Legalizing Marijuana Essay, Research Paper
Marijuana is the name for the drug that comes from the leaves and flowers of the Indian
hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. It is a tobacco-like substance produced by drying the leaves and
flowery top of the cannabis plant. Marijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette called a joint or in
a pipe or bong. Recently, it has appeared in cigars called blunts which are longer. This drug is a
mild hallucinogen, meaning that it distorts sensory perceptions. The intoxicating part of the
plant lies mostly in its strong-smelling, sticky, golden resin. This is given off by the hemp
flowers, especially those of the female plant. The resin protects the plant from heat and helps it
stay moist during its reproductive cycle. Many users describe two phases of marijuana
intoxication: initial stimulation, giddiness, and euphoria, followed by sedation and pleasant
tranquillity. Mood changes can often accompany altered perceptions of time and space and one’s
bodily dimension. The hemp plant can be found growing as a weed or as a cultivated plant
throughout the world, in many soils and climates, with the more potent varieties produced in dry,
hot, upland, climates (Berger 1).
All forms of marijuana are mind-altering. They all contain THC, the main active
chemical in marijuana. THC was first identified in the mid-1960s. Its chemical structure is
complex and unique, making it unlike that of any other psychoactive drug. There are also four
hundred other chemicals in the marijuana plant besides THC, but they do not cause the same
effect. For this reason, marijuana is, by far, the most frequently used illegal drug. Though its
use in the United States is primarily for the pleasure effect of the drug, it has been used as an
intoxicant in various parts of the world for centuries. Marijuana is known as a “Schedule I drug
which means it is one of the most tightly controlled drugs” (McCormick 94). Only few
countries around the world have legalized marijuana, but those that have, have seen good results.
Marijuana has many benefits and is used for various reasons other than the reaction from the
drug, and therefore it should be legalized.
The first existence of marijuana was first described in print in a “Chinese book of
medicine” in the second century B.C.E. and was used in China as an anesthetic five thousand
years ago (Freeman 58). Its earliest use was recommended as a painkiller during operations.
Known in Central Asia as early as 3000 BC, marijuana was used as a folk medicine. The
practice of smoking it was brought to Brazil by black slaves from Africa. After spreading
throughout Mexico, it was brought to the United States by Mexican laborers. In the 1800s, it
was popular with black field hands in the South and in the hashish houses that often took the
place of opium dens. Many people knew that they would profit from marijuana in America and
they imported the drug any way possible. “Marijuana was smuggled across the Mexican border
in a variety of ways including inside the gasoline tanks of motor vehicles” (Bugliosi 13). During
the 1920s and 1930s, marijuana rose in popularity, especially among jazz musicians, most of
whom were black. The effects of marijuana back then, were believed to turn men into social
deviants capable of crazed, even homicidal behavior. The violence of which they were capable
had more to do with white racist imaginings than with facts. Nonetheless, marijuana was
outlawed in 1937. These beliefs played a part in the passage of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act,
which tried to control the use of marijuana. The Marijuana Tax Act made the use or sale of
marijuana without a tax stamp a federal offense. The law also included stiffer penalties for
marijuana use. Over the next decade, drug penalties got even tougher.
Most of the marijuana that is smoked in the United States is grown in the United States.
Most wild United States cannabis is considered inferior to the Jamaican, Colombian, and
Mexican varieties that range much higher in percent THC potency. This drug accounts for many
arrests every year and costs each state millions. More recently, many marijuana growers have
taken their illegal crop indoors. It is now frequently grown in basements, attics, and
outbuildings under lights with timed fertilizer and sprinkler systems. Growers generally try to
get the highest THC in order to produce the greatest possible effect, which would result in more
sales and profit. Few marijuana growers are severely punished, and many are never caught. The
Drug Enforcement Administration, responsible for seizing domestically grown marijuana, finds
only a small percentage of this illegal crop (Schleichert 48).
Most of the population in America has tried marijuana, but very few that have, still use it
daily. In the 1950s, drugs were not considered a serious problem, and teenagers that used drugs
was an unknown occurrence. Marijuana use increased during the 60s due to the abuse of the
drug by teenagers. During this time, smoking it became a form of protest for teenagers and as
many as ninety percent of students on college campuses had tried marijuana (Bugliosi 185).
In the late 1970s, thirty-seven percent of the teens surveyed said they had used
marijuana in the past month, and eleven percent said that they used it daily. In
the mid-1980s, only twenty-five percent of the teens had smoked pot in the past
month, with only five percent used it daily. Much of this decline is due to the
ongoing drop in the use of marijuana, which is the drug most often used among
teenagers. (Ryan 15)
Today, surveys concluded that almost twenty-one million Americans used marijuana in 1990,
and almost sixty-seven million Americans have experimented with the drug (Bugliosi 185).
Many view marijuana as a gateway drug, the user’s first drug, that leads to more
dangerous drug use. Marijuana does not have any characteristics that “make” people go on to
harder drugs (Schleichert 45). The biggest reason that the drug is used today is because the level
of THC is higher causing the effect of marijuana to increase. This means that it is more potent
than it was ten or fifteen years ago. Many use it , hoping that they may lose their shyness and
inhibitions. Others might try to numb their emotional pain with marijuana. Though many
factors, both genetic and environmental, can encourage marijuana use (Schleichert 40).
The uses of marijuana have changed over the years. “F