MArijuana Essay, Research Paper
Description: Marijuana Legalization Body of Essay: Everybody Must Get Stoned? Pot. Weed. Dope. Marijuana has many names and slang terms associated with it, and many perceive it to be the most widely used illicit drug in this country. Music stars are thrown in jail for possession of it. Movie stars are arrested for planting it. Non-violent drug offenders are in jail next to murderers. Some states allow people to smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes to make them feel better, while others are put in jail for smoking it recreationally to feel good too. Marijuana has become a prevalent cause of clashes between vastly differing viewpoints. While medical research continues to show that the drug, like all other drugs, can have negative long-term effects, many could benefit from its medicinal qualities. Others feel that it should be their civil freedom to smoke marijuana for any reason at all. Should you be able to use whatever means possible to reduce your pain if you happen to be afflicted with glaucoma or cancer? Should your grandchildren be able to ?smoke up? legally? Should the government continue its current strategy towards stopping the problematic drug situation in this country? What is most important to you? Following are the three main viewpoints on this issue; pro-legalization for medicinal purposes, pro-legalization for all purposes, and anti-legalization. I will start with the medicinal legalization of marijuana. It is proven to have positive effects on those afflicted with various diseases, marijuana can be a helpful drug (Stempsey 1). Patients who have undergone chemotherapy for cancer may benefit from marijuana?s anti-nauseant properties. Glaucoma sufferers can find relief from painful swelling in the eye by smoking the drug. Marijuana can be used as an appetite stimulant for thinning AIDS patients in need of nourishment (Boyd 1). Clearly the drug may be used to help certain people alleviate the adverse symptoms of serious diseases. Often times, sick patients may find that marijuana provides the best, or perhaps the only way to find relief (Stempsey 1). They feel that they should be able to use any means necessary to ease their pain. After all, other dangerous drugs are used for similar reasons. When I was in the hospital, I received codeine to reduce my pain and help me sleep. Codeine, out of the context of a hospital, becomes an illegal and dangerous drug. Many people receive morphine, a highly addictive and illegal drug, for similar pain-reducing reasons. Medicinal legalization supporters would argue that many other patients receive drugs, illegal without a doctor?s prescription, to help them. These patients use whatever means possible to reduce their suffering. Many would suggest that marijuana should be legal for the same reason other drugs are available. If you were afflicted with one of the previously mentioned diseases, would you agree? Why should you have to suffer when a drug exists that would help? Some powerful supporters ask the same question. While many new uses for drugs may be initially viewed with skepticism and doubt, research and verification bring them into the realm of acceptance. The medical world gets new information through medical journals and publications. The New England Journal of Medicine and the American Medical Association have both supported medicinal uses of marijuana (Boyd, Stempsey 1). More than 70 published studies of research over recent years support the viewpoint that the drug does indeed have effects that could be beneficial to certain patients suffering from specific ailments. Clearly the medicinal legalization stance does not lack backing from the medical world. Also joining in support are two states, which have taken the initiative and instituted laws that allow, under very strict circumstances and monitoring, the use of marijuana for medicinal purpose. Proposition 215, a recent law in California, stipulates that marijuana may be used for medicinal purposes by certain patients (Forbes, Boyd 1). If you have watched the news recently, you may know that many opponents currently attack this law, feeling that it should be repealed. A similar law in Arizona, proposition 200, has also found itself under scrutiny for legalizing the drug (Boyd 1). Thus, some states have also shown support for medicinal marijuana, recognizing it as a drug that could help people, not just one that can harm them. These laws may be revoked in both states, but the simple fact that they once stood still stands testament to the fact that adequate support exists for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. This is the point where pro-legalization splits into two groups. The previous group strives only for marijuana to be available as an option for patients who, under a doctor?s close supervision, could benefit from it. Many people take the argument a step farther and push for marijuana to be totally legal. In other words, an adult could get marijuana for whatever reason he or she wants, whether it be medical or purely recreational. This pro-legalization-without-qualifiers argument is the second viewpoint. Brian Rubino, mentioned before, would most likely support this second stance. Proponents of the idea that marijuana should be legal for all uses believe that it should be just as available as tobacco and alcohol are; that is, marijuana should be legal, but with age restrictions. Those supporting the legalization of marijuana do not push for it to be sold without restriction, instead they believe that the drug should be available to the mature public. Sold in a ?regulated market? (Baker 2), much like tobacco and alcohol are, the government could retain control over the quantity and quality of the drug available. Think about being able to go into a state marijuana store and purchasing a desired amount of the drug with a valid ID, identical to the way alcohol is sold in most states. You would posses the freedom to choose for yourself, and is freedom not the basis of this country? Legalization, therefore, would not cause use of the drug to suddenly run rampant, as some may suggest, because the government could still retain control over it–the control that the government strives for to stop the ever-worsening situation in this country. Many people would agree that the drug situation in this country is out of hand. Gangs kill for them, thugs rob vulnerable and oftentimes helpless people to feed their addictions, and jails are crowded with inmates on drug and drug related charges. Therefore, could legalization possibly create a situation more indomitable than the current one? Brian and his supporters would argue that it could not (Baker 2). They believe that legalization may actually help relieve the current situation in this country. It still remains unclear what exactly would happen if the drug were to be made legal: drug use could suddenly rise further out of control due to the lack of restraints and ease of acquisition. But pro-legalization advocates argue that it would drop off, partially due to a lack of ?thrill? associated with the drug. Pro-legalization supporters also believe that there would be a drop in crime if people were allowed to do as they pleased, so long as it does not hurt anyone else (Baker 1). They argue that if a pot smoker could get the pot he wants legally, he would not be forced to steal and commit other crimes in order to get it. Similarly, the black