Marijuana An Argument For Legalization Essay Research

Marijuana: An Argument For Legalization Essay, Research Paper Currently, drugs remain high on the list of concerns of politicians, and drugs are considered one of the major problems affecting our

Marijuana: An Argument For Legalization Essay, Research Paper

Currently, drugs remain high on the list of concerns of politicians,

and drugs are considered one of the major problems affecting our

country. Stories are on 11:00 news every night about people

being murdered on the streets because of drugs. Many people

think that drugs are only an inner-city problem, but in reality, they

affect all of us; non-users and users. I believe that the negative

effects associated with drugs would be reduced greatly if the

United States adopted a policy towards the total legalization of

marijuana. By this I mean completely legalizing marijuana for

recreational, medicinal, and other uses. The current drug policy

of our government is obviously failing. Drugs are quite present in

our society, and the United States drug policy has not deferred

drug trafficking to the point where it is beneficial. Drug laws have

created corruption, violence, increased street crime, and

disrespect for the criminal justice system. Besides that, the

American people should be allowed to enjoy what they like to do

responsibly and law enforcement could focus their attentions to

other more serious crimes.

Marijuana comes from the hemp plant, which can readily be grown

on fields across the nation and was cultivated heavily in the

colonial period. After 130 years of being able to grow and

consume marijuana, the potential problems of marijuana were

brought into the public eye in 1932. Harry J. Anslingler, the

commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, authored the

book Marijuana: Assassin of Youth (Goldman 88). In his book,

Anslinger portrayed images of Mexican and Negro criminals, as

well as young boys, who became killers while under the influence

of marijuana. With this and other added public pressure from

Anslinger’s book, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law

the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This law made the use and sale of

marijuana federal offenses, and at this point marijuana vanished

from the public eye.

In the mid-1960’s marijuana reappeared and the “Hippy” emerged.

Hippies were viewed as the abnormal people who did not “fit in”

and were often referred to as freaks. Widespread objection to the

use of marijuana remained because of the lifestyles associated

with hippies. Contrary to the belief of the population, the use of

marijuana appeared in colleges and among middle-class youths in

the suburbs. Marijuana became a symbol of a counter-culture,

youthful rebellion, and freedom for the non-hippie users. During

the next ten years marijuana use escalated to a point that it was

literally everywhere. Marijuana could be found in cities, towns,

suburbs, the country, and just about anywhere a person could

think of. People rooting from all different backgrounds were using

it, and consequently, marijuana was becoming more accepted

across the nation. For example, in 1997 a teacher at Pine View

School for the Gifted in Sarasota, Florida was “relocated to a

different school” because it was found that he was growing

marijuana for personal consumption. The users of marijuana, and

the attitudes about the danger of marijuana broke down. In 1970,

the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act

reduced the classification of simple possession and non-profit

distribution of marijuana from felonies to misdemeanors

(Himmelstein 103-104). However, President Richard Nixon

declared a war on drugs in 1973, and over the next 20 years, each

succeeding president continued to escalate the drug war. This

particular “drug war” is not only against marijuana but also against

harder drugs that are more dangerous. This policy has obviously

done nothing to stop the recreational use of marijuana in this

country; on the contrary, it is causing great harm. The policy is

preventing many people who could benefit from marijuana

medicinally and us costing the taxpayers money with little results.

It is time to try something new.

When some people imagine the legalization of marijuana, they

fear a marijuana free-for-all with everybody constantly getting

high and the United States Government being burdened by

legalization. In fact, the process of legalization would include a

law passed by Congress allowing the government to control the

content, quality, and distribution of marijuana. The laws would be

similar to the current laws regulating alcohol and tobacco,

including laws governing age, limits for driving, and distribution.

A thorough investigation of the costs and benefits of legalization

must be examined before any policy is implemented. In reality,

legalization will only make legal what many people do everyday.

