Legalizing Marijuana Essay Essay, Research Paper
The War of Personal Freedom
Since 1937, the possession, sale, and use of marijuana in the United States of America has been illegal. Ratified after only ninety seconds of floor debate in the House of Representatives, the bill that criminalized marijuana was based mostly on unfounded myths and exaggerated rumors. (Stroup) For the first time, the United States government was violating Americans personal freedoms. Despite being illegal for nearly sixty years, more and more Americans are using the drug for either recreational or medicinal purposes. To curtail this rise in use, the government has stepped up its war on drugs, which has done little to reduce the popularity of marijuana. What it has managed to accomplish, however, is incarcerate millions of non-violent, responsible Americans who have committed no crime deserving of imprisonment.
What the United States government needs to do is realize that marijuana is here to stay and prohibition is not the answer. People have personal freedoms, the right to do whatever they want to. The use of marijuana in a controlled situation by responsible, consenting adults, should be legalized, and decriminalized. This would allow consenting adults to use it for recreational or medicinal purposes, allow for the development of new hemp based industries, free up all ready over-crowed jails by releasing those jailed for most marijuana convictions, and protect Americans personal freedom.
First, decriminalization needs to be explained. Decriminalization allows for the legalization of use, possession, and growth of marijuana. Only adults would be allowed to buy marijuana, the same way cigarettes and alcohol are regulated. Legal use of the drug would be limited by a set of guidelines developed by NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Dubbed the “Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use” this document contains what the organization considers acceptable use of marijuana, and is based on five principals. The first principal is, only adults will be given the option to use, buy or sell marijuana. The second one is, under no circumstance is it acceptable to be driving or operating any heavy machinery while under the influence of marijuana. Next, the user must carefully consider the place, time, conditions, and other factors concerning the place the user intends to use marijuana. Following that, the user must resist abuse of the drug, due to the fact that abuse leads to addiction. Finally, the user must respect others around him. This can be done by obeying new smoking polices in designated areas. (Principles) Failure to obey these guidelines would result in much of the same punishments as with alcohol. Additionally, legalizing Marijuana allows for the establishment of a regulated commercial industry. Consumers would have a variety of choices, along with lower prices. As a result of these lower prices, marijuanas’ value on the black market would drastically fall. If the value falls then, no one will be willing to sell it anymore. This would eventually eliminate marijuana from the black market all together. With marijuana off the black market, the war on drugs could focus on the major problem drugs such as heroine and cocaine.
Marijuana has been targeted as the biggest problem drug, due to its vast popularity and the false perception that marijuana users usually move on to harder, more addictive drugs. While the statistics seem to support this, what they fail to realize is that if marijuana was legal, most users would never move to the harsher drugs, simply because they would still be illegal. Why should they use the illegal, more expensive drugs, when they can get marijuana legally, and for much cheaper.
Marijuana as with alcohol, and tobacco, all are very harmful to your personal health, addictive, and even fatal. Yet, alcohol and tobacco are legal and probably always will be. In the 1930’s Marijuana was said to cause users to “becomes a fiend with savage or ‘cave man’ tendencies. His sex desires are aroused and some of the most horrible crimes result. He hears light and sees sound. To get away from it, he suddenly becomes violent and may kill.” (Stroup) These stories were based mostly on rumors and myths not facts. As time passed, we have learned that these stories are completely false. Marijuana is illegal today because its effects on people were feared in the 1930s’. Lawmaker had the right idea, but they carried the torch a little too far. In reality, the side effects of marijuana are just as bad as alcohol and tobacco. Long term us of any of these can create severe problems. Americans spend billions each year on the medical costs of using tobacco products. Additionally, Alcoholism and drunk driving cause massive problems. Opponents of legalizing marijuana will point out that just because alcohol is as bad as marijuana it still doesn’t justify using it. However, as far as most abused drugs go, cigarettes and alcohol are at the top of the list while marijuana comes in third.
