War Against Marijuana, Legalize It! Essay, Research Paper
War Against Marijuana
A total of 3,470,545 Americans have been arrested for marijuana offenses. In 1997 state and local law enforcement arrested 695,200 people for marijuana violations.
That number is the highest ever recorded by the FBI.
Of the 682,885 arrests made in 1998, approximately 88% were for simple possession. The remaining 12% were for sale and manufacture. Every 52 seconds, a marijuana smoker is arrested in America. This is truly a waste of law enforcement and a waste of our tax money. These people getting arrested are generally responsible adults capable of making their own decisions.
Marijuana was made illegal in 1937, but hemp was kept legal to use. Hemp provides from four to fourteen tons of dry fibers per acre per year. It can be made into paper, cloth, and cellulose for plastic. If drug laws would allow hemp farming, we?d have an alternative resource for paper, which would save our trees. When you look at the one-dollar bill, you are looking at a hemp farmer, George Washington grew hemp. The US Drug Enforcement Agency is ignorant to realize that there is a big difference between hemp and marijuana. Hemp can not be used to get high, and it never was used for that, but it still was put in the same category as heroin.
Our tax dollars go to feed all the people that are held in prison on marijuana related charges. Those people are now struggling to feed their children, knowing that they won?t get much help, because they are ?criminals? according to a good percentage of society. Our society thinks marijuana isn?t acceptable because it is illegal. Marijuana was made illegal because congress put up a fight, and went against narcotics. It was found a narcotic when it was classified along with opiates. It was deemed too dangerous to allow research, and dismissed all attempts to argue over it. We know that the legal drug addictions present now, do not cause any crimes. The actions from them, but not the use. You can?t baby all alcohol users, making sure they don?t drink too much. You can?t tell someone that they can?t smoke marijuana, when their beliefs are otherwise.
On June 21, 2000, Val Walton a news staff writer for The Birmingham News reported that a 46 year old man could face life in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to running a drug operation that sold thousands of pounds of marijuana. The man pleaded guilty to his charges of continuing a criminal enterprise and drug trafficking. Since this is a federal offense, he is not provided with parole as an option. He could face 20 years to life in prison. Now this man is not innocent, he was carrying an illegal firearm to engage in money laundering. His home was searched and authorities found at least 40 weapons, $30,000 worth of jewelry and more was found in a safety deposit box. This man should spend some time in prison for these offenses with no doubt. But the 20 years to life is for the marijuana, and the added 5-year sentence is for the weapons charge. This is just one of the thousands of cases, and not the usual, most are just for marijuana offenses.
Marijuana is classified as a minor psychedelic drug. If it is used in large amounts, it could lead to a psychedelic effect. So can medication and alcohol, and it is okay to drink alcohol. This is not a new drug either; it dates back to 4,000 years ago in China. The emperor smoked it, and promoted its use for an all-purpose medication. It spread to India and other neighboring countries. Early Hindus used it for a variety of purposes as well. We have used it as a medical aid for thousands of years, and still are used for a variety of purposes, just not legally in most cases.
There are many myths about Pot used to discourage use. One is that Pot is nearly ten times more potent and dangerous than in the sixties. This is based on government data, and samples from the 70?s recently compared to domesticated marijuana of today show that it?s potency has increased moderately by a factor of two or so. The government ignores that it was available in premium varieties in the sixties, like Acapulco Gold, as well as hashish and hash oil, which is every bit as strong as today?s marijuana.
Another myth is that Pot kills brain cells. This myth came from animal experiments in which changes, not actual cell deaths were observed when animals were exposed to high doses of pot. There is no physical evidence that it causes permanent brain damage. User?s should know that it does cause short-term memory loss has been found in chronic smokers, after about 6 to 12 weeks of abstinence. This is probably what makes people think it will damage you brain cells. Other drugs including alcohol have been noted to cause brain damage though.
People try to say it will cause you to become sterile and lower testosterone in males. In contrast to alcohol use, there is more of a chance you will become impotent or have low testosterone levels from drinking alcohol. In females it has been shown that it may temporarily lower fertility or increase risk of fetal lost, even mildly disrupt ovulation. Again, if you drink alcohol the same risks are at stake, even worse ones. Experts generally recommend that drugs not are used during pregnancy, but there is little evidence that marijuana use implicates fetal harm, unlike alcohol, cocaine, or tobacco.
