Marijuana Legalization Essay, Research Paper
1Marijuana Legalization Marijuana legalization has been a widely discussed topic for a number of years. America has a long history with marijuana, over the past 250 years marijuana has been a part of our society (Martin Online Web). After assessing the truth about marijuana, one may begin to think about legalizing it. Marijuana is used for medicinal purposes, clothing, rope, and socially. The actual harm marijuana causes to individuals is slim and the positive attributes of legalizing it far outweigh the negatives. Marijuana is more of an American tradition than most people know. It was grown ever since 1629 in America for the purposes of rope, clothing, food, and smoking. It was legal to smoke marijuana in the United States until 1937 when forty-six of the forty-eight states plus the District of Columbia had prohibited the use of marijuana (Martin Online Web). Now, in 1998, marijuana is illegal in all fifty states. The penalties on marijuana offenses were steep up until 1972. In seventy-two, a panel of experts were appointed by President Richard Nixon and led by former Pennsylvania governor Raymond Shafer. The panel concluded that marijuana prohibition caused greater harm to the user than to the use of marijuana itself. The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse 2recommended that state and federal laws be changed to remove criminal penalties of marijuana for personal use and for the casual distribution of small amounts of marijuana. That year, law enforcement arrested close to 300,000 Americans on marijuana charges (NORML Online Web). These arrests are mostly composed of average people that use marijuana personally. These people harm no one, and their sentence in jail is not justified because their violation does not affect society in a negative way. Again, in 1982 the National Academy of Science (NAS) composed a report on marijuana reaffirming that criminal justice approaches were both inappropriate and harmful. It recommended not only that marijuana possession be decriminalized, but that lawmakers give serious consideration to creating a system of regulated distribution and sale. That year, more that 450,000 Americans were arrested for violating marijuana laws (NORML Online Web). Let s keep in mind that these marijuana charges aren t just a night in jail and a fine. These charges can ruin a person s life when that person hadn t done anything significantly wrong. For example, individuals arrested for simple marijuana possession in Arizona may face eighteen months in jail and a $150,000 fine (NORML Online Web). Many states also have 3laws automatically suspending the drivers license of an individual if they are convicted of any marijuana offense, even if the offense was had nothing to do with driving (NORML Online Web). Marijuana is on the rise medically in the U.S. It has been legalized in five states already for medicinal use and there are more to come. Marijuana has a very long history of medical use, since it s one of the oldest living plants (LaFave Online Web). The first recorded use of marijuana as medicine was in China. It was reported in Pen Tsboo Ching in first or second century AD. It reported that ma-fe-san (boiled hemp compound) was used as an anesthetic for surgical patients. Ma fen (the fruit of hemp) had many uses such as clearing blood, cooling temperature, relieving fluxes, undoing rheumatism, and discharging pus for patients (LaFave Online Web). This is where the medicinal use of marijuana was derived from. Obviously new technologies take care of the way they used marijuana back then, but this still shows marijuana s history of being used in a positive way. One way marijuana is used medically today is by treating cancer patients involved in chemotherapy. THC taken in the form of a pill or a joint reduces some of the side effects of chemotherapy. It reduces 4nausea and vomiting in the patients (LaFave Online Web). Marijuana has great potential in the field of medicine; there are many other ways to use it as well as the cancer patients. Now that the medical use of marijuana has been legalized in a few states, there will be more studies showing its use can help even more. These studies have not taken place before because marijuana was previously totally illegal. Marijuana is also a very versatile plant for making several different products. The hemp plant can be used for making fiber, rope, twine, canvas, cloth, cotton, and paper. In fact, it was this versatility that caused marijuana to become illegal in the first place (Pluff Online Web). This is a surprising fact, since most people think it was made illegal because it can be abused as a drug. Before 1883 about seventy-five to ninety percent of the world s paper was made from hemp fiber. This was a good and cheap way to manufacture paper. In the United States during the 1930 s mass production of hemp paper had to wait until someone invented a machine to separate the hemp pulp from the fiber cheaply. During this period, Dupont Chemicals, Hearst Paper and Timber, and several other companies had developed a new way to make white paper out of 5trees. When Dupont and the others finally submitted all of their patents, someone invented the hemp-decorticating machine. This threatened to put all tree paper companies out of business since hemp paper was cheaper to make. Most of the tree paper companies were very powerful and had inside connections with the government, and in 1937 they launched a nation wide campaign to put a prohibitive tax on hemp. This marked the beginning of the first reefer madness movement and when the name cannabis turned into marijuana. No one knew marijuana actually was cannabis and publicly it was given a bad reputation. The phrase the killer weed with roots in hell was coined and thus marijuana prohibition began (Pluff Online Web). This was a very na ve thing to do. Not only can hemp be made into good cheap paper and save our trees and forests, but hemp can be made into so many other different products. It s fiber can be used for rope or twine. The rope and twine is better than others because of its superior resistance to deterioration in salt or fresh water (Pluff Online Web). Hemp is also a great substitute for cotton. Hemp is softer than cotton, warmer than cotton, more water-absorbent than cotton, has three times the tensile strength of cotton, and is much more durable. One-half of
