Legalizing Hemp Essay, Research Paper
For many years, the United States government has prohibited drugs such as marijuana from sale in the marketplace. Yet, with prohibition, marijuana use has decreased only minimally. Because of prohibition, the media has publicized only the bad aspects of marijuana use. What many people do not realize are the many positive aspects of marijuana legalization, including new medical cures, cleaner and more efficient industry, and reduced marijuana usage. Marijuana, as most people commonly know it, is really a plant called hemp, or ‘cannabis sativa’. There are other plants called hemp, but cannabis hemp is the most useful of these plants. ‘Hemp’ is any durable plant used since prehistory for many purposes. Cannabis is the most durable of the hemp plants, and it produces the toughest cloth, named ‘canvass’. The cannabis plant also produces three other very important products that other plants do not (in usable form): seed, pulp, and medicine. To understand why hemp is illegal, it is necessary that we take a look at the law prohibiting hemp today. The law that prohibits hemp is called the “Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act of 1970″. The Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-513) overhauled the nation’s drug regulation apparatus. Title II of the law, known as the Controlled Substances Act, established criteria for determining which drugs should be controlled, mechanisms for reducing the availability of controlled drugs, and a structure of penalties for illegal distribution and possession of controlled drugs. Marijuana, hashish, and THC are listed in Schedule I, the most restrictive classification. We also have to understand the reasons why marijuana, the drug, became illegal. In fact, it helps to go back to the beginning of the century and talk about two other drugs, opium (the grandfather of heroin) and cocaine.
Opium, a very addictive drug (but relatively harmless by today’s standards) was once widely used by the Chinese. When Chinese started to immigrate to the United States, they brought opium with them. Chinese workers used opium to induce a trance-like state that helped make boring, repetitive tasks more interesting. It also numbed the mind to pain and exhaustion. By using opium, the Chinese could pull very long hours in the sweat shops of the Industrial Revolution. During this time, there was no such thing as fair wages, and the only way a worker could make a living was to produce as much as humanly possible.
Since they were such good workers, the Chinese held many jobs in the highly competitive industrial workplace. Even before the Great Depression, when millions of jobs disappeared overnight, the White Americans began to resent this, and Chinese became hated among the White working class. Even more than today, White Americans had a very big political advantage over the Chinese-they spoke English and had relatives in the government, so coming up with a plan to force Chinese immigrants to leave the country was easy for them (or at least keep them from inviting all their relatives to come and live in America.) This plan depended on stirring up racist feelings, and one of the easiest things to focus these feelings on was the foreign and mysterious practice of using opium. We can see this pattern again with cocaine, except Black Americans were the targets. Cocaine was not especially useful in the workplace, but the strategy against Chinese immigrants (picking on their drug of choice) had been so successful that it was used again. For Blacks, though, the racist feelings ran deeper, and the main thrust of the propaganda campaign was to control the Black community and keep Blacks from becoming successful. Articles appeared in newspapers which blamed cocaine for violent crime by Blacks. They painted Black Americans as savage, uncontrollable beasts when under the influence of cocaine-they said that it made a single Black man as strong as four or five police officers. By capitalizing on racist sentiments, a powerful political o could sell alcohol where. Organized crime became an American institution, and hard liquor, which was easy to smuggle, took the place of beer and wine.
In order to combat the crime wave, the government formed a large police force. The number of police grew rapidly until the end of Prohibition, when the government decided that the best way to deal with the situation was just to give up and allow people to use alcohol legally. Under Prohibition the American government had essentially (and unwittingly) provided the military backup for the takeover of the alcohol business by armed thugs. Even today, the Mob still controls liquor sales in many areas. After Prohibition the United States was left with nothing to show but a decade of political turmoil-and many unemployed police officers.
