Legalize Marijuana 2 Essay, Research Paper
For many decades now, the debate as to whether or not marijuana should by legalized, has raged on. The intensity expressed by marijuana s opponents and the harsh punishments given to marijuana offenders cannot be explained by a simple concern for public health. In recent years, paraplegics, cancer patients, epileptics, people with AIDS, and people suffering from multiple sclerosis have been imprisoned for using marijuana as a medicine. The attack on marijuana, has in reality become more of a cultural war than anything; a moral crusade in defense of traditional American Values if you will. The laws that are being used to fight marijuana are now causing far more harm to those values than the drug itself. In order to eliminate marijuana use, state and federal legislators have sanctioned a tremendous increase in prosecutional power, the emergence of a class of professional informers, and the widespread confiscation of private property by the government without trial. The long prison sentences given to growers and dealers have pushed marijuana prices skyward, creating a domestic industry whose annual revenues now rival those of cotton, soybeans, or corn. Some of the opponents to the legalization of marijuana include the DEA, AMA, American Glaucoma Society, American Academy of Opthalmology, and the American Cancer Society. These entities, as well as others against the legalization of marijuana argue that the entire drug problem would become more severe if consumption were legalized. Their reasons for opposition revolve around several key elements adressing the proposed harm that marijuana can impose. Opponents have stated that marijuana: causes brain damage, damages the reproductive system, suppresses the immune system, leads to harder drugs, is much more dangerous than tobacco, flattens human brainwaves, and may lead to death.
Arguing that the entire drug problem would become more severe if marijuana consumption were legalized, opponents to the proposal believe that current attempts to restrict the supply of and demand for marijuana have resulted in a lower level of consumption than would otherwise have existed. Allowing the legal consumption of marijuana would also result in an increase in the consumption of other drugs with more addictive potential. Opponents to this decriminalization also state that the health risks associated with marijuana consumption is not fully understood and is potentially harmful and dangerous to the user.
The most well known study that claims to show brain damage from marijuana use is the rhesus monkey study done in the late 1970 s by Dr. Robert Heath. This study was reviewed by an accomplished panel of scientists from the National Academy of Sciences. Their results were then published under the title, Marijuana and Health in 1982. Heath s work was heavily criticized for its insufficient sample size (only four monkey s), its failure to control experimentat bias, and the misidentification of normal monkey brain structure as damaged . Actual studies of human populations of marijuana users have shown no evidence of brain damage. For example, two studies from 1977, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed no evidence of brain damage in heavy users of marijuana. That same year, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially came out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. That s not the sort of thing you d expect if the AMA thought marijuana damaged the brain.
The claim that marijuana damages the reproductive system and suppresses the immune system is based primarily on the work of Dr. Gabriel Nahas, who experimented with tissue (cells) isolated in petri dishes, and the work of researchers who dosed animals with near-lethal amounts of cannabinoids (the intoxicating part of marijuana). Nahas generalizations from his petri dishes to human beings have been rejected by the scientific community as being invalid. In the case of the animal experiments, the animals that survived their ordeal returned to normal within 30 days of the end of the experiment. Studies of actual human populations have failed to demonstrate that marijuana adversely affects the reproductive system. Like the study claiming to show damage to the reproductive system, the idea that marijuana suppresses the immune system is also based on studies where animals were given extremely high, near-lethal, doses of cannabinoids. These results have never been duplicated in human beings.
One of the most persistant myths about marijuana is the idea that marijuana is a “gateway drug”-leading to harder drugs. A real world example of what happens when marijuana is readily available can be found in Holland. The Dutch partially legalized marijuana in the 1970’s. Since then, hard drug use (heroin, cocaine, etc.) has significantly decreased. If marijuana really were a gateway drug, one would expect that use of harder drugs to have gone up, not down. This type of effect has also been seen in the United States. Studies done in the early part of the 1970’s showed a negative correlation between use of marijuana and use of alcohol. A 1993 study that compared drug use in states that had decriminalized marijuana versus those that had not, found that where marijuana was more available, hard drug abuse as measured by emergency room episodes decreased. Basically, what science and actual experience tell us is that marijuana tends to substitute for the much more dangerous hard drugs like alcohol, cocaine, and heroin.
In defense to the assumption that marijuana is more dangerous than tobacco I would like to point to the fact that, yes, smoked marijuana contains about the same amount of carcinogens as does an equivalent amount of tobacco. However, it should be remembered that a heavy tobacco smoker consumes much more tobacco than a heavy marijuana smoker consumes marijuana. This is because smoked tobacco, with over a 90% addiction rate, is the most addictive of all drugs while marijuana is less addictive than caffeine. Two other important elements apply as well. First, paraphernalia laws directed against marijuana users make it difficult to smoke safely. These laws make water pipes and bongs, which help filter out some of the carcinogens in the smoke, illegal and unavailable. The second is that, if marijuana were legal, it would be more economical to have a cannabis drink such a tea which is totally non-carcinogenic. This example definately contrasts with “smokeless tobacco” products like snuff which can cause cancer of the mouth and throat. When all of this is taken into account, it can be clearly seen that the opposite is true, marijuana is much safer than tobacco.
next, the statement that marijuana “flattens” human brainwaves is a complete and utter lie brought forth by the Partnership for a Drug Free America. A few years ago, they ran a TV ad that showed, first, a normal human brainwave, and second, a flat brainwave from a 14-year old “on marijuana”. When real researchers started calling the TV networks to complain about this commercial, the Partnership had to pull it from the air. It turns out that they totally faked the flat “marijuana brainwave”. In reality, marijuana has the effect of slightly increasing alpha brain wave activity. Alpha waves are associated with meditative and relaxed states which are, in turn, often associated with human creativity.
Lastly, no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. Animal tests have revealed that extremely high doses of cannabinoids are needed to have lethal effect. This has led scientists to conclude that the ratio of the amount of cannabinoids neccesary to get a person intoxicated (stoned) reltive to the amount vecessary to kill them is 1 to 40,000. In other words, to overdose, you would have to consume 40,000 times as much marijuana as you needed to get stoned. In contrast, the ratio for alcohol varies between 1 to 4 and 1 to 10. It is easy to see how upwards of 5000 people die from alcohol overdoses every year and no one ever dies of marijuana overdose.
By now it should be obvious that this raging debate over the legalization of marijuana is not that hard to hard to understand when there is sufficient,”real life” evidence to take into consideration. When you take into account the deep intensity of marijuana’s opponents, persuing their desired degree of traditional American values, you can plainly see that they are willing to fabricate any sort of “dooms day” media to accentuate ideas about marijuana that they have no factual basis to support. How can society accurately asess the impacts of marijuana use if the main-stream source of information they are recieving is faulty. All considered, the proposed, “harmful impacts”, of marijuana by its opponents are actually nothing of significance at all. Poorly collected data and sub-standard experimentation are primary reasons for the lack of validity in their statements. Until actual facts are expressed on a nationwide basis, this debate will continue to rage on, fueled by a wildfire of inquiring minds, determined to seek the truth.