6the pesticides in the United States are used on cotton. Cotton is also a soil damaging crop and needs a lot of fertilizer (Pluff Online Web). Finally, marijuana is incredibly easy to cultivate. Why will the government not recognize this miracle crop ? Well, I can tell you that the answer does not rest in my possession, and I do hope that people can recognize all of the great things hemp can do for our country. A big argument that s been debated for a while is if marijuana actually has any significant effects on the brain. It has been proven that there are three types of brain disorders. The three types of disorders are cerebral injury, brain stem damage, and a stroke (Vij Online Web). A blow to the head afflicts the first type of injury, cerebral damage (Vij Online Web). Fortunately, marijuana does not administer any blows to the head, so this type of brain injury is ruled out. Brain stem damage causes several symptoms. These symptoms are a loss in appetite, extraordinary thirst with excessive urination, a decrease in body temperature and uncontrolled anger or aggression. If one smokes marijuana on a regular basis, that person would not develop a loss of appetite, does not develop excessive urination and the body temperature remain at 98.6 degrees. The 7only similarity is that a marijuana smoker develops thirst. This may be true, but so do runners, coffee drinkers and smokers. Also, a marijuana smoker develops a sense of laziness and sleepiness, not anger and aggression (Vij Online Web). Due to these facts, a marijuana smoker does not develop brain stem damage. Last is the third type of brain damage, the stroke. A stroke is caused by a major artery in the brain being blocked. This blockage may be caused by a blood clot, compression of a blood vessel, or a rupture of a blood vessel accompanied by bleeding. There have only been five cases of marijuana smokers developing blood clots. Three out of these five people were not only regular marijuana smokers, they were also alcoholics, so those three cases are bad data. The remaining two cases developed blood clots after smoking marijuana at least once a day for over thirty-one years. That amounts to over 20,000 joints a piece (Vij Online Web). That is an incredible amount of marijuana to smoke. Since there are only two real cases of this disorder, one can deduce that it is just about impossible to get this problem. As far as overall brain damage goes, there is no permanent brain damage from marijuana. Speaking for the two exceptions, that much of anything isn t good. Marijuana does not affect the 8brain in damage, but it affects it by altering its functions. It affects the perception of time, distance and speed (Vij Online Web). It upsets motor coordination, causing unsteady hands, uncontrolled laughter and a lag between thought and facial expressions (Vij Online Web). Sexual functions may be disturbed, some short-term memory loss may be experienced, and the whites of their eyes and facial skin become red (Vij Online Web). All of these symptoms contribute to the effects of being high . They are all temporary effects so none of them seriously mess anything up. Another sensory experience with marijuana dealing with the brain is tolerance and dependence. Tolerance is the gradual loss of sensitivity to the effects of a given drug (Vij Online Web). The reason brain damage has not been proven is because the brain was prepared, in some respects, to process THC (Coker Online Web). This was discovered in 1988 at the St. Louis University Medical School. (Coker Online Web). What they discovered there is that the brain has a specified receptor site for THC. Before this was discovered, no one knew how the psychoactive chemical (THC) worked on the brain. Receptor sites are binding sites for chemicals in the brain, chemicals that instruct brain cells to start, stop, or 9otherwise regulate brain and body functions (Coker Online Web). Leo Hollister of the Stanford University School of Medicine has agreed to this THC receptor site. Hollister also did a study that compared marijuana to other legal social drugs. The legal drugs were alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. He concluded that marijuana does not pose a greater harm that any of these legal drugs and wondered if these currently legal drugs would be have such popular acceptance if society knew all of the truth about them (Coker Online Web). No one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. How often do you hear about people dying from alcohol poisoning? Very large amounts of people have died from overdosing on alcohol. According to scientists, the ratio of the amount of marijuana needed to get high, compared to the amount to overdose is one to forty thousand (D Mello Online Web). This means that one would have to smoke forty-thousand times as much marijuana as they needed to get high in order to overdose. In contrast to this figure, the ratio of alcohol and overdose is one to ten (D Mello Online Web). This makes it very easy to see how five thousand people die of 10alcohol poisoning each year and no one has ever died from an overdose on marijuana (D Mello Online Web).Marijuana is supposedly a gateway drug . According to the gateway theory, people who begin using marijuana tend to experiment with harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin. This is not true. A prime example this is the Netherlands. The Netherlands legalized marijuana in the seventies and since then, harder drug use has declined (D Mello Online Web). In order for the gateway theory to be true, wouldn t the harder drug use numbers have to go up? Yes, they would have. Marijuana is widely used almost as a substitute for harder drugs like cocaine (D Mello Online Web). Recently, there have been many claims that marijuana is more potent today than it was in the past. This accusation is a result of bad data (D Mello Online Web) The researchers who made this claim of increased potency used as their baseline the THC content of marijuana seized by police in the early 1970 s. Poor storage of the marijuana in rooms that were not air-conditioned caused it to deteriorate and decline in potency before the chemicals could be analyzed. Independent studies of street 11marijuana from the early 1970 s showed that the potency rivaled the potency of today s marijuana (D Mello Online Web).