During Prohibition, being a police officer was a very good thing. They got a relatively decent salary, respect, partial immunity to the law, and the opportunity to take bribes. Many of these officers were not ready to let this lifestyle slip away. Incidentally, it was about this time when the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs was reformed, and a man named Harry J. Anslinger was appointed as its head. Anslinger campaigned tirelessly for funding in order to hire a large force of narcotics officers. (After retiring, Anslinger once mused that the FBNDD was a place where young men were given a license to steal and rape.) The FBNDD is the organization that preceded what we now call the DEA, and was responsible for enforcing the new Federal drug laws against heroin, opium, and cocaine. One of Anslinger’s biggest concerns as head of the FBNDD was getting uniform drug laws passed in all States and the Federal legislature. (Anslinger also had a personal dislike of jazz music and the Black musicians who made it. He hated them so much that he actually spent years tracking each of them and often dreamed of arresting them all in one huge, cross-country sweep.) Anslinger frequented parents’ and teacher’s meetings, giving scary speeches about the dangers of marijuana. This period of time became known as Reefer Madness. (The name comes from the title of a movie produced by a public health group.) Today, it is indisputable that the status-quo has failed. Increased spending for the enforcement of narcotics laws have not produced any significant improvements. With drug related deaths increasing in the inner cities, and usage again on the rebound, we all can see that a change in our system is necessary. Below is a chart representing increased marijuana usage among people in the key ages of 19-28. Percentage of Persons Reporting any Illicit Marijuana Use: Age 19-28 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 66.5% 66.0% 63.8% 62.8% 60.2% 58.6% 60.2% 62.2% Source: The University of Michigan 1991 annual study titled “Monitoring the Future,” conducted under a series of research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to the U-M Institute for Social Research. As I have stated before, propaganda was very well produced and distributed during “Reefer Madness”. Sadly, much of the health related data included in the propaganda is untrue, or overstated. The falsehoods have been numerous. One of the first deviations from the truth involves the supposed lowering of testosterone amounts in men who smoke marijuana. There has yet to be any strong evidence that would prove this point. They manufactured this lie during the first “Reefer Madness”, in order to scare men into thinking that they would lose their manly characteristics after using the drug. Another misinterpretation of a study involves propaganda stating that prolonged marijuana usage makes men sterile. In fact, “marijuana use shows no conclusive evidence of reducing the sperm counts in males age 18-39, where sperm production is usually a constant between individuals” (U.S. Government). Another misunderstanding promoted by anti-drug literature is the idea that marijuana kills brain cells. This is far from the truth. A study attempted to show that marijuana smoking damaged brain structures in monkeys. However, the study was poorly performed and a medical review board severely criticized it. Studies done afterwards failed to show any brain damage. In fact, a very recent study on Rhesus monkeys used technology so sensitive that scientists could actually see the effect of learning on brain cells. No damage was found. Another popular myth often told by prohibitionists is that marijuana smoke causes cancer. There has yet to be a study that conclusively points to this. Scientists do not really know what it is that causes malignant lung cancer in tobacco. Many think it may be a substance known as Lead 210. Of course, there are many other theories as to what does cause cancer, but if this is true, it is easy to see why no case of lung cancer resulting from marijuana use alone has ever been documented, because tobacco contains much more of this substance than marijuana. Anti-drug literature also promotes the misconception that marijuana smoking causes laziness. If you are a responsible adult, it does not. The U.S. Army did a study on this, and the results showed no effect. Many Eastern cultures, and Jamaicans, use marijuana to help them work harder. `Amotivational syndrome’ started as a media myth based on the racial stereotype of a lazy Mexican borracho. The prohibitionists claimed that marijuana made people worthless and sluggish. Since then, however, it has been scientifically researched, and a symptom resembling amotivational syndrome has actually been found. However, it only occurs in adolescent teenagers-adults are not affected. Yet another misunderstood and misused fact about marijuana is how it contains over 400 chemicals. What many people do not understand is that the amount of chemicals in a substance is totally irrelevant to the products effect. Products such as coffee and tea contain 829 and 611 chemicals, respectively. These two substances do not affect ones health, yet contain many chemicals. The fact that there are over sixty unique chemicals in cannabis, called `cannabinoids,’ is something that scientists find very interesting. Many of these cannabinoids may have valuable effects as medicine. Also misunderstood is the fact that certain chemicals in marijuana stay in your fat cells for up to a month. The part of marijuana that gets one high is called `Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.’ Your body will change Delta-9-THC into more inert molecules known as `metabolites,’ which don’t get people high. Unfortunately, these chemicals also have the word `tetrahydrocannabinol’ in them and they are also called THC-so many people think that the metabolites get people high. Anti-drug pamphlets say that THC gets stored in your fat cells and then leaks out later. They say it can keep people high all day or even longer. This is not true, marijuana only keeps people high for a few hours. These are the chemicals that stay in your fatty cells. There is almost no Delta-9-THC left over a few hours after smoking marijuana, and scientific studies which measure the effects of marijuana agree with this fact. What many people have yet to hear are the many medical benefits of smoking marijuana. Marijuana is better than regular prescription medications for many reasons. First, companies sell prescription drugs at high cost, partially because they are hard to make. Commonly, they do not work as well, either. Some prescription drugs which marijuana can replace have very bad, even downright dangerous, side-effects. Cannabis medicines are cheap, safe, and easy to make. Marijuana has thousands of possible uses in medicine. Marijuana (actually cannabis extract) was available as a medicine legally in this country until 1937, and was sold as a nerve tonic-but humankind has been using cannabis medicines much longer than that. Marijuana appears in almost every known book of medicine written by ancient scholars and wise men. It is usually ranked among the top medicines, called `panaceas’, a word that means `cure-all’. Many people think that the drug dronabinol should be used instead of marijuana. Dronabinol is an exact imitation of a chemical found in marijuana. There are many problems with Dronabinol, however. The first problem with Dronabinol is that it is even harder to get than marijuana. Many doctors do not like to prescribe dronabinol, and many drug stores do not want to supply it, because a lot of paperwork has to be filed with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Secondly, dronabinol comes in pills that are virtually useless to anyone who is vomiting. Also, taking just the right amount of dronabinol is difficult since it cannot be smoked. Finally, because dronabinol is only one of the many chemicals in cannabis, it just does not work for some diseases. Many patients do not like the effects of dronabinol because it does not contain some of the more calming chemicals which are present in marijuana. Marijuana has shown to be very beneficial in cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is one of the most important cancer treatments developed in the past several decades. It involves the intravenous administration of medication that kills cancer. In attacking cancer cells, they also kill healthy body cells, producing extremely unpleasant and dangerous side effects. They can cause bleeding, bruising, tissue rot, muscle rot in the heart, hair loss, and sometimes a new form of cancer. Still, the most common, and for many patients the most troublesome, side effect of these drugs is profound nausea and vomiting. Patients may break bones or rupture the esophagus while vomiting. This can be emotionally devastating. As they loose weight and strength, they find it ever more difficult to sustain the will to live. The side effects are so bad, patients often stop treatment altogether. Marijuana, taken with these ordinarily painful medications, suppresses, even eliminates, the side effects. This allows the patients to sustain the treatment, and helps them physically to expedite the healing process. Marijuana also has shown to be beneficial in patients suffering from the eye condition known as glaucoma. Glaucoma is a disorder that results from an imbalance of eye pressure, leading to blurred vision. If the eye produces too much of the internal fluid that keeps eye pressure, or if the channels to which the fluid flows are blocked, the increasing pressure may damage the optic nerve, which carries impulses to the brain. This would cause blindness. Glaucoma is the leading cause of Blindness in the U.S. Although present treatments work, they commonly cause side effects including depression, asthma, slow heart rate, heart failure, hypertension, heart disease, blurred vision, and cataracts. In an experiment to see the effects of Marijuana on the eyes, it was discovered that marijuana reduces in ocular pressure. In a study, “(the