Should Marijuana Be Legalized ?

The opinion of Marijuana during the 70’s was much more definitive than it is today. Approval of Marijuana by 27 states, new medical studies, and its consequences on those convicted from use of the most common illicit drug in the world, is forcing the United States of America to rethink its stance on the matter. In general, the underlying argument about Marijuana in this country is: should Marijuana continue to be prohibited to citizens based on its health effects, medicinal values, and costs to the country? The reasons why this argument is so important are great.

As previously stated, Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world, and with millions of people using it regularly and almost 100 million that have ever used it in this country, the laws behind this drug hold great influence. It is because of this and the immergence of new evidence, that the justification behind prohibition of this drug is being rethought scientifically, socially, and economically. The use of Marijuana as both medicine and a recreational drug is being thoroughly questioned in the US. 7 states have Marijuana approved in some form, many of those for medical purposes however those users can still, and do get placed into prison by federal law. Currently, 830,00 people a year are in trouble with the law in regards to Marijuana and numbers seem to be on an uphill trend . Furthermore, the US invests 30 billion a year into the drug war, half of which is dedicated to Marijuana. Many are questioning its success all together. Both imprisonment and the war cost our country, and therefore our people, money. A change in laws is going to have a dramatic affect on America.

Marijuana comes from the Cannabis Sativa plant. Its discovery could have been as early as 2700 BC in China. Despite the Cannabis Sativa plant producing Marijuana it also produces hemp, which is a very useful cash crop that can produce several textile materials. Aside from hemp, Marijuana was used in America up until 1937, when it was banned by 47 states as a result of increased usage due to the 1920 amendment that outlawed alcohol. People no longer having access to alcohol went elsewhere for a recreational substance.

What causes the “buzz” users feel from Marijuana is a result of its entry into the bloodstream, and the binding of THC from Marijuana with brain receptors that cause the feelings of drowsiness, increased appetite, giddiness, hallucinations, and other effects. In 1965 President Johnson passed the drug abuse control amendment targeting all illicit drugs, and then in 1969 President Nixon declared an all out war on drugs and crime, giving birth to what would become the drug war we see today. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical Marijuana, setting off a significant trend through the country.

Today Marijuana is classified as a schedule I drug alongside Heroin, Cocaine, and Morphine, (this classification has been unchanged since the 1960’s). It was classified as a schedule I drug despite the fact that it was recommended by the CSA (controlled substances act) task force to not place it in this class. While certain states in the US currently allow medical Marijuana use, the Federal Government claims that their law overrules state law and therefore users of the medical Marijuana can be prosecuted. Certain concepts need to be understood in order for the information presented to be interpreted properly.

This argument covers legalization for medical and/or recreational use of Marijuana. This argument does not pertain to the legalization of all illegal drugs. This argument is not about Marijuana being healthy or good for anyone; however it is more focused towards its use in the medical field and its health effects in comparison to already legal substances. A few terms presented in the argument need to be understood. Marijuana is created when the leaves and female flowers of the hemp plant are dried, and it is commonly used but not limited to use in cigarette form.

THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol is the primary intoxicant of marijuana. Aside from the technical, there are a few legal terms as well. When the term decriminalization is used, what is proposed is the elimination of criminal penalties for marijuana, meaning that in most cases possession (with certain restrictions) would be treated as a civil offense and maximum charges could be a fine of a few hundred dollars. Decriminalization insures no prison time or creation of a criminal record. Marijuana legalization is simply the complete government authorization of the substance.

The Drug War is the resulting conflict between law enforcement and those who deal in illegal drugs. There are three major topical issues in the argument over marijuana legalization. First, does possess medical value? Second, is Marijuana harmful enough to remain illegal and how does it compare to other legal illicit substances? And lastly, what is Marijuana’s effect on our nation and how would legalization change this? Of the three issues related to the Marijuana legalization debate, Marijuana and its medical use might be the most widely discussed of them all. Opponents of Medical Marijuana bring up any significant arguments as to why it should not be condoned. The American Medical Association in 2001 stated that Marijuana should remain a schedule 1 drug, primarily basing their decision on the fact that they do not believe it has any medical value and that it has “no accepted medical use” and possesses a “high potential for abuse”. The FDA has a specific process in which the joint medical and scientific communities conduct certain procedures to determine whether drugs can be considered safe and effective as medicine, and Marijuana has not been approved by this process.

The government also insists that Marijuana supporters are using the medical Marijuana “angle” as a ploy to get the whole drug legalized for recreational use, a valid point that definitely stirs up some question. Also, the countries that permit the drug to be used medicinally have not produced conclusive research on Marijuana’s applications in medicine. Opponents also justify Marijuana’s prohibition with the decision that if the FDA hasn’t approved it, it must be too dangerous to use.

They also emphasize the fact that they believe that Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, can be used as an alternative to Marijuana and makes the whole plant unnecessary. After all, certain studies did show that smoking five joints of Marijuana a week may be equivalent to smoking a full pack of cigarettes daily, in terms of the amount of cancer causing chemical Marijuana contains. Opponents against Marijuana legalization for all purposes believe that it is harmful to the users and therefore should remain illegal.

