Legalized Marijuana Essay, Research Paper
America is the land of the free and the foundation of democracy. This countries foundation is based on the fact that an individual can enjoy freedom from oppression and the minority’s opinions can be heard along with the majority’s. Our government is designed to be fair and open minded, to be a servant to the people it governs. Unfortunately once an opinion is placed into the collective mind of society, it is a struggle to alter that opinion through argument and information.
The opinion in our country on the subject of marijuana use has always been a sensitive issue, open to debate and sparking many controversial questions and moral issues. The same questions come up time and time again when the debate starts. What are the effects on marijuana on the body? Does marijuana create a desire to try more potent substances? Is the resistance society places on the use of marijuana costing the taxpayers more than it is worth? What is the reasoning behind our decision to generally view marijuana as a bad substance worthy of resistance? And even though most hesitate to admit it isn’t marijuana already a part of our culture and a major factor in the identity of multiple generations of Americans?
So many questions surround the issue, likely they will not go away in the near
future. Marijuana is not a threat to our society, other than opinions that have been generalized into our cultural beliefs of right and wrong, we have much more productive ways to spend our tax dollars. Marijuana has never been proven to have any long term medical effects that are detrimental. Cigarettes, alcohol, and various drugstore stimulants should be of more concern than marijuana. The opinions that have been formed about marijuana are based on racist beliefs and also circumstantial moments in history. Supporters of the legalization of marijuana have valid arguments and can not be ignored forever. These people are becoming a strong voice in our society and can not be ignored. We have facilitated this with our blood and hard work in the creation and defending of our constitution.
The first issue to be confronted is that of the effects of marijuana on the body. The physiological effects of marijuana on the body are not very strong. It would actually take 20,000 to 40,000 times the normal dose to kill a human being. There is no documented case of a death caused by marijuana overdose. The only noticeable effect on the body is the slight increase in heart beat, depending on the dose amount. The increase in blood pressure also usually creates bloodshot eyes. The mouth tends to dry out and the user has an urge to drink water. All of the other effects that could be related to marijuana use are inconsistent so cannot be directly linked to the substance (Model 15).
Many people would argue saying that marijuana has long term long term effects on the body and marijuana effect a persons ability to drive making him a danger to others? These arguments can be addressed with information from cultural anthropologist Charles Levinthol as referenced in Michael Massing’s article in “The Nation.” There is
no evidence that marijuana is habit forming or that users suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Long term users do not suffer from increased heart diseases or any other visible signs of health problems. About the only proven long term effect is short term memory loss, and this is only while the person is under the influence of the substance. A perfect example of the long term effects of heavy marijuana use can be seen by looking at the Rastafarians, Costa Ricans and the Greeks. These people tend to have a more accepting attitude of marijuana use in their daily lives. When these groups were studied for adverse effects none could be found, other than a slight decrease in pulmonary functions (massing 6). As for the effects on the driver, marijuana can in high doses cause hallucinations. This is only in cases where doses 10 times the normal joint is smoked. This is also very rare and only happens to a small percentage of people who smoke. The person who is at the average level of influence is not really dangerous to others especially when compared to the drunk driver (McWilliams 62). Using driving as an argument against legalization of marijuana is not concrete. If marijuana was legalized it would still be likely that it would be illegal to drive under the influence. The problem is not the marijuana itself, but rather in the abuse of it by the user. We don’t blame alcohol when a person uses it and decides to abuse the laws pertaining to drinking and driving.
Neglect on the part of people, and over generalizations by authors and lawmakers sometimes leads to the belief that marijuana is a gateway to other harder drugs. One author of such an article is Henry Clark. He tells us that marijuana is a sure way to get interested in harder drugs. He boldly implies that marijuana increases the risk of cancer, and that it always leads to criminal behavior (Henry 7). This really makes me mad, I read
this article and realized that he had absolutely no evidence to support any of his claims. I am not saying that he is wrong, but how does he come to such monumental conclusions
without concrete evidence? I remember hearing that green M&M’s caused cancer, does that mean it is true. It seems like everyone is making a claim that one thing or another causes cancer. And as for marijuana being a gateway drug there is no evidence, only speculation. How do you know that drug users do not simply use marijuana along with their other drugs? I smoke when I drink does that mean drinking causes smoking? I know many people who have smoked marijuana for years and years. These people would never think about trying a harder drug. I have yet to meet a person who got bored with marijuana and decided to try heroin.