participants) eyes were photographed as they smoked, and the pupils were found to be slightly constricted . . . An opthamological examination showed that cannabis also reduced tearing. . . Further experiments indicated a similar effect in patients with glaucoma. . . for an average of four to five hours, with “no indications of any delirious effects. . . on visual function or ocular structure” (Grinspoon). Another instance where marijuana has been beneficial is in patients who suffer from epilepsy, a condition where certain brain cells (the epileptic focus) become abnormally excitable and spontaneously discharge in an uncontrolled way. This spontaneous discharge causes a seizure. Doctors treat epilepsy primarily with anticonvulsant drugs, but they help only 75 percent of the time. Furthermore, these drugs have terrible side effects encompassing bone softening, reduced production of red blood cells, swelling of the gums, and emotional disturbances. Overdoses my cause rapid uncontrollable eye movements, loss of motor coordination, coma, and even death. Studies have shown that treatment with cannabis is extremely successful. Here is a case of a 24-year-old man, a sufferer of epilepsy: “With the phenytoin (prescription medication), I had about one seizure a week. After smoking two to five joints per night, along with the original medication, the attacks no longer occurred. Even better, side effects exhibited by the prescription medication alone no longer occurred. It was a miracle.” (Grinspoon) Marijuana has been shown to be especially effective for sufferers of multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disorder in which patches of myelin (the protective covering of nerve fibers) in the brain and spinal cord are destroyed and the normal functioning of the nerve fibers themselves is interrupted. There is no known cure yet for MS. Corticosteroids provide some relief, but also produce weight gain and mental disturbances. Drugs that treat muscle spasms can cause drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, confusion, liver failure, diarrhea, speech and verbal disturbances, seizures, headaches, impotence, erotic blood pressure, depression, feelings of suffocation, and confusion. Greg Paufler was a suffering MS patient for many years. His doctor told him to take ACTH, a drug to retard the destruction of MS. After six weeks, he gained 130 pounds, found it hard to breathe, and was continuously drowsy. One evening, his friend brought over some marijuana. He smoked it, and Greg’s symptoms disappeared. He contributed this first to the mild high. His spasms became less severe. He thought that was caused by the ACTH. However, he continued to deteriorate. He soon lost his ability to speak, and see. He could not move at all. Doctors gave him megadoses of medications, but nothing helped. He was severely disenchanted with the medicine. One night he smoked a few joints with his friends. This same night he was able to walk, if for only a few steps. His doctor was unbelieving of the effects of marijuana. To prove that it was the marijuana, he stopped smoking for a week. His condition then began to deteriorate again. The marijuana really was beneficial. When he smoked, he could walk unaided, and see clearly. To prove the skeptics, he stopped smoking again for six months. He became blind, and lost control of his arms, legs, hands, and feet. He was now addicted to Valium and became depressed. He started smoking again. Within three weeks, he started to improve. After six months, he could read, write, walk, and could teach his children how to play soccer. He could kick the ball. He was reborn. On a scale of 100, his doctor rates his present health at ninety-five. The medical benefits of marijuana have also been witnessed in patients suffering from paraplegia and quadriplegia. Paraplegia is weakness or paralysis of muscles in the lower body caused by disease or injury in the middle or lower part of the spinal cord. If the injury is near the neck, the arms as well as the legs are affected and quadriplegia develops. Pain and muscle spasms often accompany both. Sufferers have noticed that cannabis not only relieves their pain more safely than opoids, but it also suppresses their muscle jerks and tremors. AIDS sufferers have also attested to the benefits of smoking marijuana. Doctors can treat AIDS with medications such as AZT. Unfortunately, AZT suppresses the production of the red blood cells by the bone marrow, decreases the amount of white blood cells, and has many damaging effects on the immune system. It also sometimes causes severe nausea that heightens the danger of semi-starvation for patients who are already suffering from nausea. AIDS patients who smoke marijuana have noticed reduced pain, and the elimination of vomiting and headaches. Patients who have stopped taking AZT and instead used marijuana alone have often found that they feel free of the virus. These results have been obtainable through the smoking of 2-3 joints per day. Marijuana smokers who suffer from chronic pain have