Legalizing Marijuana Essay, Research Paper
There is a large drug problem facing the United States today, and this problem extends to all citizens. It?s not just the poor and the uneducated who are effected by this problem. The most largely used illegal drug in the United States is Marijuana, and thus is the drug law enforcement and the media tends to target the most, costing the taxpayers lots and lots of money. I will show you that Marijuana is not as large and evil as it may appear, and that if legalized the economy would be strengthened and the efforts of law enforcement could be focused on more serious drugs.
First off, to understand what we are dealing with I will give a brief explanation of what Marijuana is and what it?s uses are. Marijuana is classified as a hallucinogen and is a psychoactive drug. Its scientific name is Cannabis Sativa and it is found in the Indian hemp plant, of which there are three main types; Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Rudderalis. Some of its nicknames and street names are pot, weed, green, herb, and sensi. The drugs use dates back in manuscripts back to 2700B.C. in China (Nadelmann). The drug was also cultivated by Jamestown settlers, 1611, who used the drug for its fibers to make rope and clothes. Marijuana is widely used, an estimated one out of every three people have used it, and among high school students 44% have experimented with it (Bowmen). Marijuana is almost always smoked to experience the effects, but eating it and brewing it into tea are common practice also. It can be smoked by rolling it into a paper (joint) or by placing it into a pipe (often called a bowl). Often times there is a mixture of marijuana with tobacco to create a pleasurable taste. When someone smokes marijuana for the first time they do not get high, it is usually the second or third time a user feels the effects. These include chronic laughter and heightened senses. Afterwards a dry mouth and hunger, called the munchies, often follow. The ingredient in cannabis sativa that causes the mind altering effects is called THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).
Now that you know a little about the drug I will discuss its health effects. I am not saying that Marijuana is good for you, all I am saying is that comparable negative effects are present in many legalized drugs. Marijuana intoxicates a person in a way somewhat similar to alcohol. Reaction times are decreased and the person may appear to be very sluggish. While intoxicated a person may have a hard time concentrating on simple tasks. There have been many studies ran on the long term effects on marijuana causing memory loss, and many of the studies are either contradictory or inconclusive. The effects of marijuana on the lungs are very similar to the effects of cigarettes in that lungs will get coated in tar and respiration may become difficult as time passes. However, marijuana has not been linked as a cancer causing agent (Califano), making it much healthier than cigarettes in that aspect. Also, smoke entering the lungs can be avioded entirely by simply cooking it or vaporizing it (heating the marijuana to above its boiling temperature). There have been no tests to prove marijuana is addictive other than mentally (American Journal of Nursing), which is a problem that can arise from using many things such as caffeine. Marijuana, in fact, has been proven to be less of a health risk than junkfood, salt, tobacco, and alcohol.
Hardly anyone over 21 experiments with a drug, unless they have experimented with it before. If no one has experimented with a drug before they are 21 then they are highly unlikely to experiment at all. There are three million underage cigarette smokers, many smoking just for the reason to disobey the laws society places on us. This industry is estimated at one billion dollars. There are also twelve million underage drinkers, many drinking just to disobey the laws also. This industry is estimated at ten billion dollars. Marijuana use is just like these figures, but it covers all of the population, not just those under 18 or 21. Harnessing an industry like this would have astronomical economic benefits.
Marijuana being legalized would also help many people that are sick. The drug THC whether being smoked or ingested in its pure form is an excellent pain killer and muscle relaxant, that would not carry the hazard of becoming an addiction like morphine or other pain killers. Marijuana also is a proven help to Glaucoma patients, as it slows the advance of the disease and brings much needed relief to its sufferers. Studies have also indicated that marijuana can slow the rate of HIV through the immune system as well as increase the patient?s appetite. Loss of appetite is a large problem with AIDS patients, and the lack of nourishment further depletes the immune system. Usage of Marijuana has indicated a decrease in intraocular eye pressure, keeping problems associated with the inner eye to a minimum (Nadelman). Another medical use of THC is with cancer patients. With many forms of cancer the patient suffers from extreme cases of nausea, patients that were given doses of THC suffered much less nausea symptoms.
This shows that if marijuana were legalized that it could be used as a medical treatment. Medical costs in the United States are sky high, and grow at a rate much higher than normal inflation. Using marijuana as treatment for many cases could result in fewer problems in the future and a cheaper form of medication. If marijuana was legalized the medical field would save lots of money.
If marijuana was legalized to capture its full economic potential the government should regulate and sell the product. If the government were the only supplier of marijuana it would help in many ways. First, the product would be much cleaner, some forms of the drug on the street are laced with other substances and handled with very little care. The product would be pure and kept free of all other toxins. Another way that it would help is in the price. The price of marijuana is very high because of the risks involved in distributing it. The simple fact is that marijuana is a weed, being very easy to grow. A small investment in greenhouses can produce hundreds of pounds of marijuana a year. If the price dropped four times its current street value ($20 for 5 grams to $5 for 5 grams) the government would make a gigantic profit off of its sales. The purchasers would be happy with the price causing a large increase in demand and the government could in turn create more supply, all causing a massive increase in the governments cash intake. This would cause taxes to go down and more programs to arise focusing in on the real problems our country has. The amount of money that government regulation of marijuana could bring in is in the billions.
