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Legalization Of Marijuana Essay, Research Paper
In America, we have a drug problem. Most do not like to admit it, but the problem is not getting better and it will most certainly not be solved with the current methods of drug enforcement. Those same people will also vehemently deny the fact that, those who use drugs are not the only ones causing the actual problem. Like the users themselves, the ones who wage the ”war on drugs” are also at fault, guilty of not doing what is best for the individual or the situation as a whole. In America or intentions towards drug use are sincere, but the approach of our legislators in regards to the problem does not accurately reflect the benefits of marijuana and the hemp plant, which in many ways hurts our society and our economy.
Marijuana, which is widely known as the drug most often used among Americans, takes responsibility for ninety percent of the drug use in America. Most do not realize that Marijuana is actually the largest cash crop in America even though it is illegal. The government estimates that it destroys at least ten percent of the marijuana produced in America each year, which means the Marijuana produced in this country each year is worth somewhere between twenty and forty billion dollars. This is an unbelievable number considering the enormous effort that the federal government makes to eradicate the production and distribution of marijuana. The government spends billions of dollars each year for drug task forces, drug prevention programs, and government agencies with the specific task of drug enforcement. Even with all of the efforts the government puts forth, drug use especially of marijuana users has not gone down significantly.
The origin of the marijuana plant is lost somewhere in pre-history, although it is probably native to central Asia, possibly China. It is among humanity’s earliest cultivated crops, dating back to the beginning of agriculture itself. The earliest archaeological evidence of marijuana date back some 10,000 years and show twisted hemp strands being used in the making of patters on clay pots. The ancient Chinese wove clothes, shoes and rope from hemp fibers, and produced the first paper from it. In the second millennium BC, “a Chinese medical compendium described marijuana as an agent for achieving euphoria”1. Cannabis has a 5,000-year history of therapeutic use, and not one case of accidental overdose. This proves that marijuana is far from a killer drug like the others it is grouped with. By the time of Christ it was used for pain relief, fever reduction, surgery, and as an appetite stimulant. It was also used in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, bronchitis, migraine headaches, insomnia, and many neurological diseases. Countries such as India and China both recognized it as a very effective and versatile medicine.
Marijuana and hemp cultivation and use continued into modern times, as several of our founding fathers cultivated and possibly used marijuana. Hemp was a vital part of our country’s resources and was instrumental to our success as a nation in many ways. “Hemp paper was used in early drafts of the Declaration of Independence, and hemp ropes kept generations of American ships sailing the Seven Seas. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both cultivated hemp on their plantations without any sort of problems or devastating effects.” In fact the hemp they grew on their plantations was probably used in many ways, as it is such a versatile plant. It remains a versatile plant today as it can be used or made into “paper, auto parts, textiles, and oils.”2 Hemp by nature is seriously different from marijuana. It has been confused with the high producing drug, marijuana for years, which has reduced its credibility. In truth, one could smoke nearly an ounce of hemp and not feel anything like the high one would get from one gram of marijuana. Hemp is an all-natural, environmentally safe material that has an abundance of uses, and should not be confused with a schedule 1 drug.
The very word Marijuana incites such a controversy and for many, a negative reaction like no other. Never before in majority public opinion or in legislation, has marijuana been endorsed or supported. For this reason marijuana has remained illegal since the 1920’s. But despite the dominant opposition, breakthrough attitudes and legislation towards marijuana have come about. Perhaps the most common and notorious of street drugs, marijuana remains the focal point of current legalization legislation. The first of such legislation was proposition 215. It allows persons to grow or posses marijuana for medical purposes when recommended by a physician. It allows the person to use marijuana without fear of prosecution, when a doctor has determined that using marijuana would be beneficial to his or her health. Proposition 215 allows “seriously ill” people to use marijuana to treat a wide range of symptoms with a doctors recommendation. No prescriptions are required for the use and the doctor’s recommendation may be oral or written. Though proposition 215 allows for medical use of marijuana, it does not allow the non-medical use of marijuana to be tolerated.