There is no concrete connection between marijuana and hard drugs. We are wasting so much of our countries money hunting down and these horrible pot smokers so we can lock them up and save our society from their terrible ways. For example, Phillip Macleans makes a comparison between a country that has legal marijuana and the U.S. Amsterdam has legal marijuana you can buy it in the store and then go smoke it in the street if you want. But in the U.S. this is worth a long prison sentence. Amsterdam statistically has a lower percentage of marijuana users, a lower crime rate, and less people are addicted to hard drugs. And don’t forget about the tax money that goes into the countries economy. The money is put into the economy, rather than spent on jailing the users. The fact that marijuana has medical value should be an indicator that it is not a lethal substance. The brain even produces that specifically react in a positive way to THC ( the substance that gets you high in marijuana) (Macleans 57). Many would argue
that our country has its own unique law, and that we should prosecute however we see fit. My response to that is, weigh the pros and cons of marijuana and the money we pay in taxes to prevent its use, it is not worth it . It seems that our country has a long standing tradition of wanting to prosecute marijuana users. If we go back and follow a little bit of American history provided to us by author Janet Monfreddi, of “High Times” magazine, we can begin to trace the origins of the present thoughts and opinions on marijuana. The first written account we have of a cannabis product as a mood altering drug is in 2737 BC. This account was given in the writings of the Chinese emperor Sheng Nung. They used the substance as an aid to meditation and also to help them with such medical problems as rheumatism, gout, and even absent-mindedness. They knew it had intoxicating effects but they were more concerned with the medical benefits that could be gained from its use. The Muslims used it also since alcohol was strictly prohibited by the Koran. The Muslims were the first to produce the substance known as hashish, the new substance quickly gained popularity and spread throughout Persia.
In 1545 the Spanish brought marijuana to the new world, they introduced it to Jamestown in 1611. The substance quickly became a cornerstone of their economy right next to tobacco. By 1890 hemp was being replaced by the cotton plant as far as textile uses.
It was around 1920 that the smoking of Marijuana became increasingly popular. Many believe that the popularity of the marijuana is due to the prohibition of alcohol that was present during those times. Marijuana clubs called tea pads began appearing in every
major city. These clubs were left alone by police because marijuana was not illegal, and the people at the clubs hardly ever caused any problems or bothered the surrounding
community. Marijuana was not considered a threat during this time (Monfreddi 22).
To understand how marijuana went from an acceptable social practice, to a national concern we need to go back to the 1920’s and 1930’s when a large number of Mexican immigrants began coming into the United States. They were generally viewed with prejudice and hatred due to nationalistic viewpoints. Many of them smoked marijuana on a regular basis. So when they would go out and do something violent it was natural for the people to blame it on the marijuana, it was somewhat of an escape goat for the people, a way to generalize all Mexicans together. And since most white Americans during this period hated the Mexican immigrants, they began to look down on marijuana through association with the violent Mexicans. The people of the time did not need a large amount of objective data to base their decisions. So in a largely unchallenged vote 32 states had outlawed marijuana by 1932, by 1936 the rest of the states had followed (Zimmer 120).
So why is it that in our modern society were prejudice is fought against so hard that we are still clinging to a law that was created out of a basically prejudice view of Mexicans? It may be the simple fact that taught behavior is so hard to deviate from. If your parents taught you when you were growing up that the moon was made of cheese you would believe them until some sort of evidence presented itself and proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they were not right. Just as with religion and homosexuality, views and opinions are usually based on a moral standing or belief. Unlike a simple fact or
fiction statement, this is an idea that has been presented in a moral fashion. Anytime morals are involved it is an uphill struggle to change someone’s views.
Another important question that needs to be addressed in the debate of legalization is how effective is the current policy on marijuana? The fact that the possession of these substances is ground for arrest and conviction only serves to increase the cost of the marijuana. This in turn only makes it more profitable for the drug dealers (McWilliams 64) .