A variety of studies indicate that THC may exercise reversible immune-suppressive effects by causing the activity of the immune system cells to be inhibited. It is dubious whether they are of import to human health, since it is based mainly on theoretical laboratory animal studies. Chronic pot smokers have been shown to suffer damage to immune cells, the ones that are defense mechanisms. It is unclear how much damage is caused due to THC, as opposed to all the other toxins that occur in smoke. Water pipes and other devices can filter out many of those toxins.
Many AIDS patients smoke marijuana to help stimulate appetite and reduce nausea. Cannabis doesn?t actually damage T-cells, which are depleted in HIV patients. Some studies even found that exposure to marijuana increased T-cell counts in subjects who were not AIDS patients, but had a low T-cell count. Laboratory studies have suggested that high doses of THC might interfere with cell replication, Producing abnormal numbers of chromosomes. There is no evidence that it damages cells and chromosomes. A review done by Dr. Leo Hollister from the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs said: ?The evidence on immune suppression has been contradictory and is more supportive of some degree of immune-suppression only when one considers in vitro studies. These have been seriously flawed by very high concentrations of drugs used to produce immune-suppression. The closer that experimental studies have been to actual clinical situations, the less compelling has been the evidence.?
Another popular myth is that one joint equal about 4 cigarettes. Critics have exaggerated the dangers if pot smoking. Dr. Tashkin found that daily pot smokers experienced a ?mild but significant? increase in airflow resistance in large airways. This is greater than persons smoking 16 cigarettes per day are. What examiners ignore is that marijuana smokers did much are better than tobacco smokers in aspects of lung health. Dr. Tashkin himself says that the notion that one joint equal 16 or maybe just 4 cigarettes is not true. An estimate that marijuana smokers consume four times as much carcinogenic tar as cigarette smokers per weight smoked. The average joint usually contains 0.4 grams of pot, a bit less than one-half the weight of a cigarette. A joint is equal to two cigarettes, which isn?t an exact equivalency, but is more accurate. Marijuana affects different parts of the respiratory tract than cigarettes; tobacco tends to penetrate smaller passageways of the lungs. One consequence of this is that pot, unlike cigarettes, does not appear to cause emphysema.
Most experts agree that occasional or moderate use of marijuana is innocuous, they agree that excessive use can be harmful. Research shows that the two major risks are respiratory disease due to smoking, and accidental injuries due to impairment. A survey from the Kaiser Permanente Center found that daily marijuana-only users have a 19% higher rate of respiratory complaints than non-smokers do. Marijuana contains virtually the same toxic gases and tars as tobacco. The hazards of marijuana can be reduced by various strategies. One is to use higher-potency cannabis, which can be smoked in smaller quantities, use of water pipes and other smoke reduction technologies, and ingesting pot orally instead of smoking. People can use marijuana as a tea, or bake it into foods, but you must use about three times as much marijuana for the effect.
There is no scientific evidence that marijuana is a ?gateway? drug. Cannabis is used by cultures in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America shows no propensity for other drugs. The theory of marijuana leading to other drugs came from the sixties, when it became the leading recreational drug. Events in the eighties showed cocaine abuse exploded at the same time marijuana use declined. There is evidence that cannabis may be a substitute for other drugs such as alcohol and hard drugs. A survey by Dr. Patricia Morgan or the University of California at Berkeley, found a significant number of pot smokers and dealers switched to met amphetamine ?ice?, when Hawaii?s marijuana eradication program created a shortage of pot. Marijuana doesn?t lead to other drugs for the reason it is illegal, but because dealers are likely to deal other illicit drugs as well.
Whatever the risks are when someone smokes pot, the laws make matters worse in several ways. Paraphernalia laws impede the development and marketing of water pipes, and all other advance technology that could reduce the harmfulness of marijuana smoke. Prohibition encourages sale of pot that has been contaminated or adulterated by insecticides, or mixed with other drugs such as PCP, crack, or heroin. By raising the price of marijuana, it makes in uneconomical to consume it orally, which is the best way to avoid the smoke exposure all together. When you eat it, it typically requires two or three more times as much marijuana as smoking.
