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Marijuana Legalization 3 Essay, Research Paper

This paper is to enlighten those who want to learn about marijuana and to hopefully leave them with the thought that it should be legal once again. Marijuana s makeup, effects, and history are told along with how it was used back in the ancient days for entertainment and medicinal use. Then the uses that marijuana has in today s world are talked about. After which I explain the governments involvement with marijuana and how the legalization would only help our country.

Marijuana has been around for over 12,000 years. The name Marijuana is Spanish-American and refers to the mixture of leaves, stems, and flowering tops of the hemp plant, in the genus Cannabis. There are three species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Mark Merlin explains how the plant grows up to 16 to 20 feet high, and is easily identified by its large leaves (17). Both male and female contain similar leaves. The male plant only has five leaves in a group and produces stronger fibers for hemp, but the female plant has seven leaves in a group and it is better for drug purposes since it is the only one which flowers. The hemp plant now grows wild throughout most of the world and can be cultivated in any area with a hot season. Some 421 chemicals in 18 different chemical classes have been detected in the hemp plant. It synthesizes at least 61 distinct substances called cannabinoids that are not found in any other genus of plants. The most significant of these substances is 1-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, an oily, water-insoluble liquid which is used as a protector. In popular writing it is often called simply THC. The THC content of marijuana generally varies from 0.5% to 6%.

THC is the chemical that is responsible for the effects felt after eating or smoking marijuana. Earlier last year, it was discovered that the membranes of certain nerve cells contain protein receptors that bind THC. Once securely in place, THC kicks off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the high that users experience when they smoke marijuana. The effect depends on the percentage of THC, the dose, the route of administration, and on the degree of tolerance that has been developed.

The most common result is the state commonly referred to as a “high”, including an increased sense of well being (euphoria), relaxation, and sleepiness. Short-term memory is impaired, and the capacity to carry out goal-directed problems requiring multiple and mental steps is reduced. Users may experience feelings of strangeness and unreality. Sights and sounds may take on new qualities. The sense of time is often altered to that minutes may seem like hours. Balance and stability are impaired even with low doses, as are complex behaviors (perception, information processing) involved in driving. Low doses also produce an increase in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, and a reddening of the eyes due to dilation of conjunctival vessels. Higher doses can produce hallucinations, delusions, and unrealistic suspiciousness and feeling of persecution. Anxiety increases, and a state of panic may occur. Thinking becomes confused and disorganized. Because the onset of the drug effect is rapid when marijuana is smoked, most users learn to avoid overdose by taking only as many inhalations as are required to produce the desired “high”. Unlike most drugs marijuana is not highly addictive. As Janet Joy states:

Although few marijuana users develop dependence, some do. But they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs. Drug dependence is more prevalent in some sectors of the population than others, but no group has been identified as particularly vulnerable to the drug- specific effects of marijuana. Adolescents, especially troubled ones, and people with psychiatric disorders (including substance abuse) appear to be more likely than the general population to become dependent on marijuana. (Joy 98)

Along with the fact that marijuana is not a highly addictive drug, no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose, which would be rare since the user needs to ingest close to a quarter ton of weed within a couple of hours.

The plant has been used for many things such as hemp for clothing and paper, and the flowers for food, medicine, paper, tools, and for many other purposes. The hemp plant was well established in the ancient world of medicine. A Chinese pharmacopoeia compiled nearly 2,000 years ago recommended it for treating a number of disorders, and it was used in India before the 10th century AD. John Rublowsky said that ancient Chinese physicians used marijuana as a remedy for gout, rheumatism, malaria, constipation, loss of appetite, and an aid during childbirth (93-4). Marijuana was also used to soothe pain. After smoking marijuana, people in pain slipped into a great relaxation, and would help take their minds off the pain. They would also use a mixture of the plant s resin with wine as a type of novocaine. There are no currently approved uses for marijuana in the United States, except for two states California and Arizona, which have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. Clinical research has shown that THC is effective in reducing the nausea that cancer patients experience when they are treated with chemotherapy. Marijuana is also believed to stimulate appetite. In asthma patients, several studies have shown that THC acts as a bronchodilator and reserves bronchial constriction. In treating epilepsy, marijuana is used to prevent both grande mal and other epileptic seizures in some patients. Marijuana also limits the muscle pain and spastically caused by multiple sclerosis and it relieves tremor and unsteady gait. Lastly, marijuana has been clinically shown to be effective in relieving muscle spasm and spasticity.

The hemp plant was once a widely cultivated plant in the New World by settlers. It has been known for centuries that the fiber from the hemp plant is very useful in making ropes. Therefore the cultivation of the hemp plant was encouraged and much needed. The Virginia Assembly, urging farmers to grow the crop for its fiber passed the first law concerning the hemp plant in 1619. There was virtually no significant legislation passed concerning the hemp plant until the 1900’s. It was at this time when American attitudes towards Mexicans became hostile. Marijuana obtained a foul reputation when Mexican peasants crossed the border into Texas. It was widely used by Mexican peasants as an intoxicant. The Texas police claimed that marijuana caused these Mexican settlers to commit violent crimes. Therefore in 1914, the first ban on possession of marijuana was passed in El Paso, Texas. Many other states followed Texas, and on August 3, 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. This law made the possession of marijuana illegal anywhere in the United States. Ernest Abel stated, Just before the vote was taken, a short exchange took place showing that Congress was not even aware of what the drug marihuana was, although they were being asked to outlaw its use (247). Marijuana was just subject to an unfair fight in which it had no chance to remain as a legal substance. The main reason why it was outlawed was because of the vast increase of users, a user included the average person, rich, parents, and even respectable figures. I feel the marijuana outlawing was just subject to the drug abuse that was occurring around the 60 s as Wayne Morgan states (159). During the McCarthy era, the Boggs Acts were passed to define mandatory minimums for the possession of marijuana. Congress moved to an even stronger position in 1956 by lengthening these mandatory minimum sentences. Anti-marijuana feelings continued to grow, and state laws often imposed stricter penalties than the federal penalties. In the 1960’s, however, a strange phenomenon began to occur. For the first time in history, marijuana use began to rise amongst the white middle class. Many mandatory sentences were repealed. This was seen in the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Most of the states followed the federal government, and the possession of marijuana was decriminalized. However in the 1980’s the government once again changed its mind, with the passage of the Anti-Abuse Act of 1986, which once again imposed mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of drug offenses. The last major piece of legislation passed by the federal government (not state governments) was in 1996, which stated that any American convicted of a marijuana felony would no longer receive federal welfare or food stamps.