Marijuana has been the target of the “war on drugs” because it is the most used illegal drug, with nearly sixty percent of all drug arrest. It is also a target because, it has become the drug of choice for many. Casual users sing the drugs praises and point to the long history of the drug, while its opponents argue that the drug is extremely dangerous. Marijuana, used responsibly and infrequently, is not habit forming, and does not cause any permit damage. But people will continue to use marijuana because it is an escape, or to feel good and relax. These are the same reasons people drink alcohol. Responsible adults hurt no one by using marijuana in the privacy of their own home. This is another big issue, if they don’t hurt anybody why is it illegal? If the person is an adult and wants to use marijuana responsibly, then the government has no right to interfere. Thus, if the use of marijuana is treated like alcohol, it can be regulated in a safe manner. Those responsible adults who wish may use the drug legally without fear of prosecution from the Government.
Recently, it has been discovered that marijuana has some medicinal value. It encourages patients to eat, relax, and relieves pain. Even patients with HIV or AIDS have begun using marijuana to ease their pain. Everyday new ways to use marijuana are being discovered. Opponents of marijuana claim that using marijuana can lead to an addiction. But, under the supervision of a doctor, medical marijuana can be a miracle cure all.
Marijuana has more than just medical uses. Hemp is a close relative of marijuana. Hemp was found be popular mechanics to be able to be processed in to 25,000 different things. (Popular) Yet, because it is in the same family as marijuana, the growth of hemp has been made illegal, until recently, when the sale of hemp was allowed. If marijuana was legalized, companies could take full advantage of hemps’ properties.
Another advantage to decriminalizing marijuana is that it would free up a lot of space in Americas already over crowded jails. In 1996, one out of every four people in jail, were in for drug violations. In addition to that one-third of all inmates had no history of violent crime and little or no criminal history. They were simply jailed because the law was being tough on drug users. (Nadelmann 39) These criminals usually have done nothing to deserve being thrown in jail. But, the law dictates that they must be thrown in jail. Since most of these criminals are non-violent, they should not be in jail. (Schlosser 91) If they laws where changed to make marijuana legal, then many of the people convicted for minor drug charges could be freed to return to their families.
Additionally, it should be clear that prohibition of marijuana simply will not work. Today, the demand for the drug is just too high to ignore. The people who really want it will get it despite what the United Stated Government thinks. Dealing with drug laws is similar to dealing with children, if you tell them not to do something they will do it anyway. Truly the only way to stop the use of drugs is to educate the young, about how bad drugs are, and hope that they will make the right choice at the right time. Because it is impossible to keep everyone from using marijuana the government should decriminalize it. It would take marijuana off the black market because, it would be cheaper to buy. By taking it off the market, it also eliminated a good chunk of the profit. If there is no profit, then there will be no black market. With marijuana legalized, the hemp industry could flourish also. New products and medicines made of hemp would become available soon after that, but most importantly, legalizing marijuana would free a lot of the people jailed for simply owning, or selling marijuana. Because so many of them are arrested each year, the jails are overcrowded with prisoners that do not need to be in jail.
In the end what the whole issue boils down to is personal freedom. If the adults feel that using marijuana is what they want to do, and they go about it in a responsible manner, then the Government should have no say in the manner. If they can do that what individual freedoms will they take away next? It needs to understand that a war on drugs must combat drugs, not the people who use them in a responsible manner.
1.Stroup, Keith R. Esq. “Testimony of R. Keith Stroup, Esq.
Executive Director, NORML” Online posting NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. 13 July. 1999, n. pag. NORML. 7 Dec. 1999. http://www.norml.org/recreational/testimony99.shtml
2. No Author Given “Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use” Online Posting NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. n. pag. NORML. 7 Dec. 1999. http://www.norml.org/about/responsible.shtml
3. No Author Given “New Billion Dollar Crop” Popular Mechanics Feb. 1938, 238-239, 144A-145A
4. Nadelmann, Ethan. “The End of the Epoch of Prohibition” In: Lorenz Boellinger, Ed., Cannabis Science: From Prohibition to Human Right. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 1997. 37-47.
5. Schlosser, Eric. “More reefer madness” (government policy on marijuana)
The Atlantic Monthly April 1997 v279 n4 p90(10)