The Case For Canibus Essay, Research Paper
The Case for Cannabis
Solomon Hafer 11/28/99
Mrs. Pappas English 10 D
Legalization of marijuana offers both benefits, and disadvantages. The medical benefits of marijuana have been researched and proven to aid patients with glaucoma and some forms of cancer. Other benefits include: fewer people in prison and fewer social problems for the users because they get help instead of jail time. The big question remains: all out legalization or legalization for medical use, or decriminalization. Whatever the outcome, marijuana use needs to be based on its own pharmacology and its own faults and not on the problems with other drugs.
The history of drug use in the United States is surprising. A survey in Iowa in the 1880s found that 3,000 grocery stores sold opiates without a prescription.(Legalization: A Debate, Elliot Marshall) Around the turn of the century, the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) simply required patent medicines to list ingredients on the label. In 1914, Congress wished to improve relations with China, and so passed narcotics control measures requiring the monitoring of certain drug sales. Various acts were passed over the next several decades that gave the federal government more and more control over importation and distribution of narcotics.
In 1971, in part as a response to the tumult of the 1960s, President Richard Nixon launched a comprehensive ?War on Drugs?. Two years later, Nixon declared that we had won the war on drugs. Apparently he was wrong, for in the United States, drug law enforcement costs have risen to astronomical proportions. Increasing debate over the failure of the ?Drug War? as well as questions of personal freedom and privacy rights have led to calls among many citizens of the United States for legalization of marijuana as well as other drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
The medicinal uses of marijuana have been studied and documented in the treatment of the side effects of chemotherapy for cancer and treatment of the symptoms of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease that causes pressure buildup inside the eye and eventually leads to blindness. Marijuana decreases the pressure on the eyes, decreases pain, and helps to stabilize the condition. Smoking marijuana relieves the pain for about five hours; it must be smoked at regular intervals to sustain the effect. Marijuana is also used to treat cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. In chemotherapy, doctors use small doses of potentially lethal medications to selectively kill cancer cells. Understandably, chemotherapy causes the patient to feel nausea, loss of appetite and pain. Marijuana used as a treatment for the side effects of chemotherapy restores appetite, eliminates nausea and decreases the pain. (Legalization: A Debate p.67-71)
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)–an intoxicant–is the main active psychotropic ingredient in marijuana. THC has been produced synthetically for use in place of marijuana for treatment of cancer and glaucoma. THC is made into pills and eyedrops for glaucoma. Both have had little or no effect on the patients? symptoms. The purpose was to get pain relief without the intoxicating effects of marijuana smoke. Inhaled marijuana smoke has also been shown more effective than dronabinol, the synthetic THC form, in such conditions as: epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, paraplegia and quadriplegia, migraine, premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps, labor pains, depression and other mood disorders.(http://www.whitman.edu/offices_departments/biology/stuproj/young/why.html)
Marijuana is classed as a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs are said to have a high potential for abuse, high addiction potential, and no medical potential. Cocaine and opiates have Schedule 2 status even though they have much more serious effects than marijuana. (Legalization: A Debate p.69)
The number of people physically dependent on marijuana is less than 15% of regular users are actually addicted. Most of the people are recreational users, using marijuana less than once a day to relax. Dependency rates for regular users of alcohol and cigarettes are much higher.(Legalization: A Debate p. 81)
In terms of potency, marijuana is a relatively mild drug. No one is known to have died from a marijuana overdose. People have died because of using marijuana with additives like angel dust (PCP), because the angel dust, not the marijuana is lethal. Many legal substances, if abused, can result in death such as: salt, tobacco, aspirin, Tylenol, and caffeine. Alcohol is legal, is much more widely misused, and kills far more people than marijuana.(DATA: 100,000-200,000/yr compared to 6,000-30,000/yr for all illicit drugs). Tobacco also is misused and results in 320,000-500,000/yr deaths per year. Tobacco and alcohol are some of the most addictive legal substances that are misused and they result in far more deaths than all illegal drugs combined.(Data:420,000-700,000/yr for alcohol and tobacco combined, compared to 6,000-30,000/yr for all illicit drugs)
