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Marijuana Essay, Research Paper

Reefer Madness

Douglas Lamar Gray bought a pound of marijuana in a room at the Econo Lodge in Decatur, Alabama. He intended to keep a couple of ounces for himself and sell the rest to some of his friends. After paying $900 for the pot, Gray was arrested in a police sting operation. He was charged with trafficking cannabis, tried, fined $25,000, and sentenced to life without parole in the maximum security prison of Springville, Alabama. Unfortunately, Gray’s punishment is not unusual in the United States. Fifteen states require life sentences for certain marijuana offenses. In Montana, a life sentence can be imposed for growing a single marijuana plant or even selling one joint. However, all these strict laws haven’t stopped Americans from smoking weed. Approximately one third of all Americans have tried marijuana at least once. Like the prohibition of alcohol, the prohibition of marijuana doesn’t work.

Marijuana is a mixture of stems, leaves, and flowering buds from the Cannabis hemp plant. Marijuana has many street names such as pot, weed, grass, herb, ganja, dope, bud, dank, chronic, reefer, buddha, cheebah, keef, and hash. Cannabis contains THC which when smoked or eaten has pleasure giving effects. The most popular way to use marijuana is roll into a cigarette or joint; however, marijuana can also be smoked through a pipe (bowl) or bong. Marijuana intoxication starts with lightheadedness and evolves into a peacefulness of mind. During marijuana intoxication, often called being high or stoned, there is a changed perception of time. It may seem like hours have gone by, but in fact, only minutes have elapsed. Many users also feel an increase in appetite (the munchies) and find humor in almost anything.

When compared to substances such as alcohol, marijuana use is relatively safe. In fact, no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. Pot has a negligible therapeutic ratio, so you don’t have to smoke much to feel the effects. Furthermore, in clinical trials on animals, it has been shown that the ratio of effect to death is 1:40,000. If it takes one joint to get stoned, you would have to smoke 40,000 joints to overdose. The ratio for alcohol is between 1:10 and 1:20 depending on body weight. Unlike alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, marijuana is not physically addictive. Although marijuana smoke contains more carcinogens than cigarette smoke, even chronic pot smokers rarely smoke more than one joint a day whereas the average cigarette smoker smokes twenty cigarettes a day.

The incentive for farmers to grow marijuana is immense. While corn sells for a few dollars a bushel, pot sells for $70,000 a bushel. Drug cartels have sprung up in many poor third-world countries creating a vast black market. While the mobs of alcohol prohibition created crimes rings within cities, today’s drug cartels have created international crime circles. The majority of the marijuana in the United States comes from smugglers dealing with the drug lords. Smugglers often cut drugs with components that are less than pure. These cut drugs often vary in potency. Furthermore, some marijuana is laced with more dangerous drugs such as angel dust. Governmental regulation of marijuana would allow pot to be subjected to state and national taxes. Marijuana could be sold and taxed just like tobacco cigarettes. The government could also set standards that would ensure quality and reduce the possibility of lacing.

Hemp, the plant that produces marijuana, has been used throughout history for many products. Even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew the crop on their plantations. The hemp stalk can be mashed into a pulp which in turn can be made into paper. Hemp paper lasts longer than tree paper, does not yellow, and will not crack or harden. Hemp is also commonly braided into rope which will not rot in salt or fresh water. Textiles from hemp have been used to make artists’ canvas, tents, linens, towels, flags, and even rugs. As cloth, hemp is stronger, warmer, softer, and easier to grow than cotton. Hemp is one of the hardiest plants around. Although it prefers warm humid climates, hemp can withstand frost and drought. Hemp can be so densely planted that it smothers all weeds eliminating the need for most pesticides. Popular Mechanics called hemp the “New Billion Dollar Crop.”

The THC (pleasure giving chemical) in cannabis has many medicinal uses. In the far east, marijuana has been boiled into a tea to treat ailments ranging from malaria to arthritis to anesthetic for centuries. In more recent times, cannabis has been shown to alleviate some of the side effects of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy has many gastrointestinal side effects that include vomiting, extreme nausea, ulceration, diaherra, and heartburn. While prescription drugs have little effect, marijuana can ease many of these side effects. As I stated earlier, many marijuana users report an increase in appetite. Patients weak from diseases such as AIDS and anoxia can use marijuana to increase their appetite and put on weight. There is a synthetic form of THC (marinol) but it is largely ineffective because it often put the patient to sleep before the appetite is stimulated. There is also some evidence that THC can help control spasms associated with cerebral palsy, stroke, and epilepsy. Canada, Arizona, and California have already legalized marijuana for medicinal uses. Although there is a lot of evidence that THC is a valid medical tool, there is little incentive for further research. Since cannabis is illegal, it cannot be patented. Without a patent, research institutes are not be able profit from their research.

The biggest fear with marijuana is not the drug itself. Many people feel that marijuana use only leads to harder drugs such as LSD, heroin, and cocaine. This “Gateway Theory” is completely unfounded. Four million Americans use marijuana regularly- more than all other illegal drugs combined. It is true that most people who smoke crack or shoot heroin also have smoked pot. These people’s personality leads to experimentation, so it is only logical that they would try marijuana too. In the Netherlands, where marijuana is legal, the use of hard drugs is lower than here in the states. In Jamaica, where marijuana isn’t legal but very widely accepted, there has been no connection between smoking pot and harder drugs. Marijuana, when legal, seems to act as a substitute for other, more dangerous drugs.

The legalization of marijuana has been a very sensitive topic throughout our history. Successful attempts were made in the 1970s to reduce the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession. In the 1980s the government struck back with President Reagan’s war on drugs. However, the public has once again become open to the idea of marijuana use. The time is right to push for the legalization of pot. Marijuana is once again socially accepted. Americans need to reaffirm our rights.

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