There are a number of myths associated with the use of marijuana

which people who are opposed to the legalization of marijuana

repeatedly cite. One of these is that Marijuana causes brain

damage. People who are opposed base their claim on a study by

Dr. Robert Heath of the rhesus monkey in the late 1970’s. Heath’s

work was criticized for its insufficient sample size of only four

monkeys, its failure to control experimental bias, and the

misidentification of normal monkey brain structure as “damaged”

(Hager 1). Actual studies of human populations of marijuana users

have shown no evidence of damage to the brain (Hager 1). In fact,

the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

conducted two studies in 1977 and they showed no evidence of

brain damage in heavy users of marijuana (Hager 1). Later that

same year the JAMA came out in favor of the legalization of

marijuana (Hager 1). If marijuana did cause brain damage, would

the JAMA be in favor of legalizing it?

Another myth is that marijuana damages the reproductive system.

This is based on the work of Dr. Gabriel Nahas, who

experimented with tissue cells isolated in petri dishes. The cells

were dosed with near lethal levels of THC

(Delta-9-tetrahydocannabinol). The scientific community rejected

Nahas’s connections between the petri dishes and human beings

because the data was invalid. Studies of actual human

populations have failed to demonstrate that marijuana adversely

affects the reproductive system (Hagar 1). A persistent myth

about marijuana is that it is a gateway drug, which is a softer drug

that leads to the use of harder drugs. The Dutch partially

legalized marijuana in the 1970’s and since then the use of heroin

and cocaine has sharply decreased. The opposite of this gateway

affect is also present the United States. In 1993, a study by the

Rand Corporation compared drug use in states that have

lessened the penalty for marijuana use and those that have not. It

found that in states where marijuana was more available, hard

drug abuse (as measured by emergency room episodes)

decreased. What science and real experience tells us is that

marijuana tends to substitute for much harder drugs like alcohol,

cocaine, and heroin (Hagar 1).

Another common misconception is that marijuana is more

dangerous than alcohol. Extremely high doses of marijuana cause

death. “Extremely high doses” is the essential phrase. Scientists

have concluded that the ratio of THC,

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol the chemical that produces a high

(comparable to a ‘buzz’ from alcohol), needed to get a person

intoxicated (stoned) relative to the amount necessary to kill him is

1 to 40,000. That means that to overdose on marijuana a person

would need to consume 40,000 times more THC that a person

normally would to become intoxicated. The ratio of normal alcohol

consumption versus overdose varies between 1 in 4 and 1 in 10.

Over 5000 people die of alcohol overdoses each year, and no one

has ever died from overdosing on marijuana (Hagar 2). Many

would argue that this fact is because marijuana is illegal, but

consider the fact that marijuana is approximately a $46 billion

dollar industry (NORML).

Health care, increased crime and social aspects are the three

general areas which marijuana is not beneficial. One of the

definite proven disadvantages of marijuana is the fact that it is

more dangerous than cigarette smoking. Two marijuana

cigarettes (joints) create more airway impairment than do an

entire pack of cigarette (Miner 44). One joint contains three times

more tar than cigarettes do and marijuana is considered four

times more dangerous (Courtwright 54). Marijuana dramatically

increases the pulse rate and blood pressure during use. Many

politicians and some medical professionals project that lung

cancer cases will increase if marijuana is legalized. (Miner 44).

These are all valid arguments, but cigarette smoking is legal, and

the end result for many years of use is the same as marijuana;

lung cancer.

The American Civil Liberties (ACLU) advocates the full

legalization of the use, possession, manufacture, and distribution

of drugs (ACLU 1). The ACLU believes that marijuana being illegal

is unconstitutional. The following is an excerpt from their policy

on drugs, which was adopted in 1994:

“Criminalizing the use, possession, manufacture, and distribution

of drugs violates the principle that the criminal law may not be

used to protect individuals from the consequences of their own

autonomous choices or to impose upon those individuals a

majoritarian conception of morality and responsibility.

Enforcement of laws criminalizing possession, use, and

manufacture of distribution of drugs engender violations of civil

liberties. Because drug enforcement is aimed at behavior, which

is inherently difficult to detect and does not involve a complaining

“victim,” it necessarily relies on law enforcement techniques.