In the United States, some 200 million people over the age of twelve commonly use drugs, to wit:
caffeine 178 million or 89%
alcohol 106 million or 53%
tobacco 57 million or 28%
marijuana 12 million or 6%
cocaine 3 million or 1.5%
heroin 2 million or 1%
US Drug deaths (per year)
illicit drugs 6,000-30,000
(Friends Journal Feb. 1996)
Over 1.1 million people each year are arrested for drug crimes. Drug offenders include more than 60 percent of the prison population. The US Declaration of Independence states that every citizen has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Some argue their constitutional right to smoke marijuana. We also have a constitutional right to privacy. (Amendment # 2) ?There is a strong case to be made against legislating the private behavior of adults, as long as that behavior does not in turn violate the rights of others.? (Marshall, 79) To use the law to say people cannot use marijuana is an invasion of privacy, unless there is proof of harm to others. On average 30-50 thousand dollars a year are spent to keep one person in prison. More than 300 thousand people are held in US prisons. This adds up to a whopping total of twelve billion dollars a year spent on keeping drug offenders in prison. In 1995 the United States Government spent 13.3 billion dollars on drug enforcement. In addition to the federal government, local and state governments spent an additional 15.9 billion dollars on enforcement as well. What this means for all the taxpayers is higher taxes. If marijuana were legalized, far fewer prisoners would go to jail for drugs. Legal marijuana also would reduce drug enforcement expenses, as well as give us all tremendous tax breaks. The government could use the excess money for more useful things such as education on drug use and abuse.
The war against drugs is immoral in several ways. The cost to our society in terms of people imprisoned with no hope of gainful employment, interaction with their families and friends or the greater good of society is staggering. Other casualties to society include deaths in turf fights, those killed in cross fire, robberies, and children given free drugs to addict them so they can be used as runners and dealers. Taxes used for the War on Drugs are being wasted on ineffective programs rather than improved education, housing, and medical care. Twenty five percent of children in the United States live in poverty, a situation that contributes to increased drug use and increased drug dealer profits.
Dealing drugs is lucrative only because it is illegal. Making drugs illegal leads to immense profit and the corruption of political officials, police, and judges. In addition Third world economies such as Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru depend on the drug trade to prevent financial collapse. For instance cocaine brings 600 million dollars per year to Bolivia?s economy, an amount equal to the country?s gross legal export income. When drug legalization occurs the price of drugs will plummet immediately and world drug empires will collapse. This would also cause an immediate decrease in all violent crime as occurred at the end of Prohibition in 1933.
Legalization would involve quality control through the Food and Drug Administration to guarantee purity and safety and to recommend safe dosages for a given condition. The government could restrict or prohibit advertising as well as provide educational programs, rehabilitation and research. Taxes could be collected to pay for these programs, rather than prison and police enforcement. Farmers in third world countries could grow and sell crops without being controlled by drug lords, who would find their profits greatly diminished.
This century opened with legal drugs. There have been many experiments with the control of drugs and alcohol use. The government spends billions and imprisons millions of people. But the quality of life for the poor has not improved; if anything it has worsened. Legalization would remove the profit motive and allow the government to tax, monitor, and safeguard drug use. Until we address the economic factors that contribute to drug use, drug addiction will continue. We as a nation are the addicts: addicted to the use of force; arming a resistance to combat the use of drugs will fail because it reflects our own belief that we can get anything we want if we spend enough resources and use enough force.
Buckley, William F.
?Legalization Long Over Due? The Albuquerque Journal June 8, 1996 1-8
Microsoft (R) 1999
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Hayes, Randy MD
Legalization: A Debate Chelsea House Publishers 1988 USA p.56-90
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?The Chemical Inquisition? 5-6 92 p.1-9
?Why doesn?t the government legalize pot?? 12-3-95 p.1-3
?The Big Debate?
?Getting Off Drugs: The Opinion? Friends Journal February1996
?Weed the People?
People Magazine: October 21, 1996 75-76