Marijuana: Killer Or Healer? Essay, Research Paper
Marijuana has become one of the most controversial drugs in America. Ever since its cultivation began around 1611, marijuana has puzzled people with its effects. Many question marijuana’s classification as a schedule one drug. A schedule one drug is one that has a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value. Some argue that the war on drugs, in particular marijuana, has cost taxpayers billions and is wasting funds that could be used on more important tasks such as improving transportation or education. As drug arrest rise, so do the population in the state prisons. This has become an immediate problem with no real solution. The legalization of possessing small amounts of marijuana can contribute positively to the medical and economic world as well as cut down on the prison population.
Many people today use marijuana for multiple reasons. There will always be the teenager who tries it for the first time and enjoys the “high” that comes along with smoking it. Besides those who smoke it for recreational purposes, there are those who need the plant as a form of medication. People suffering from a wide range of diseases and sicknesses such as AIDS and Glaucoma have claimed that it has benefited them. Numerous medical associations in the U.S. and abroad have done many tests to find the benefits and harms of marijuana. These tests come up with the same conclusion that marijuana is just as much if not more helpful than harmful.
Approximately 400, 000 Americans die every year from a smoking related illness. In 5000 years of recorded use, marijuana has never been linked to a single death, overdose, or acute toxicity (Schlosser 48). Many cancer patients have used marijuana to combat nausea and pain. AIDS patients have also had success using the drug to treat their appetite loss. Organizations such as WAMM, Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, have been formed to treat people with marijuana for serious illnesses. This organization was the first in the country to be granted non-profit status. By 1937, marijuana had been classified as a narcotic by all states. It wasn’t until 1972 that there was a call for the decriminalization of marijuana by the government. The American Medical Association and the National Council of Churches endorsed the decriminalization of marijuana. One must believe that support from an organization with such influence in the medical field that marijuana must have some medicinal purpose. In 1996, California passed Proposition 215, which legalized possession of marijuana for patients with a doctor’s recommendation who are suffering from AIDS, cancer, Glaucoma, and other illnesses. In September of 2000, federal Judge William Alsup of the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco ruled that the government could not punish doctors who recommend the benefits of marijuana to their patients. This verdict gave ill people a sign of hope that they will be able to take whatever medication necessary, even marijuana, to treat their sicknesses.
Even though marijuana has many ways in which it may help an ill person, it is like other drugs in which it has side effects also. Smoked marijuana has the same affects on the body as tobacco, which is a legal and tolerated substance. Chronic smokers of marijuana are at risk for chronic obstructive lung disease and lung cancer. Marijuana tar has been found to be carcinogenic and is associated with development of respiratory tract carcinoma in young adults. Although these effects sound tremendously harmful, cigarettes are equally harmful but are sold at high rates. Amotivation syndrome has also been an effect of long time usage. Amotivation syndrome is when apathy, lack of energy, and loss of motivation persist for days. Alcohol can have this effect when abused and alcohol is sold and regulated by the government. Although marijuana has side effects, many other products currently on the market give comparable effects.
While the legalization of marijuana may improve people’s lives medically, it will also benefit society in the war on drugs. In 1997, roughly 695 000 people were arrested for marijuana charges, the largest in American history. 87% of the arrest involved less than an ounce of marijuana. These petty crimes cost society billions of dollars. The cost of the 1997 arrest alone approached three billion dollars. Many American’s complain about their current taxes. What is going to happen when President Bush decides he wants to dedicate more money to the war against drugs? He will have to raise taxes. As America keeps pumping money into the drug war, there are starving Americans living on the streets. What is the government doing for these people? The government is probably not working as hard to put these people in homes as they are trying to arrest the people giving the homeless the only thing that satisfies them, drugs.
The war on drugs only has only one winner, the drug testing companies. The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1998 provides federal funds to small businesses that want to impose drug testing on their employees. These federal funds must come from somewhere such as another tax or taking away from a needy cause. A decade ago about three percent of the Fortune 200 corporations tested their workers and job applicants for drug use. Today ninety-eight percent of the companies do. The pharmaceutical firms that handle these drug tests are fighting against laws that restrict an employer’s rights to test employees. These companies are making over 340 million dollars in annual revenue. This is not to the average American’s benefit. Drug testing does not show if a person is competent enough to perform their job to the standards set by the employer. It only reveals what the employee does while off the clock. This is not necessary because what one does away from work should not interfere with their employment.
Many people, including the former drug czar Barry McCaffrey, believe that the U.S. cannot “arrest our way out of the [drug] problem.” The U.S. prison population has quadrupled since early 1980’s. It is now around 1.8 million and steadily rising. More than half of the prisoners are nonviolent offenders. Not all federal drug cases consist of large-scale seizures. The Department of Justice figures show that 36 percent of federal drug-law offenders are small time, nonviolent dealers. Legalization would get rid of these people in jail and take some of the burden off of the justice system. The only thing that arresting people for possession does is slow down the already sluggish court system. The punishment for possession of marijuana has become more harmful than the drug itself. Early in the fight against drugs the punishments were as harsh as life in prison to even the death sentence. If the penalties were as stiff now as they were then, taxpayers would be paying many billions of dollars a year to execute petty criminals. Possession is now punishable by fines up to some jail time. Some states are looking at alternatives to incarceration to save the state money and rehabilitate the convicted. Arizona was the first state to offer treatment instead of jail time to all of its nonviolent drug offenders. The results showed that 70 percent of those on probation tested negative. In New York first-time offenders arrested for possession rarely ended up in jail. Repeat offenders were offered a drug-treatment alternative to prison. A state of California study showed that every dollar spent on treatment saved seven dollars in reduced hospital admissions and law-enforcement costs. This shows that incarceration is not the way to go when dealing with drug dealers. A 1997 Rand Corporation study found that treatment reduces about ten times more serious crime than conventional enforcement and 15 times more than mandatory minimums. In 1992, Florida opened up several separate “drug courts.” These courts mixed treatment and jail time in individual case punishments. These courts only handled less than two percent of drug cases so the influence could not be measured accurately. In 1997, only 15 percent of state and federal inmates received substance-abuse treatment during their current terms. That number is down from 1991.
There will always be a group of people that find some concepts as preposterous. There were those who believed that watching a talking box would never be entertaining. There were those that laughed in the Wright brother’s face when they proposed the idea of a flying machine. The idea of legalizing marijuana may seem absurd to those who do not use it but for those whose life it will improve, it seems like a grand idea. There are products on the market that can compare to marijuana’s negative effects yet those products are legal. When will America wake up and realize the cry for the legalization of marijuana is growing louder than ever?