The more the government cracks down on marijuana the more dangerous and greedy the people who deal in it will become. This only furthers the negative ideas currently held about marijuana. As with the Mexicans the substance itself will be synonymous with the people who are involved in its illegal trafficking . It seems almost ridiculous to compare marijuana with some other kinds of drugs such as cocaine, crack and heroin. How can the government put the same classification on these drugs as on marijuana? A teenager who is smoking marijuana at a party can receive the same harsh sentence as a crack dealer who runs a whorehouse across the street from a church. This may sound like an exaggeration but it is true.
The government keeps contradicting itself in its laws also, doctors realize the potential for excellent medicines derived from marijuana and THC. They conveniently found a way around the problem, they introduced a pill that contains concentrated amounts of THC it is called marinol. This pill actually contains 10 times the amount of THC that an average joint has. Marijuana is a class one drug, marinol was given a class three rating which means a prescription can be given over the phone (O’Neil F7).
This seems very hypocritical to me. Why should something that is so helpful for
pain and also has a recreational value be controlled solely by the upper class. I know
exactly why, when an organization has money it has influence. Why should the government lose its stronghold monopoly on such a lucrative industry? It seems to me
that they would rather keep the power out of the hands of the average citizen and keep it in the hands of the more influential members of society who have the power to help each other out.
One argument that could be spoken on this issue of distribution and classification of the controlled substance would be that marijuana should be distributed only on a needed basis by a licensed doctor. Well that may be a good point, but you must also realize that a class three drug is something like Tylenol three with codeine. Don’t forget that this is a drug that is ten times more potent than regular marijuana and they are making it that easy to get. You must also look at the other side of the issue what if you could get put in jail for having one tenth of a Tylenol pill? It may seem like a crazy comparison but it is in proper perspective. You can go to jail for having one joint in your possession, spend the next ten years paying for it alongside rapist and murderers. Or you can get a backache and go to your doctor and get the same thing only ten times stronger and be fine. This really does defy logical reasoning, there is no excuse for our government to make contradictory laws like this.
The last of the major point to be debated on the legalization of marijuana is the cultural issue. It all began around the 1960’s when the Vietnam war began to arouse the feelings of brotherhood and peace in the minds of the American people. When a large
majority of the younger people began to use marijuana heavily it was viewed as simply
deviant behavior, it was largely ignored by the police (Zimmer 105).
That was until they did the ten year census and the American people decide that they did not like the deviant act of defying the law. The fact that most of the people who were involved in the drugs and peace movements didn’t do things like fill out their census didn’t help either. This ultimately led to the crackdown on drugs. Since the people who propose the bills to congress were usually upper class older people, they had little or no tolerance for those who wished to rebel against the normally expected behavior. The fact that they started passing tougher laws on marijuana did not seem to slow down the use or production of the substance. In fact it became more lucrative than ever to sell marijuana. This in turn led to an explosion of the craving for that which was forbidden (Zimmer 106). Just like a kid who eats the cookies he isn’t supposed to touch. Not only does this war on marijuana not solve the problem, it also takes an obscene amount of money out of the taxpayers pocket.
It can always be argued that you don’t mind seeing your tax money spent on the prosecution of marijuana users. It is your right as an American to help shape and construct the laws which govern us in our great country. But a person who holds this belief is also forgetting that there are many who would take the opposite position. Who think it is a waste of time to spend money and punish people so severely that should not even be considered in the same category as other criminals. There is a strong voice emerging in the crowds of the American people and it can not go ignored for much longer. As a society we are becoming more and more open minded about things that
were once considered cultural taboo. Don’t forget we are living in the same country that
once made alcohol illegal through prohibition, it did not work in any sense. We are becoming a smarter, more educated people in our century, we should be able to learn from our past mistakes.
Clark, Henry. “The Fallacies of Marijuana.” American Family Physician 1 Dec. 1999: 5- 10
Massing, Michael. “Mindlessness on Drugs.” The Nation 7 Feb. 2000: 32-35
McWilliams, Peter. “The Stand on Marijuana.” Playboy Dec. 1999: 61,70-72
Monfreddi, Jamie. “ High Hemp Hopes.” High Times Magazine Oct. 1998: 12-15
O’Neil, John. “Substance Abuse Commentary.” The New York Times 28 Dec. 1999: F7 column 4
Phillips, Andrew. Living the High Life Ontario: Hunter Publishing, 1999
Zimmer, Lynn. Marijuana Myths: Marijuana Facts London: Hartford, 1997