufferers.
In closing, I hope that you have a better understanding of marijuana as a whole, keeping aside from the prejudices and long-term stereotypes. I believe that the government should freely educate all they want on the effects of using marijuana. The government should not be allowed to say if one can or cannot practice that behavior in the privacy of their home. People should be allowed to do whatever they please as long as it doesn?t directly harm someone else. We should be allowed freedom of choice just like Lincoln said, ?And prohibiting this freedom strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.?
. Musto, David F. Opium, Cocaine and Marijuana in American History. Scientific
American Journal 1991: 40-47
. National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. Marijuana: a Signal of
Misunderstanding. Washington: GPO, 1972.
. Schlosser, Eric. Reefer Maddness. Atlantic Monthly Sept. 1994: 84-94