When it was first proposed many skeptics concluded that it would send the wrong message to people about drug abuse. “The danger is that kids get the message that drugs are no big deal,” but this has not been the case. The are no numbers or any kind of evidence to indicate that young people or anyone for that matter are using marijuana more frequently, since proposition 215 has been put into effect. Though “ten legislatures including California, have decriminalized marijuana legalization has not fared well on the ballot.”4 Even though proposition 215 has been supported in states like California, legalization is still too big of a step for both the public and for politicians. Even so, proposition 215 has not caused the public to decline into major marijuana abuse, and it has only helped those in need of medical relief.
The first “rediscovery” of marijuana as a medicine came in 1974 when Dr. Frederick Blanton from Fort Lauderdale, Florida reported that marijuana was successful in treating glaucoma. Three years later Florida, Hawaii, Illonois, Indiana, and new Mexico all legalized marijuana for medical research. Since then it has been used in clinical tests which have proven its effectiveness in combating various diseases, not just glaucoma.
Although the Drug Enforcement Agency tries to mislead the American public by claiming that Marijuana possesses no medicinal qualities, thousands of cancer, AIDS, and glaucoma patients have received treatment, and results from marijuana treatment. Although there have been results that prove marijuana’s effectiveness, the Institute of Medicine recently released a report stating that “marijuana should have clinical tests because It helps fight pain and nausea.”7 Results indicate that marijuana is an effective as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients, a nausea represent for chemotherapy patients, a muscle relaxant in spastic disorders such as multiple sclerosis, an anti-emetic, and an effective deterrent in the spread of glaucoma. These people obviously have nothing to gain by endorsing marijuana for personal use, which means that marijuana, as a medicinal drug is not a hoax. Marijuana has been proven in clinical tests and by patient results that it is an effective medicine for many disorders and diseases. For this reason proposition 215 will benefit these sick people as long as permission is obtained by their doctor. The proposition works, but in defiance of federal drug laws. Also who and what determines has not been defined in the proposition. These problems do pose a challenge for further marijuana legislation, but with public support, it may lead to changes in the federal drug laws, especially with regards to marijuana.
How can the government jail sick people with legitimate needs, when they’re only attempting to gain relief for their illnesses with the best available treatment? People in doubt of marijuana treatment may say there are better medicines available legally for prescription, but if they were truly better, these thousands of patients would not chose marijuana over them for treatment in the first place. Many legal drugs simply are not effective enough for these patients. Also many of these drugs have side effects that marijuana does not. Though many people chose to defy current drug laws and seek treatment from marijuana, many do not in fear of prosecution. These people do not deserve to live in pain because the treatment that they need makes them feel like criminals. To deny sick people the best treatment is simply wrong and should be looked upon as just that, not as criminals breaking laws for their own gain.
Part of the reason that current drug policies fail is because there are so many aspects to drug enforcement. It is not just a domestic problem, it is a worldwide process that begins where the drug can most discreetly be manufactured, and ends up wherever there is user demand, in this case the United States. There are several major drug-producing countries such as Columbia and Mexico where the drugs are produced, and then shipped using various methods in and out of countries. Because of this there is no one U.S. agency that can have total jurisdiction over the situation, which causes the situation to become harder to effectively eliminate thus somewhat enabling drug traffickers to squeeze through gaps in the system. Potentially, this aspect of the problem will never be solved because of the fact that the whole problem is too large to contain especially when it involves other countries.
Current drug laws also causes a public demand for marijuana and other drugs that simply will never be quenched. As long as people are told that they are not legally allowed to consume these substances, there will always be an exciting sense of desire to try these substances. For some, doing things illegally is much more exciting than doing those same things legally. The illegality of the drugs makes them more interesting to try. Although this is a seemingly minor reason to make drugs legal, it should be considered because it does have some effect on why some people do drugs in the first place.
These current laws also create a marketplace for drugs to be sold. A black market only exists when a product or substance remains illegal and a significant portion of the population supports or creates a demand for it. Once a black market exists, the government loses control, and the substance finds its way into the hands of anyone with enough cash to buy it, including teens and young adults. Legalization with limited access (such as we do for alcoholic beverages) controls who and how much of the drug they receive. Legalizing marijuana takes the profit out of marijuana. It also rids the government the burden of spending money to jail those who grow or harmlessly smoke marijuana. It also wipes out the need to spend billions of dollars each year on drug prevention and enforcement. This also effectively will keep drugs and marijuana out of the hands of children, and into the hands of people who need it most.