Such techniques include the use of undercover operations,

arbitrary or invasive testing procedures, random or dragnet

seizures, and similar measures that raise serious civil liberties

concerns. These enforcement techniques lead in practice to

widespread violations of civil liberties guarantees, including

those secured by the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments” (ACLU


The enforcement of the drug laws criminalizes the possession,

use, manufacture, and distribution of marijuana and this is what is

causing the violent crime. If a “marijuana black market” did not

exist there would not be any reason for illegal activity to be

associated with marijuana. Allen St. Pierre, Assistant National

Director of the National Organization for the Reformation of

Marijuana Laws (NORML), says that legalization will wipe out the

already 60-billion dollar black market by placing marijuana in the

open market. (NORML information pack 3). This war on drugs is

wasting the money, as well as the lives of American people. The

widely recognized opinion maker William F. Buckley, Jr. writes:

“…The time devoted to tracking down, arresting and then trying

marijuana users and then trying marijuana users is perhaps the

greatest exercise in lost time in contemporary activity. In the last

two years, approximately 750,000 arrests were made in our mad,

quixotic effort to stamp out marijuana. What this adds up to is

millions of police hours spent on bootless missions, millions of

hours of court time wasted, and millions of months in jail, using up

space sorely needed to contain people who can’t wait to get out

in order to resume mugging and murdering”


The drug law imprisons a multitude of otherwise law-abiding

people for non-violent acts that are directed at no one but

themselves (ACLU 1). Most small-time drug offenders were

growing marijuana for personal consumption or were posessing

marijuana for personal consumption. There were not driving

intoxicated of imposing a threat on anyone. Instead of eliminating

drugs, the prohibition of them merely fosters an illegal industry

able to inflate prices. This is hauntingly familiar to the prohibition

era of gangsters when alcohol was illegal in the 1920’s. The black

market is obviously the only place where drugs in general can be

sold and because of this fact violence is created, along with

deaths due to no quality regulation, and diseases are spread from

sharing illegal drug paraphernalia (ACLU 1).

The supporters of legalization believe that it will benefit society

in three ways, including revenue enhancement, medical benefits,

and hemp production. The largest and most appealing argument

for marijuana legalization is revenue enhancement for the United

States Government. Much of the money normally spent of law

enforcement, court time, and the cost of incarcerating prisoners

would be saved and used towards something more beneficial

(Schmoek 3). The United States spent roughly one billion dollars

on marijuana enforcement last year and the DEA has proposed a

400% increase in anti-pot spending within the next 10 years, yet

domestic marijuana production has only been reduced by 10%.

Furthermore, in 1989, 314,552 arrests were made for simple

possession (NORML 2). That’s 314,552 people that taxpayers paid

to hold in jail, for just having marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia

in their possession. America’s annual marijuana harvest was

worth $50.7 billion in 1989 and $41.4 billion in 1988. In comparison

to corn, a $31.4 billion harvest, marijuana grosses $28 billion more

and has the potential to become leading agricultural product in

the United States (NORML 2). With trade regulations, industry

regulations, and consumption taxes on marijuana, NORML has

estimated that legalization would produce over $40 billion in

taxable revenue (NORML 3).

Legalization offers Congress a resolution to the national debt

because marijuana sale could provide the needed funds to help

our economy and reduce our debt. In addition, marijuana could

help America’s medical patients. Advocates of legalization

constantly tout the medicinal benefits of marijuana. For cancer

patients, marijuana reduces nausea and increases the appetite

(Cauchon 4A). Marijuana also reduces epileptic seizures and

reduces nerve disorders in multiple sclerosis patients (NORML

3). I believe that if marijuana offers suffering patients extra quality

time from their life then attempts to legalize it needs support.

Legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, as California did in

1996 with Proposition 15, could possibly provide cures for

diseases, allow patients to feel relief, and allow research to be

conducted for future purposes.