The battle against marijuana is going nowhere. In this country, we are locked in a war we simply cannot win. We strive to protect over 10,000 miles of border, against enemies who are driven by the lure of a huge profit. We fought a version of this war before with prohibition, and we lost that one. All that has really resulted from this war is the overcrowding of prisons, the expansion of law enforcement s ability to infringe on the personal lives of ordinary citizens, paranoia and distrust. Why spend millions of dollars fighting a war that cannot be won? Legalizing marijuana would not only make the government money, but also improve society as a whole. To most the financial reasons for ending the war are the most convincing. For example, it costs over $30,000 per year to house a prisoner – this does not include processing and legal fees. There are over 1.5 million non-violent drug law offenders in prison right now, and this number is increasing daily. That means we are spending a minimum of $45 billion per year keeping former tax-paying citizens locked up with murderers and rapists. When these people get out of jail, they will have a criminal record, which makes it nearly impossible to get a decent job. Most of whom had jobs and were contributing to the economy in some way.

The United States spend $37 billion per year funding police efforts to fight the war on drugs. Currently there is over $150 billion worth of drug traffic that remains untaxed. If you figure a tax rate of 15%, that is a total of $22.5 billion of taxes that America doesn’t see. The U.S. Treasury estimates America wastes a minimum of $104.5 billion per year fighting a war that cannot be won. Meanwhile crime rates continue to rise (because of the huge profits made possible by the risks involved in the drug trade as drugs remain illegal), and the quality of education, medical care and environmental protection falls due to lack of money in the budget.

It is obvious that the current policy for marijuana is not working very efficiently. The government spends billions of dollars every year to stop its use. This leads to the opening of a very extensive black market for marijuana, because the drug is still in high demand. With the black market comes all the crime and violent acts that create a new problem of overcrowding prison populations. In effect, the government does not really solve the marijuana problem; instead it just creates a new one in its place.

There is an obvious problem concerning marijuana today. Governments on all three levels: local, state, and federal are trying desperately to find an appropriate policy involving marijuana. National polls show that more than 70% of the American people, from both ends of the political spectrum, support controlled access to marijuana for medicinal purposes. Despite fierce opposition from the federal government, voters in California and Arizona passed ballot initiatives in the fall of 1996 favoring the legalization of medicinal marijuana. If support for marijuana at least as a medicinal remedy is so high, then why have only a few states taken steps to change their policy? There are several reasons why marijuana remains illegal. Mainly, it is a political issue kicked around by certain special interest groups. Some of these groups perceive marijuana as a threat to the home, tearing families apart and causing them to abandon traditional values. However these groups usually are not legitimate areas of legislation. The more powerful groups have other, more practical reasons for keeping marijuana illegal. Among the most powerful of these groups are the combined law enforcement-judiciary-penal systems. This group sees the elimination of marijuana laws as a threat to their jobs. Add to this group defense lawyers, who stand to make millions of dollars defending marijuana offenders. Consciously or not, they support anti-marijuana laws. Another interest group includes the scientists whose marijuana research is funded by the government. If marijuana were legalized, they would lose millions of dollars in research grants intended to prove the detrimental effects of the substance. Two other unrelated but very influential groups are the liquor lobby and pharmaceutical companies. Their spending is usually very secretive and not publicized very much. Legalization of a competing product that can be produced with relative ease by anyone with access to a plot of land would cut deeply into their profits. And the drug companies want control, rather than just a ban, for they know the medicinal benefits of marijuana. Therefore the major reason marijuana continues to remain illegal, is that special interest groups are blocking legislation by extensive lobbying. Clearly it is seen that many people support its use, at least for medical reasons.

Is legalizing drugs going to end society’s problems? It would be silly to even think that. We have driven ourselves into such a moral predicament that it will take years to fully recover. But our present course of action has proven to be more destructive than marijuana itself. The only way we are going to stop substance abuse is by lowering the pressure in day-to-day life for our citizens. Unfortunately, the drug war has driven the cost of living up to unbelievable heights, while lowering take-home pay through high tax rates, and has increased crime while lowering education quality. All of these cause increasing pressure on the working family and their children, which manifests itself in increased drug and alcohol consumption. You can’t solve problems by fighting the symptoms. You have to go after the problems themselves. Just think of all the money the government could make with taxing legalized marijuana purchases. Even though this would not solve all of society problems, it would be a start.

Today in society there is strong evidence in the fight to legalize. I hope the research provided an overall better understanding of marijuana. There were so many different ways that the ancient people around the world used marijuana. Now people just have to realize that marijuana is not as bad as some people try to make it, especially the government, and do something about this war against marijuana. We as people have to take a long look at this and come up with a way to make a difference. Take a long look at everything I wrote and make a decision whether to legalize marijuana or not. I know that some people reading this will have a change of heart. It is only a matter of time until marijuana is legalized once again.


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