market for the marijuana would dry up and drug lords would no longer be making big money selling the drug to kids. Brian and his supporters argue that the legalization of marijuana could help alleviate many of the problems in society today, including the ever-worsening drug situation. With a drop in crime, people your age would be safe to walk the streets of your neighborhood without fear. One of the most predominant supporters of the pro-legalization viewpoint is the ever-battling ACLU. ACLU stands for The American Civil Liberties Union. One of their most famous endeavors, the Scopes evolution trial of the 1940s, helped create the organization?s image as a foundation that fights for anyone?s right to say or do almost anything. The Union has become famous for representing the personal freedoms of oppressed individuals, and it supports the legalization of marijuana because of the belief that the current war on drugs violates people?s civil rights (Baker 1). The ACLU feels that it should be a person?s right to choose what they can and cannot do, and that this decision should not be left in the hands of the government. Similarly, many libertarians and other left-wingers feel that the government should have less intervention in people?s lives (Rehring 1), and therefore should not have the right to make marijuana illegal. They see the legalization of the drug as a step towards personal freedom, viewing themselves as freedom fighters of the modern decade (Rehring 1). Overall, Brian and his supporters feel that marijuana should be legalized for all users, noting that doing so would help reduce the crime and drug problems that persist despite the current government?s massive efforts to curtail them. These pro-legalization advocates perceive the legalization of an illegal drug as having no repercussions, as having only positive long-term effects. This perception is exactly what supporters of the final viewpoint, anti-legalization, vehemently disagree with. Anti-legalization advocates believe that legalization could only make a bad problem worse, and that the legalization of marijuana would absolutely be the wrong step to take. They think that marijuana should remain illegal for all reasons, medicinal and recreational. This final viewpoint, which Michael Fisher would most likely support, stands opposite both of the previous stances: marijuana should not be legalized for any reason. Donna E. Shalala summarizes the position in a simple sentence, ?marijuana is a problem in our country because it is harmful, not because it is illicit? (Shalala 1). After all, research has continued to show that marijuana has damaging long-term physical and mental effects. If used during pregnancy by a woman, it can have adverse intellectual effects on the baby when it is born (Shalala 1). A long list of dangerous side effects proves the user herself is also at great risk: marijuana damages short-term memory, changes the heart rate, alters perception and therefore reduces judgement and coordination (Shalala 1). Obviously a serious and dangerous drug, marijuana may be rightly ruled illegal. Anti-legalization supporters point to this physical and mental degradation when explaining their position. Other societal problems have also been linked with marijuana use, such as poor academic performance, juvenile delinquency, crime, automobile accidents, and arrests (Shalala 1). In other words, people smoking marijuana do not get the most out of life, and may harm others as well. They do not reach their potential as human beings, and the drug takes most of the blame. No evidence exists that suggests the crime rate would decrease with the legalization of marijuana (Forbes 1). Not only would the crime rate not decrease, addiction would increase. More people would undoubtedly become addicted to the drug, at least initially, if it were made readily available (Forbes 1). Why, then, would we choose to make such a dangerous substance legal and readily available? We do not want more kids, like Michael, ending up in jail and ruining their lives because of drugs. Even worse, marijuana use may lead to more dangerous experimentation. Marijuana has been denoted by some as a ?gateway drug?. In other words, it leads to the use of harder drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, in some users (Shalala 1). By legalizing marijuana, we could potentially lead more young people?more of your grandchildren?to use crack and speed. One of the main problems in this country remains drug use, and by making another substance legal we would simply be making the problem worse. Similarly, legalization would change the mindset of teens faced with the decision to smoke or not One of the reasons that kids have to not use the drug, the simple fact that it is illegal, means they have morality on their side when they choose not to participate in the use of marijuana (Shalala 1). By stripping them of that defense, what reason would hold youngsters back from giving in to peer pressure? And with the drug more readily available, that peer pressure would almost certainly rise. Without the law on their side–without knowing that they are right by remaining drug free–many kids would no longer have a reason not to do marijuana. Do you want you grandchildren to smoke pot? If not, you would not be alone in that viewpoint. Support for the anti-legalization stance remains very widespread. The National Institute of Drug Abuse has refuted all studies that support legalization of the drug for medicinal purposes, and the Institute still holds an extremely anti-legalization view (Boyd 1). Similarly, politicians in Washington are also against legalization of marijuana, as illustrated by the current strategies to stop the use of the drug. Backed by millions of tax dollars, the war on drugs that the government currently wages must be supported by the majority of the general public. It would be safe to say that most voting-age adults support the anti-legalization viewpoint because, as of now, the drug remains illegal, with no sure signs of becoming legal in the near future. Overall, anti-legalization supporters, including Michael Fisher, argue that the legalization of marijuana would have no positive effects on society and would actually cause the problems of today to become even worse tomorrow. Surely you do not want your grandchildren to live in a world with worse problems than today. Clearly this issue has a lot of people thinking about what is most important to them, and who they believe. Some people could seemingly benefit from the medicinal qualities of the drug; others feel that their personal freedom is being violated and that they should be able to do what they want; and many still feel that legalization does not create a solution, but only exacerbates societal problems. Each side has the support of respected organizations behind them, and each presents a compelling argument as to why they are right. It all comes down to what you decide. The three people described in this paper?Edgar Brown suffering from glaucoma, Brian Rubino smoking pot every weekend, and Michael Fisher, in jail because of marijuana?could represent your friends, your grandchildren, or you. Now that you have heard the facts and seen the arguments of each side, it seems that you have to make a difficult decision. There are three sides to choose from, and now you must make the choice?your health, your freedom, or your grandchildren. What is most important to you?