One of the most famous points made by prohibitionists is that Marijuana is a gateway drug and leads to harder drugs. They also argue that Marijuana contains up to 25% of THC today, compared to a miniscule 3% in the 1960s. This clearly indicates an increased potency in the intoxicating chemical. It has been scientifically proven that THC is stored in body fat, so some believe that it is possible that regular smokers could have enough stored in their system to be “sedated” at all times. There was a test conducted by a Dr. Robert Heath on monkeys that revealed THC in Marijuana caused that serious brain damage.

Opponents also claim that long-term use has shown changes in the brain similar to those seen from other drugs. Alterations in nerve cells have indicated an affect towards the subject’s motivation, which could possibly explain one of the commonly used arguments against Marijuana. The risk of heart attack also quadruples during the first hour smoking, and blood pressure also rises. Prohibitionists contend that smokers become more susceptible to respiratory illnesses, increased phlegm production, chest illnesses, lung infections and cancer of the head and neck.

These prohibitionists also state that Marijuana smoke has 50-70 percent more carcinogens than tobacco smoke, making it possibly more harmful than cigarettes. They also claim that smoking reduces the immune system’s ability to fight disease. Another very important aspect of their argument is that despite Marijuana not following the characteristics of a substance that causes true addiction, there still has been signs of addictive potential for users. These include irritability and sleeplessness among others. One of the most overlooked issues in the legalization debate is the influence of Marijuana prohibition to our economy.

The opponents of legalization justify the costs of prohibition with the main point that our society would be negatively affected if legalized. Firstly, they feel that if legalized the danger of Marijuana will be misinterpreted by the public and would ultimately increase the potential for abuse. They are also convinced that we would see a crime rate increase on a nation-wide scale if Marijuana was no longer prohibited and was allowed to the public. Prohibitionists also insist that a drug market would still exist for miners, and that decriminalization would increase the usage of the drug.

If it will be allowed medically, they believe it would also be accepted recreationally on false grounds. In regards to Marijuana and its medical value, proponents of legalization believe that Marijuana meets the FDA criteria as a substance in which the benefits outweigh its risk. This is considered to be a guiding principle when the FDA makes a decision towards approving a substance for medicinal use. Three different US government studies have shown that Marijuana may have medical value. The most recent of these was a one million dollar study by the Institute of Medicine.

Many claim that Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, abolishes the need for Marijuana to be used as medicine, but it has been shown that it is just not as effective as smoking. Furthermore, there are other chemicals in Marijuana that help patients in ways that Marinol cannot. Another problem with Marinol is that takes quite a long time to begin working, costs more than Marijuana, and leaves the patient intoxicated for much too long of a time span (about 8-12 hours). Marinol is ingested in pill form, but many that use Marijuana to suppress nausea and vomiting find hat swallowing pills are counter-productive to this problem. This is due to the fact that the pills get vomited out because they simply take too long to work, entirely defeating the purpose of taking the medicine. On top of this, proponents also argue that the US is becoming increasingly alone in Marijuana persecution. Currently the Netherlands regulates Marijuana; and Belgium embraces it as medicine and is also considering legalization for recreational use as well. New Zealand and Australia are also following the trend and are considering it for medical use.

Proponents also argue the issue of whether Marijuana is in fact harmful, or more harmful than the already illegal illicit substances such as alcohol or tobacco, quite fervently. They state that there is not one documented record of anyone ever dying from Marijuana consumption, while the same cannot be said for alcohol and tobacco. They also argue that Marijuana should not be classified as a schedule I drug alongside heroin and cocaine etc. because it is simply much more mild and less harmful of a drug, even less harmful than alcohol and tobacco.

Supporters also emphasize that Marijuana does not damage the brain as many have claimed, it simply increases the activity of the brain related to alpha waves, which is what causes the relaxed, meditative, and creative states that make up the “high” feeling. Advocates of legalization claim that it is simply untrue that Marijuana is more potent now than it was, enforcing the fact that poor storage in evidence rooms during the 70s caused a decline in potency results on tests and that Marijuana is the same now as it was in the 70s.

Proponents also combat the claims that Marijuana impairs memory by stating that the impairment only occurs while intoxicated, and that the studies related to this were misleading people into believing that damage was permanent when in fact it was temporary. Supporters admit that Marijuana contains 1,000 chemicals but negate those claims with the example that coffee contains 800 chemicals that scientists consider to be volatile and only 21 of the 800 have been tested on animals.

Proponents also justify Marijuana’s harmlessness with the fact that it takes 40,000 times the amount needed for intoxication in order for someone to die from Marijuana, while it only takes 4-10 times the amount for one to consume a lethal dose of alcohol. There was also a commercial TV ad from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America that aired in the late 90s that was a “flat out lie. ” When researchers complained about the validity of the ad that demonstrated how Marijuana flattens brain waves it got pulled from the air.

