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Legalization Of Marijana: For Essay, Research Paper

Legalization of Marijana: For

It’s time we put to rest the myth that smoking marijuana is a fringe or

deviant activity, engaged in only by those on the margins of American society.

In reality, marijuana smoking is extremely common, and marijuana is the

recreational drug of choice for millions of mainstream, middle class Americans.

According to the most recent NIDA data1, between 65 and 71 million Americans

have smoked marijuana at some time in their lives, and 10 million are current

smokers (have smoked as at least once in the last month). In fact, NIDA

(National Institute on Drug Abuse) found that 61% of all current illicit drug

users report that marijuana is the only drug they have used; this figure rises

to 80% if hashish (a marijuana derivative) is included. A recent national survey

of voters found that 34% — one third of the voting adults in the country –

acknowledged having smoked marijuana at some point in their lives(NIDA,1). Many

successful business and professional leaders, including many state and federal

elected officials from both political parties, admit they have smoked marijuana.

We should begin to reflect that reality in our state and federal legislation,

and stop acting as if otherwise law-abiding marijuana smokers are part of the

crime problem. They are not, and it is absurd to continue to spend law

enforcement resources arresting them.

Marijuana smokers in this country are no different from their non-

smoking peers, except for their marijuana use. Like most Americans, they are

responsible citizens who work hard, raise families, contribute to their

communities, and want a safe, crime-free neighborhood in which to live. Because

of our marijuana laws, these citizens face criminal arrest and imprisonment

solely because they choose to smoke a marijuana cigarette when they relax,

instead of drinking alcohol. They simply prefer marijuana over alcohol as their

recreational drug of choice. This is a misapplication of the criminal sanction

which undermines respect for the law in general and extends government into

areas of our private life that are inappropriate.

The NORML (National Orginization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws)

Board of Directors recently issued the following statement entitled Principles

of Responsible Cannabis Use, which defines the conduct which is believe that any

responsible marijuana smoker should follow.

“I. ADULTS ONLY Cannabis consumption is for adults only. It is irresponsible to

provide cannabis to children.

Many things and activities are suitable for young people, but others absolutely

are not. Children do not drive cars, enter into contracts, or marry, and they

must not use drugs. As it is unrealistic to demand lifetime abstinence from

cars, contracts and marriage, however, it is unrealistic to expect lifetime

abstinence from all intoxicants, including alcohol. Rather, our expectation

and hope for young people is that they grow up to be responsible adults. Our

obligation to them is to demonstrate what that means.

II. NO DRIVING The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor

vehicle or other dangerous machinery impaired by cannabis, nor (like other

responsible citizens) impaired by any other substance or condition, including

some medicines and fatigue.

Although cannabis is said by most experts to be safer than alcohol and many

prescription drugs with motorists, responsible cannabis consumers never operate

motor vehicles in an impaired condition. Public safety demands not only that

impaired drivers be taken off the road, but that objective measures of

impairment be developed and used, rather than chemical testing.

III. SET AND SETTING The responsible cannabis user will carefully consider

his/her set and setting, regulating use accordingly.

“Set” refers to the consumer’s values, attitudes, experience and personality,

and “setting” means the consumer’s physical and social circumstances. The

responsible cannabis consumer will be vigilant as to conditions — time, place,

mood, etc. –and does not hesitate to say “no” when those conditions are not

conducive to a safe, pleasant and/or productive experience.

IV. RESIST ABUSE Use of cannabis, to the extent that it impairs health, personal

development or achievement, is abuse, to be resisted by responsible cannabis


Abuse means harm. Some cannabis

use is harmful; most is not. That which is harmful should be discouraged; that

which is not need not be.

Wars have been waged in the name of eradicating “drug abuse”, but instead of

focusing on abuse, enforcement measures have been diluted by targeting all drug

use, whether abusive or not. If marijuana abuse is to be targeted, it is

essential that clear standards be developed to identify it.

V. RESPECT RIGHTS OF OTHERS The responsible cannabis user does not violate the

rights of others, observes accepted standards of courtesy and public propriety,

and respects the preferences of those who wish to avoid cannabis entirely.

No one may violate the rights of others, and no substance use excuses any such

violation. Regardless of the legal status of cannabis, responsible users will

adhere to emerging tobacco smoking protocols in public and private places.”


It is Time To Stop Arresting Marijuana Smokers. The “war on drugs” is

not really about drugs; if it were, tobacco and alcohol would be primary targets.