There has never been a controlled scientific study showing that a drug urinalysis improves work place safety. The largest survey to date, covering 4,396 postal workers nationwide, found no difference in accident records between workers who tested positive. Random drug testing of transportation workers was enacted by a reaction to a single 1987 train collision in which 16 Amtrak passengers were killed by a Conrail train that didn?t stop. The engineer and brakeman of the Conrail train were found to have recently smoked marijuana, though it could not be proven that it caused the accident. The engineer had extensive record of speeding and DUI. He was known by management to have drinking problems. Congress mandated that random drug testing be done on the entire transportation industry. Marijuana is less of a road hazard than alcohol. Surveys have found that half or more of fatal drivers have alcohol in their blood, as opposed to 7-20% with THC, the major component of marijuana. The combination of marijuana and alcohol is a hazard. Some research suggested that low doses of marijuana alone might sometimes improve driving performance, but not true in most cases. Marijuana appears to produce greater caution, because users are more aware of their state, so the become more alert. Even though this is true in some cases, no one should drive when they are high. It should be noted that these results might not apply to non-driving related situations, where forgetfulness or inattention can be less important than speed and safety in a vehicle. There has never been a single commercial passenger airline accident attributed to marijuana abuse. Drug tests on railroad workers found no elevated incidence of drug use among workers involved in accidents.
In surveyed blood samples from 1982 drivers killed in a car, truck and motorcycle accidents in seven states during 1990-91 found that 51.5% of specimens as against 17.8% for all other drugs combined. Marijuana, the second most common drug, appeared in just 6.7% of accidents. Two-thirds of the marijuana using drivers also had alcohol. Drivers who use alcohol are especially vulnerable to fatal accidents when the are at the wheel. Marijuana alone had no indications to cause fatal accidents when not combined with other drugs.
The Kaiser study also found that daily pot users have a 30% higher risk of injuries, mostly from accidents. These figures are pretty accurate, and not nearly as high as comparable risks for heavy drinkers or tobacco addicts. Marijuana can cause accidents isn?t surprising since it has been shown to degrade short-term memory in chronic pot smokers. It can also impair concentration, judgment, and coordination at complex tasks including driving. There have been numerous reports of pot-related accidents, some fatal; saying it is a myth that no one has ever died from marijuana. A survey of 1,023 emergency room trauma patients in Baltimore found that 34.7% were under the influence of marijuana, more than alcohol, but almost all were combinations with alcohol use and pot.
The Partnership for a Drug-free America did a survey among teenagers from 13-15 years old. Only eight percent believed that people who use marijuana are popular. From this study they found that fewer teens agree many rock and rap stars make drug use look tempting, but few believe it glamorizes drug use. Teens thinking that most people use marijuana at least once or twice, declined to 35 percent in 1998 and 41 percent in 1997. 11 percent of teens think it is difficult to say no to reject invitation to try marijuana. Statistically, drug use among teens has declined significantly. So why do we continue to say we have a marijuana problem, when indeed it has gotten much better? Teens are people too, which make decisions just like adults. There are more teenagers out there than we think that make smart choices and act responsibly.
One would not condone a child to use marijuana; we don?t allow them to use tobacco products and alcohol. This is a must in keeping them safe, because children are not mature enough to handle responsibility with drugs. That is where marijuana gets its bad reputation. Children who are involved with the drug are ?curious? and want to try new things. Adults don?t turn to crack when they are out of alcohol, so what makes us think that marijuana, a drug, would lead to the same thing?
Knowing the positive side is always nice, but to be logical, you need the negative side as well. The short-term effects of marijuana use include: problems with memory and concentration, distorted perception (sight, sound, time, and touch) trouble with problem solving, loss of coordination, increased heart rate, and anxiety. These effects are even greater when other drugs are mixed with marijuana.
Long-term effect is cancer, which is still in question and not known whether or not it can be caused by marijuana. To determine whether or not it leads to cancer is hard to find out because so many users smoke cigarettes too. Pot smokers suffer lung damage just like tobacco users, and reported evidence shows that pre-cancerous cells are found in pot smokers. Overall, people who smoke marijuana have the same effects with the respiratory system as tobacco smokers. Un like tobacco, marijuana is not addictive from chemicals, it is mostly psychological. When people smoke marijuana, they may get depression, fatigue, and carelessness with appearance, hostility, and deteriorating relationships with family and friends. This is not effects from all users, but for some it can lead to this. Smoking marijuana can also cause change in sleeping patterns.