One area that does not gather too much publicity in the

legalization issue is hemp production. Marijuana comes from the

top leaves and flowers of the female hemp plant. The fiber from

the top is used to make clothing, paper, rope, and methanol fuel.

Methanol is a liquid alcohol fuel that burns much like gasoline. It

is widely used in the manufacture of windshield washer fluid,

gasoline fuel additives, formaldehyde and other chemicals, and

methanol has promise as a transportation fuel. (Methanol Fuel 1)

(Some speculations is that the energy companies that hold a

strong say-so are against legalization because of the fuel that can

be derived from hemp) Hemp is also a versatile plant because it

grows in poor soil, thus not taking up any valuable agricultural

land (NORML 4). Male hemp plants (does not contain THC) now

grow in the U.S. because of its heavy production in the 18th and

19th centuries. Seventy-five to Ninety percent of all paper used

before 1883 was hemp paper, including the first two drafts of the

Declaration of Independence (Young 25). Hemp is also safer for

the environment. Hemp requires 40% fewer chemicals to produce

paper and over a time span of twenty years, one acre of hemp can

produce four times as much pulp versus an acre of trees (NORML

4). Therefore, the production of hemp would save trees, and

saving trees promotes cleaner air, and manufacturing marijuana

plants creates more jobs for people.

The push for legalization of marijuana is making news across

America just as it did in the 1960’s. Marijuana is the only illegal

substance that people can talk about, sing about, make movies

about, wear clothes that display the well-know marijuana leaf, and

basically tell the world “I smoke marijuana.” If a police officer asks

a person if they are intoxicated and a person says, “yes I smoked

marijuana,” and that person is not driving a vehicle the worst that

happens is the person spends a night in jail. Everyone knows

marijuana’s presence and it is totally accepted but if a person is

caught growing it, consuming it, or possessing it; it is only then

illegal. Marijuana use is glorified in movies like Dazed and

Confused and Half Baked and by music groups like Cypress Hill

and Busta Rhymes.

Increasing public support and media attention will slowly force the

legalization issue into the forefront of the political arena. If the

widespread acceptance and consumption continues among the

powerful new voting block, college students, the policy towards

marijuana could change in the near future. Weighing both the

costs and the benefits, the legalization of marijuana seems

inevitable. Many of the purported myths about its harmful effects

have been proven false. The current war on drugs is clearly

failing, and costing too many lives and too much money. There are

many benefits to be gained from the Cannabis plant: increased tax

revenue, safety due to governmental regulation, decreased crime

and use of hard drugs, and the environmental benefits of hemp to

name a few. With all these reasons taken into consideration the

legalization of marijuana seems like the best idea for America.


The Legalization of Marijuana

Cauchon, Dennis. “Marijuana: Medical Enigma.” USA Today 1 Oct.

1996, national ed.: 4A.

Courtwright David T. “NO!” American Heritage Feb. – March

1995: 43, 50-56.

Goldman, Albert. Grass Roots. New York: Harper & Row 1979.

Hager, Paul. “Marijuana Myths.” ICLU drug task force literature.


(22 Jan. 99)

Himmelstein, Jerome L. The Strange Career of Marijuana.

Westport Connecticut: Greenwood Pres, 1983.

Miner, Brad.”How Sweet is Mary Jane?” National Review 25 June

1996: 44.

National Association for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws


“Marijuana: Facts and Figures.” Information Pack.

Washington, DC: NORML, N.D.

National Association for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws

(NORML). Internet. Copyright 1998, (15

Feb. 99, 24 Mar. 99)

Natural Resources Canada. “Methanol Fuel.” Engergy

Publications (n.d.). Online. (6 Apr.


“Politics-Commentaries by Others.” Online. (Author Unknown) bummer/comments.html (5 Mar. 99).

Rosenfield, Jim. ACLU Drug Policy adopted April 1994:

“Decriminalization of Drugs.” [Board Minutes, April 8-9, 1994]


(25 Jan 99)

Young, Jim. “It’s Time to Reconsider Hemp.” Pulp and Paper

(1994): 25.