An area where the public would benefit the most from marijuana legalization is in police costs. There are billions of dollars going into drug task forces that deal mainly with marijuana. Since 1965 some 60 million marijuana users have been charged with crimes (Evans). The money used on court fees and incarceration costs could be used much more wisely, not to mention the fact that while imprisoned the people were not out in society providing services to the community. If marijuana was legalized police would have more time and money to spend on serious drug offenders (heroin, cocaine, speed) and violent criminals who pose a real threat to society. When police officers are taking valuable time to arrest and detain a marijuana user a more serious crime could be occuring. Protecting and serving the citizens of a community don?t mean letting murderers and rapists prowl while a marijuana user is receiving large court sentences.
Using marijuana is not necessarily a positive thing; it is merely an option which an individual needs to decide for himself, much like alcohol or tobacco. There may be negatives to legalizing marijuana. The important thing is that it is kept recreational and medical, there should be laws against minors using marijuana and people at some jobs being high. Also, there needs to be rules against driving while high, as applied to driving drunk. There are prototypes of marijuana breathalyzers that can indicate whether or not a person is experiencing the effects of the drug and is a risk on the road. In any case there would be negatives, but these are completely outweighed by the advantages that would arise. Legalizing marijuana would be completely beneficial as a whole to society.
There are many supporters of the legalization of marijuana, many being politicians and people with high social ranking. One is Baltimore mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. He is strongly in favor of marijuana legalization and is the head of workshops and organizations that promote it. Dr. Ethan A. Nadelmann, a professor at Princeton said, ?The nations war on drugs has been a costly exercise in futility, filling the nations prisons with low level criminals.? Another expert, Christopher Brown said, ?Legalization should not be taken to mean a lawless free-for-all with no restraint on the supply or use of the drug. Done properly it would allow government to take control of the distribution and quality of the substance away from criminals. Supply should be regulated by a system of government licenses analogous to those already in force for tobacco and alcohol, which would serve, among other things, to keep the drugs out of the hands of children, backed by strict policing and heavy penalties.? Mayor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura also believes in the legalization of marijuana as a controlled substance.
The policy on marijuana now is a closed minded one, instead of truly analyzing the problem legislators are merely placing tougher laws on it. This policy that the government has adopted is a very poor one. Being open minded in this issue is of the utmost importance. There are many reasons that point to the legalization of marijuana being positive, yet the idea remains taboo to many. This issue is not one that will go away, it needs to be dealt with, and dealt with a fresh new attitude. There are more and more people becoming educated and realizing that marijuana should be legalized. Marijuana usage is very common, even among the elite. Some famous people who used marijuana before according to the internet site www.cannabis.com are; Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, and White House press secretary Mike McCurry. Also, former New York state representative Susan Molinari admitted to smoking marijuana and while at a debate openly lied about it. A larger problem that society faces than marijuana is the ethics of current politicians. Using a pleasurable substance is not as potentially harmful as lying to the voters about an issue which needs lots of attention.
One organization that pays a lot of attention to this issue is NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). This nonprofit organization works hard to make people aware of the facts surrounding the issue, and keeps legislators from dodging the issue. Just recently NORML had the opportunity to speak at congress about the laws concerning marijuana. Although they gave very good points the politicians skillfully dodged the questions asked. This exemplifies the bullheaded attitude that Washington has in general towards this issue.
I do not believe that legalizing marijuana should be an action taken without carefully weighing the options, it just seems to me that there is enough evidence to warrant the serious consideration. Once lawmakers take off the blinders and actually see the issue as it is we will be in a much better situation. The best way to show them that is to show them how much more money they can get.
Many angles can be taken to justify the legalization of marijuana, I feel the most effective is that of the economic analysis. There will be jobs created and a new booming industry with it. People need to put aside preconceived notions and take a fresh perspective, they will see what a great effect that the legalization of marijuana would have on the economy as well as other areas.
Ethan A. Nadelmann, American Heritage Magazine, Feb-Mar, 1993.
Tom Bowmen, ?Schmoke says debate on decriminalization of drugs is gaining momentum.?, The Sun Newspaper, 7-13, 1989.
Joseph A. Califano, USA Today, version 125, Mar. 1997.
American Journal of Nursing, Annual Report 1992.
Martin Evans. ?Schmoke urges NAACP to back decriminalization of drugs.?, The Sun, 1989.
Christopher Brown, ?Bring Drugs Within the Law.?, The Economist. Volume 13, 1993.
Yahooka – The guide to marijuana on the internet, “http://www.yahooka.com”.