likewise seen the benefits. Chronic pain is usually treated with opiod narcotics and various synthetic analgesics, but these drugs have many limitations. Opiods are addictive, and tolerance eventually develops; nonaddictive analgesics are not powerful enough. THC has been shown to relieve pain for several hours at doses as small as 5mg, and even longer at 20mg. THC also proved to be a sedative. It had fewer physical side effects than other commonly used analgesics. Sufferers of the migraine have furthermore seen how marijuana can reduce severe pain. Migraine, a severe headache that lasts from hours to days, results from dilated blood vessels in the brain. Visual disturbances and vomiting often accompany it. Marijuana has been shown extremely effective in preventing migraines. In contrast to ineffective analgesics, marijuana smokers do not exhibit side effects. “THC has been shown to inhibit the release of serotonin from the blood of migraine suffers during an attack.” (Grinspoon). This release of serotonin relieves the migraine, and can also prevent further attacks. Pruritis sufferers have testified to the substantial benefits of smoking marijuana. Pruritis is severe itching and inflamed skin. Steroids are only partially effective, and produce serious side effects with long term use. People who suffer from this condition have noticed that upon smoking marijuana for a few day s, their skin problems are cured. Just like the vast majority of marijuana smokers, they show no side effects. For chronic depression and other severe mood disorders, marijuana has proven to be an ‘upper’. Other drugs for these conditions can cause dry mouth, blurred vision, weight loss/gain, constipation, dizziness, insomnia, and reduced blood flow to the brain. Marijuana does not cause these symptoms. For people who cannot use legal drugs, Marijuana has been the cure they have needed. For asthma, marijuana serves as a powerful bronchialdialator with little or no side effects, compared to traditional asthma cures that can cause sleeplessness, jitteriness, nausea, bone loss, seizures, and bleeding. THC even helped non suffers breathe easier and clearer. In asthma patients, THC reversed bronchia constriction. For suffers of insomnia, cannabis is a great help. Cannabis has a long history as being a sleep inducing drug. New evidence shows that cannabidiol is the chemical that causes this. One controlled study of fifteen insomniacs found that over a five week period “sleep quality was significantly influenced by 160mg of cannabidiol as two thirds of the subjects slept more than seven hours . . . most subjects had few interruptions of sleep and have reported having a good nights sleep.” (Grinspoon). Marijuana has also been shown to have a positive effect on nausea sufferers. In the past, abortion was often necessary to save the woman’s life if she suffered form hyperemesis gravidarum – a greatly heightened form of morning sickness in which the sufferer is never free of nausea and vomiting throughout the pregnancy. Nowadays, the women are placed in hospitals and fed through an IV. Some have now discovered that they can do without the IV by smoking marijuana, proven to suppress vomiting and nausea symptoms. The relief given by marijuana can be beneficial to sufferers of many diseases. Without nausea, patients who get their nutrition intravenously can now get their food naturally. This enables patients to rebuild their strength, and it helps the body precipitate the healing process. Sufferers of dystonia can also attest to benefits derived from smoking marijuana. In 1981, it was reported that patients with idiopathic dystonia improved when they smoked marijuana. This is a group of disorders characterized by abnormal movements and postures resulting from prolonged spasms or muscle contractions. Animal studies confirmed that cannabinoids might have antidysotonic properties, and scientists undertook another human experiment in 1986 that showed the same results. The hemp plant shows its unique versatility by having many uses in industry. Hemp has many distinct benefits over its counterparts in industry today. Hemp usage would result in a cleaner and more efficient industry. One use of hemp in industry is as a fiber. The process of converting hemp into a fiber is quite simple, and is easy to do. The stalk of the hemp plant has two parts, called the bast and the hurd. Workers can weave the fiber (bast) of the hemp plant into almost any kind of cloth. It is very durable. In fact, the first Levi’s blue jeans were made out of hemp for just this reason. Compared with all the other natural fibers available, hemp is more suitable for a large number of applications. It is easy to harvest hemp for fiber. A field of closely spaced hemp is allowed to grow until the leaves fall off. They then cut down the hemp and it lies in the field for some time washed by the rain. They turn it over once to expose both sides of the stalk evenly. During this time, the hurd softens up and it returns many minerals to the soil. They call this process `retting,’ and after