Advocates of Marijuana legalization also insist that most of the arguments held against marijuana are those in regards to respiratory harm (comparable to cigarette smoking), and that they can be abolished by the many alternative methods for Marijuana use which include vaporization, or the consumption of cannabis in certain foods, to name a few. Many recognize Marijuana prohibition as a large burden to our economy, and proponents of legalization state that this burden would be removed if Marijuana was legalized and regulated by the government.

According to many, America is waging a very expensive and seemingly ineffective war on drugs that is costing our nation 30 billion a year. Half of this cost goes towards the prohibition of Marijuana, so if legalized, Marijuana supporters deduce that we would reduce the cost of the drug war by roughly 50 percent. Proponents of legalization also emphasize that based on those statistics we would be spared 15 billion a year, which could be used more constructively. The drug war causes 830,000 arrests a year for Marijuana related charges, which is costly and is considered to be an unjust punishment by many.

Proponents and economists both purpose that our economy could benefit from legalization (regulation), and commonly use Holland as an example. Holland earns 67. 5 million a year from Marijuana, most of which is locally grown, also providing hemp products that pump revenue into their economy. If the Government regulated and taxed Marijuana, similar numbers could be seen. Currently through taxation alone, tobacco and alcohol bring in 11. 4 million annually to the government, and Marijuana would be believed to show similar return.

Proponents also argue that Marijuana prohibition is a burden not only to our economy, but also to our society, and that regulation of the substance could fix all of this. The arrests of 830,000 people a year ruin the lives for many, stamping them with criminal records that they forever carry with them. Because Marijuana contributes to half of the drug war, if legalized half the drug dealers would be out of work and as result our society can expect to see a 50% reduction in crime related to the drug war.

Proponents insist that regulated substances would actually cause a decrease in use, as can be ascertained by the fact that only 4% of Holland’s population uses Marijuana, where 7% of our population is comprised of users. Not only does Holland have fewer users than America, but since Marijuana has been legalized, the usage of hard drugs have actually decreased amongst the people of the Dutch nation. And finally, studies are showing that treatment is shown to be seven times more cost effective than criminal interjection for drug matters. It is these crucial points that drive the arguments of proponents.

To summarize this entire debate the underlying views of both the proponents and opponents of these three issues involving the legalization of Marijuana must be restated. Opponents of the first issue, whether Marijuana has medical value or not, believe that it simply possesses no medical use and can be avoided with synthetic alternatives to the plant itself. They also believe that there is not enough research disproving their theory in order for them to reconsider its prohibition for medical use. Proponents, on the other hand, believe that there is conclusive research made by several studies proving that Marijuana can help the ill.

They also believe that it meets the criteria necessary for it to be labeled as a “medicine. ” Is Marijuana harmful enough to remain legal and how does it compare to the two recreational substances alcohol and tobacco? This is the second major issue, or question that needs to be answered. Opponents believe that Marijuana possesses enough threat to humans that it should remain illegal, while the supporters of legalization combat those claims with the presentation of more modern research and new discoveries that jeopardize its current status as a harmful, illegal drug.

The third issue in this debate is, how would Marijuana legalization affect our nation? Opponents believed that society would be affected negatively and see increased crime rate, and drug use among other things. Proponents believed the opposite of this, using statistics and testimony to predict the positive outcome of legalization. Based on extensive researching and intense analysis of both sides of the argument, I believe without a doubt that there is no reason to keep imprisoning those who use Marijuana in our country.

The fact is, that prohibitionists have an outdated ideology toward the matter, and what they believe is either based on false evidence from inferior scientific studies, or simply the result of nation-wide naivety that has rubbed off on them. As we progress and progress into the 21st century it is becoming clearer and clearer that Marijuana is just-as-if-not less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. The government funded studies and advertisements that reach the public eye is misleading and to blatant, more fictional than the comic strip on the back of the Daily Star.

I cannot say why the government insists on driving this propaganda machine forward or turning the other cheek as more and more states by way of democracy decide to decriminalize Marijuana, but I can only speculate that it is because of a few key political figures that reap profits from the drug war and that half the DEA would have nothing to do. Science is proving Marijuana to be quite harmless, and if you ask anyone that has broken what is possibly the most ridiculous law of our time and has tried Marijuana, they would probably tell you that they agree.

We need to leave be the people that would rather choose to sit down after work and smoke a joint than drink a bear. The drug war costs tens of billions, and is an absolutely cataclysmic failure. If legalized, our indebted economy would be spared millions, innocents would no longer be unjustly imprisoned, our crime would be reduced, and Marijuana would no longer be able to be obtained by innocent adolescents, instead by adults who have the right to choose for themselves whether they should use this nature-grown plant or not.

Marijuana should be legalized for all purposes and anyone that semi-educated or possesses half a brain would probably agree with me. At the very least we need the poor, innocent patients, (most of which whom are elderly and terminally ill), to be able to take the medicine that provides them any amount of relief from both the physiological and psychological pain that they bear, without having to worry about the risk of possibly being arrested or imprisoned alongside murderers, rapists, and lunatics. These prohibitionist laws need to be changed before more people suffer from the consequences of this insanity.

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