The opposition against marijuana is so strong in part because of the propaganda created to scare potential users away, has been embedded in the minds of the people who have the power to keep marijuana illegal. Many are stubborn to accept fact that contradict their existing knowledge on the subject. They still accept the philosophies of yesteryear, and let themselves believe the things parents used to tell their kids to scare them away from drugs. The people of today need to be aware of new research and truths about marijuana, and forget the stereotypes and misleading information. This situation causes true facts about marijuana harder to accept, and alternate solutions to the problem sound more unreasonable.
Though proposition 215 is somewhat popular with constituents, the courts have been active in trying to shut down the hash bars that have sprung up in the wake of proposition 215. In 1998 “a federal judge has ruled that the U.S. government may continue its legal drive to stamp out clubs that distribute the drug.”5 And as recent as this year, the Supreme Court has looked at the proposition, and made a ruling on medicinal marijuana legislation. The case, brought to the Supreme Court by prosecutors who lost an appeal of several “hash bars” fighting to keep their venues which give pot to seriously ill patients, was the first case brought to Supreme court in regards to current marijuana legislation. The case was argued that the only people receiving marijuana, were sick individuals who are in need of the drug and have obtained permission from their doctor, and that it is not a criminal act to do so. The court saw it a different way. They ruled that making marijuana legal for seriously ill patients would,” threaten to undermine Congress, unravel the nation’s war on illegal narcotics trafficking and turn cannabis cooperatives into dangerously unregulated pharmacies for pot.”1 The ruling is viewed as a setback to pro-marijuana activists, but they still believe that legalization will soon become a reality.
The issue has even reached the president, and he somewhat commented on the situation. “I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose”3, which means that he would not necessarily intervene if more states propose pro-marijuana legislation. This allows states to decide what is best for their people, and provide legislation accordingly. But though nearly all politicians do not support medicinal marijuana there are some outspoken ones who do. Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico and Gov. Jesse Ventura of Minnesota are both outspoken advocates of medicinal marijuana and are currently pushing for more legislation similar to proposition 215. “Medical marijuana? I fully support it, absolutely. Who is government to tell someone if they have AIDS or cancer, what they should be taking?”6 Ventura said in response to a post speech question at a university. This proves that not only is the message getting through to not only the public, but slowly to the representatives of the public as well.
Under current state law, it is a crime to grow or possess marijuana, regardless of its purpose. The law does not differentiate whether the drug is being use for sick people in need or for recreational users. Criminal penalties vary from state to state. Sentencing also depends on how much marijuana is involved. In some states possession of less than one ounce will get one little more than community service, but in others possession of a gram will get that person serious jail time. It also a crime to transport, import into a state, or to sell marijuana. Proposition 215 proposes to amend these laws, and gives clemency for those sick, an in need of the rug for relief. Licensed physicians routinely prescribe drugs (many much stronger than marijuana and potentially fatal) for medical purposes to patients in need. Pharmacists dispense the drugs, and keep records of those who have prescriptions and are receiving medications. Proposition 215 will also require the prescriptions to be made and records to be kept of who is receiving the drug and of how much.
The legalization of marijuana alone would be tremendous for both the public and the government as well. Patients in need, would have no trouble receiving treatment, and at a low cost, and a dependable source; the government. With marijuana regulation, profits from selling marijuana cigarettes would be massive. “Thousands of dealers would be put out of business overnight and a secret part of the economy would come into the open.” Crime would be reduced dramatically because the legality of the drug, immediately halts any need to fight or commit crimes for it. The benefits are many, in terms of economics, and in terms of crime, and in helping our sick people in need of treatment, and our government still turns a deaf ear to those in need; all of us. Progress is being made, but when will we be completely free as citizens to have complete control over our bodies and what we put into them? The answer is in education, not criminalization. The facts are out there, we just need someone to listen to them.
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