When we realize the problems that occur from smoking marijuana, it is easier to argue the point of why it remains illegal in the United States. Nearly all the health risks can be compared to those risks with smoking tobacco. When a person smokes a cigarette, the body responds immediately to the chemical nicotine in smoke. Nicotine causes short-term increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and blood flow from the heart, and causes arteries to narrow. Carbon monoxide reduces amount of oxygen carried in the blood, which creates an imbalance in the demand for oxygen carried by cells. Smoking can cause chronic lung disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke, as well as cancer in various parts of the body. It is a known fact that smoking tobacco causes cancer, but marijuana is not known for sure to cause it. Women who use tobacco during pregnancy are more likely to have difficult birth, low birth weight, and risk of infant death. Nearly 300,000 infants suffer from lower respiratory tract infections, due to exposure to cigarette smoke. We all know that smoking is almost a definite ?no? for pregnant women. You see the warnings on the side of every cigarette pack.
Studies done to prove marijuana doesn?t harm a fetus are criticized for obvious reasons. A woman named Nancy Day specializes in prenatal care. She did a study that was well controlled; finding that cannabis use had a positive impact on birth weight during the third trimester of pregnancy. Cannabis use is not recommended in pregnancy, it may be of medical value to some women in treating morning sickness or helping in childbirth. Smoking pot is obviously harmful, so I don?t know why anyone would recommend that to any pregnant woman.
Another drug that causes concern among many Americans, but remains legal is alcohol. Alcohol is absorbed in the stomach, enters the blood stream, and goes into all tissues. The effects from drinking are different depending on a person?s size, weight, sex, as well as food and alcohol consumed. Effects from drinking can cause dizziness, nausea, thirst, slurred speech, disturbed sleep, and vomiting. Alcohol impairs judgment and coordination, causes aggressive acts like domestic violence and child abuse. Prolonged use of alcohol can also lead to addiction, producing withdrawal symptoms. Drinking can cause tremors, hallucinations and convulsions. Permanent damage to vital organs can occur in the brain and liver. Mothers who drink during pregnancy may give their infants fetal alcohol syndrome, causing mental retardation and other irreversible physical abnormalities. These drugs are legal for adults, but yet have caused a lot of damage to millions of Americans. Theses people are generally adults, that are suppose to be responsible. They aren?t making wise choices when they abuse the drug, but the ones who are wise aren?t effected. The same goes for marijuana. It is illegal to use because of the people who once abused it, which led to suspicion of it?s use. The health dangers steaming from marijuana use are less or equal to smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol.
Everyone in this country is born with the right to make decisions. We all have choices, but how we make them is important. If we continue to doubt others, or even discriminate against them, we will always be in constant battle. The word ?freedom? is suddenly followed by thousands of rules and exceptions. If we make things that can harm individuals illegal, is it really stopping it. Are we really thinking about what is out there now to legally screw up lives isn?t doing the job already? Let it be our choice, let it be our right, make it legal to be free to make our own choices. If we could just take a moment to think about all the madness in our world, the freedom to smoke pot is just a tiny seed. That is what marijuana comes from, a seed. It is a natural plant, which somehow along the way got miss-understood.
Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Surveys, Attitude tracking studies
The Birmingham News, Val Walton, News staff writer (June 21, 2000)
The Arizona Republic, ?A losing Drug War?,
Pat Flannery and Dennis Wagner, (Sunday, June 4, 2000)
Washington Hemp Education Network (W.H.E.N)
Compare legal drugs with illegal drugs
?Prohibition Ensures Misuse? (November 22, 1996)
Donald Tashkin, Physician, New England Journal of Medicine
?Is Frequent Marijuana Smoking Hazardous to Health?
?Cannabis 1977? Ann. Intern. Med. pg.539-49 (1978)
?Respiratory Status of Habitual Marijuana Smokers? pg.699-706 (Nov 1980)
Nicholas Cozzi, ?Effects of Water Filtration on Marijuana Smoke: A literature Review? Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Newsletter, Vol. IV #2 (1993)
Survey on Hawaii?s war on pot done by Honolulu Advertiser, April 1, 1994
Found at: http://www.norml.org/facts/myths/myth18.html
Norman, Salyard and Mahoney
?An Evaluation of Pre-employment Drug Testing? from Journal of Applied Psychology
Most facts were found at
What is Marijuana?
Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report, Caroline Wolf Harlow, Ph.D. BJS Statistician (April 1998)
Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse fact sheet
Barry R. McCaffrey, Director
http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov, or call, 1-800-666-3332, (March 2000)
Social Issues Resources Series
?A Losing Battle? article found in Drugs-SIRS, West View Library,
Clara Germany, staff writer of Christian Monitor (1991)