Marijuana Legalization Essay, Research Paper
With the rise in controversy over marijuana, and its use both medically and recreationally, a need for resolve of marijuana legislation has become evermore important. Modern day society carries a wide spectrum of views on this age-old drug and its use. Some compare its prohibition in the 1920s. Others argue marijuana is less harmful to society than alchol. Fifteen percent of the United States population falling under regular users and our prisons over crowded with people who have commited a victimless crime., clear and decisive legislation should be made on its use(NewScientist).
The long-time argument of the benefits of medical marijuana is often the battle cry of the marijuana legalization movement. Granted, a number of supporters have no medical use for the drug, but the claim of its medicinal value is a practical one. The public support for medical marijuana is obvious, with six states having passed protests allowing medical use within their borders. More importantly the scientific support exists. Study after study shows the benefits of marijuana far outweigh its less desirable effects. For the legalization movement the most notable of these studies would be the government’s most recent conducted by the food and drug administration(Wikman).
This study was commissioned by General Barry McCaffrey, the drug czar of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Arguing that marijuana is a “gateway” drug and that if it was used for medicinal purposes it would lead to greater illicit usage. In the end the study showed that marijuana’s medical treatments include pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation. Conceding that while some of its effects are modest, and some other drugs may be better for some treatments, everyone is not responsive to the other treatments and for individuals infected with AIDS or going though chemotherapy marijuana will provide a beneficial multi-symptom relief(360). On top of this marijuana’s psychological benefits, including reduce anxiety, can cause sedation, and euphoria. For some patients these effects are beneficial, and to others they may cloud the judgment of the user to determine whether or not the drug is actually helping the other symptoms(Marijuana: Government).
Our knowledge of the effect of marijuana for other medical conditions is also limited. There are 30 symptoms for which people are currently claiming that marijuana helps them with. However there has not been many studies on any of them. It is known that marijuana helps muscle spasms for multiple sclerosis sufferers. The report says that while marijuana temporarily reduces the pressure within the eyes for glaucoma patients, the benefits do not outweigh the possible side effects(Marijuana: Government).
McCaffery’s argument of marijuana as a gateway drug was disproved by this study also. The study found that there is no evidence that the effects of marijuana link it to the use or abuse of other illicit drugs. Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug, so it often precedes the usage of other illicit drugs. But tobacco and alcohol are usually the first line as a “gateway” drug since the usually precede marijuana usage(Frontline). The pattern from medical usage of marijuana does not follow the same pattern of illicit usage of marijuana. There is also no data that supports that if marijuana is legal for medical reasons then illicit usage will increase(Marijuana: Government).
An overlooked consideration for marijuana legalization is its revenue potential for the government and others involved in its distribution. This may be dismissed as an insignificant reason we must consider America’s hasty approval of lotteries and other forms of gambling, a dangerous and addictive vice, in the name of funding. With proper taxation revenue could be produced in the same way and go to support education in the same way we use lotteries(Skye).
Marijuana prohibition has failed for several reasons. It has failed to stop people from using the drug in the face of constant propaganda. Much like alcohol prohibition it has given rise to a massive black-market which supports gangs and other forms of organized crime. As the costs of marijuana growth have remained relatively constant, the cost of trafficking has not. This is due to the increasing punishments for marijuana possession and therefore increasing risk. This increased risk allows dealers and traffickers to charge more thereby making them more powerful(Wikman). While the drug dealers are becoming richer, the taxpayer is becoming poorer. Instead of making money of marijuana the government spends millions of dollars fighting it. We spend money on extensive police forces. We are committing police resources to not only stopping smokers, but growers, dealers, traffickers, and smugglers. With the elimination of the black market we would see the elimination of these people and the police to stop them(Skye).
Research shows that use of marijuana has not been effected by America’s drug war, which was started in the eighties in an effort to curb America’s drug use. D.A.R.E., a primary weapon against teen drug use, has not been found to be effective in doing so. In the study students from twenty-three schools with the D.A.R.E. program were compared against students from eight schools without the program. No significant differences were observed between the schools with respect to cigarette, alcohol, or marijuana use during the 7th grade, approximately one year after completion of the program, or over the full five-year study. The findings of this study are similar with the results obtained from prior short-term evaluations of the D.A.R.E. curriculum(Frontline).
Our society is repeatedly presented with a false conception of marijuana; we are bombarded with negative and skewed messages about it every day. Our government’s punishments for marijuana offenses are often more stringent than those for murders. In fifteen states, you can get a life sentence for a non-violent marijuana offense. The average sentence for a convicted murderer in the United States is about six years. Can marijuana be that detrimental? That involvement with it is judged as being worse than manslaughter(Marijuana Special ).
In spite of studies such as the one cited it is still taught that marijuana is a gateway drug. Marijuana’s evils are drilled into our society’s heads at a constant rate, even if they are false. How can society make educated judgements about sensitive issues like marijuana prohibition when they can t be sure they know the whole story? Is it these stereotypes of the past or government opposition that prevent marijuana legislation? In spite of the conclusive information available the government chooses to ignore the facts and continue filling our jails(360).
One drug enforcement agent talks about his opinion of marijuana offenders saying:
Twenty years before I had done a lot of undercover work–it was mainly amphetamine, LSD, heroin and cocaine–I thought all the dealers were scum. When I got into the marijuana program, one thing that amazed me was how cooperative a lot of the people were. How proud of what they’re doing. How normal in every other respect they were.
This is confusing and I’m not used to lawbreakers that took their kids to school and worked as crossing guards and that sort of thing. Whole different attitude. It made it a lot more complex, but it made it a lot more interesting.
It is this kind of testimonial that makes one realize the rediculous notion of grouping marijuana with hard drugs and punishing offenders accordingly. This officer and many others are realizing that marijuana prohibition will not work in the United States today(Frontline).
Further proving marijuana’s mislabeling is its acceptance among the educated elite in society. John Steinbeck’s novel In-Touch discusses his conviction of marijuana’s importance in the modern world and its benefits to society. Steinbeck talks about marijuana as a vehicle for open-minded youth to analyze modern day society and its problems, not a destructive addiction(Steinbeck). Steve Jobs has said that marijuana can allow one to realize their full creative potential. It is educated individuals like these that support legalization efforts(Sex).
With the rise in controversy over marijuana, and its use both medically and recreational, a need for resolve of Marijuana legislation has become ever more important. Modern day society carries a wide spectrum of views on this age-old drug and its use. Compare its prohibition to that of alcohol in the 1920s and one sees many parallels. With an estimated fifteen percent of the United States population falling under regular users, seven states having approved medical use, and proof of marijuana’s benefits in government studies, clear and decisive legislation should be made on its use. Is its legal status on the verge of changing? Will it follow alcohol and become a legal drug? Or is the United States committed to fight a never-ending battle? Marijuana Prohibition seems so controversial but with proper information the public can feel wholly informed and ready to take an educated stand.
Frontline: Busted- America s War on Marijuana. Narr. Marion Sweets. PBS, Charlotte. 12 November 1998.
“Marijuana: Government Study Finds Drug Has Medical Benefits” Microsoft; Encarta; Encyclopedia 99.
Marijuana Special Report. New Scientist Planet Science. 20 October 1999 .
Sex, Drugs, and Consent. Narr. John Stossel. ABC, Charlotte. 15 April 1999.
Skye, Dan. Wrestling With Destiney Ventura. High Times November 1998: 72- 76.
Steinbeck, John. In Touch. New York:Alfred A. Knopf: 1969.
Wikman, Eric. 360| Of Marijuana 18 October 1999