this step is complete, they bring the stalks to a machine that separates the bast and the hurd. They can then weave the bast. The cloth that hemp makes may be a little less soft than cotton, (though there are also special kinds of hemp, or ways to grow or treat hemp, that can produce a soft cloth) but it is much stronger and longer lasting. Hemp requires little fertilizer, and grows well almost everywhere. It also resists pests, so it uses little pesticides. Hemp puts down deep roots, which is good for the soil. When the leaves drop off the hemp plant, it returns minerals and nitrogen to the soil. Hemp has been grown on the same soil for twenty years in a row without any noticeable depletion of the soil. Using less fertilizer and agricultural chemicals is good for two reasons. First, it costs less and requires less effort. Second, many agricultural chemicals are dangerous and can contaminate the environment-the less we have to use, the better. Another industrial use for hemp is in victuals. Hemp seed is a highly nutritious source of protein and essential fatty oils. Many populations have grown hemp for its seed. Most of them eat it as `gruel’, a food similar to oatmeal. The leaves can be used as roughage, but not without slight psycho-active side-effects. Hemp seeds do not contain any marijuana, so they do not get you ‘high’. Hemp seed protein closely resembles protein as it is found in the human blood. It is easy to digest-many patients who have trouble digesting food are given hemp seed by their doctors. Hemp seed was once called `edestine’ and was used by scientists as the model for vegetable protein. Hemp seed oil provides the human body with essential fatty acids. Hemp seed is the only seed that contains these oils with almost no saturated fat. As a supplement to the diet, these oils can reduce the risk of heart disease. It is because of these oils that birds will live much longer if they eat hemp seed. With hemp seed, a vegan or vegetarian can survive and eat virtually no saturated fats. One handful of hemp seed per day will supply adequate protein and essential oils for an adult. Hemp has been used to `bail out’ many populations in time of famine. Because of various political factors, starving people in today’s underdeveloped countries are not taking advantage of this crop. In some places, this is because government officials would call it `marijuana’ and pull up the crop. In other countries, it is because the farmers are busy growing coca and poppies to produce cocaine and heroin for the local Drug Lord. Yet another industrial use of hemp is in the manufacturing of paper. Both the fiber (bast) and pulp (hurd) of the hemp plant can be used to make paper. Fiber paper was the first kind of paper, and the first batch was made out of hemp in ancient China. Fiber paper is thin, tough, brittle, and a bit rough. Pulp paper is not as strong as fiber paper, but it is easier to make, softer, thicker, and preferable for most everyday purposes. The paper we use most today is a `chemical pulp’ paper made from trees. Hemp pulp paper can be made without chemicals from the hemp hurd. Most hemp paper made today uses the entire hemp stalk, bast and hurd. High-strength fiber paper can be made from the hemp baste, also without chemicals. The problem with today’s paper is that so many chemicals are used to make it. High strength acids are needed to make quality (smooth, strong, and white) paper out of trees. These acids produce chemicals that are very dangerous to the environment. Paper companies do their best to clean these chemicals up. Hemp offers us an opportunity to make affordable and environmentally safe paper for all of our needs, since it does not need much chemical treatment. Because of the chemicals in today’s paper, it will turn yellow and fall apart as acids eat away at the pulp. This takes several decades, but because of this publishers, libraries and archives have to order specially processed acid free paper, which is much more expensive, in order to keep records. Paper made naturally from hemp is acid free and will last for centuries. The chemicals used to make wood chemical pulp paper today could cause us trouble in the future. Environmentalists have long been concerned about the effects of dioxin and other compounds on wildlife and even people. Beyond the chemical pollution, there are agricultural reasons why we should use cannabis hemp instead. When trees are harvested, minerals are taken with them. Hemp is much less damaging to the land where it is grown because it leaves these minerals behind. A newly discovered use of hemp in industry involves the production of biomass fuels, or fuels made from plants. The pulp (hurd) of the hemp plant can be burned as is or processed into charcoal, methanol, methane, or gasoline. The process for doing this is called destructive distillation, or `pyrolysis.’ This charcoal may be burned in today’s coal-powered electric generators. Methanol makes a good automobile fuel, in fact it is used in professional automobile races. It may someday replace gasoline.