They are the most commonly used and abused drugs in America and unquestionably

they cause far more harm to the user and to society than does marijuana. Instead,

the war on drugs has become a war on marijuana smokers, and in any war there are

casualties. According to the latest FBI statistics, in 1994 nearly one-half

million (482,000) Americans were arrested on marijuana charges. That is the

largest number of marijuana arrests ever made in this country in any single year,

and reflects a 67% increase over 1991 (288,000). Eighty four percent (84%) of

those arrests were for possession, not sale(NORML,2). Those were real people who

were paying taxes, supporting their families, and working hard to make a better

life for their children; suddenly they are arrested and jailed and treated as

criminals, solely because of the recreational drug they had chosen to use. This

is a travesty of justice that causes enormous pain, suffering and financial

hardship for millions of American families. It also engenders disrespect for the

law and for the criminal justice system overall Responsible marijuana smokers

present no threat or danger to America, and there is no reason to treat them as

criminals. As a society we need to find ways to discourage personal conduct of

all kinds that is abusive or harmful to others. Responsible marijuana smokers

are not the problem and it’s time to stop arresting them.

The most comprehensive modern study of marijuana policy was the report

of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, Marijuana, A Signal of

Misunderstanding. Established by Congress, the Marijuana Commission found that

moderate marijuana smoking presents no significant risk to the user or to

society, and recommended that the country “decriminalize” minor marijuana

offenses; i.e., that penalties be removed for personal use and possession.

Following that report, eleven American states adopted modified versions of

decriminalization, led by Oregon in 1973. Each of these states retained a modest

civil fine for minor marijuana offenses, but eliminated arrest and jail,

substituting a citation, similar to a traffic ticket. The advantage of this

approach to the marijuana smoker is obvious: the individual is spared the

indignity of an arrest and the threat of jail, and avoids a criminal record. But

this approach also benefits law enforcement by freeing up police to focus on

serious crime.

Nearly one-third of Americans live in states which have now had a 15-20

year real-world experience with marijuana decriminalization, and the experience

has been overwhelmingly favorable. Contrary to the fears expressed by some,

marijuana usage rates (both the percentage reporting having ever used marijuana,

and the frequency of use by those who do smoke) are the same in states that have

decriminalized and in states where marijuana smokers are still arrested. Nor has

there been any change in attitudes toward marijuana use among young people in

those states. In short, the evidence indicates that we can stop arresting

marijuana smokers without harmful consequences.

It is Time For Peace, Not War. As a nation, we’ve talked too long and

too loud in the language of war. It’s time that we begin to talk of peace. It’s

time to seek a policy that minimizes the harm associated with marijuana smoking

and marijuana prohibition — a policy that distinguishes between use and abuse,

and reflects the importance we have always attached in this country to the right

of the individual to be free from the overreaching power of government. Most of

us would agree the government has no business knowing what books we read, the

subject of our telephone coversations, or how we conduct ourselves in the

privacy of our bedroom. Similarly, whether we smoke marijuana or drink alcohol

to relax is simply not an appropriate area of concern for the government.

Americans are right to be concerned about adolescent drug use of all

kinds. We all want our children to grow up safe, healthy and drug free. The

recent data showing an increase in marijuana smoking among adolescents is strong

testimony to the failure and ineffectiveness of our current drug education

programs — including most prominently the DARE program. NORML has expressed

that they would be pleased to work with others to develop more effective

programs to discourage adolescent marijuana smoking, and to instill in children

an understanding that neither marijuana smoking, tobacco smoking or alcohol

drinking is appropriate behavior for minors. NORML’s involvement in such a

campaign might enhance the campaign’s credibility with young people.

By stubbornly defining all marijuana smoking as criminal, including that

which involves adults smoking in the privacy of their home, we are wasting

police and prosecutorial resources, clogging courts, filling costly and scarce

jail and prison space, and needlessly wrecking the lives and careers of

genuinely good citizens. It’s time we ended marijuana prohibition and stopped

arresting and jailing hundreds of thousands of average Americans whose only

“crime” is that they smoke marijuana. This is a tragic and senseless war against

our own citizens; it must be ended.

The last point is that marijuana should immediately be made available

by prescription to the tens of thousands of seriously ill Americans who need

marijuana to alleviate pain and suffering. Of all the negative consequences of

marijuana prohibition, none is as tragic as the denial of medicinal marijuana to

those who need it.

The question of permitting medical marijuana must be separated from the

question of decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana for recreation use. These

are separate issues and they must be judged on their own merits. The country has

reached a consensus on the former, even as we remain divided on the latter.

On the question of whether seriously ill patients should have legal

access to marijuana to relieve pain and suffering, 85%6 of the American public

already support this change. Many of them (22%) have had a family member or

friend sick with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma or some other

potentially devastating disease, who has had to risk arrest and jail to obtain

marijuana to alleviate the side effects of cancer chemotherapy, overcome the

AIDS wasting syndrome, or treat other life threatening or serious illnesses.

Basic compassion and common sense demand that we allow these citizens to use

whatever medication is most effective, subject to the supervision of a physician.

Although more research is needed, it is clear from available studies and

rapidly accumulating anecdotal evidence that marijuana is a valuable therapeutic

in the treatment of a number of serious ailments and that it is both less toxic

and costly than the conventional medicines for which it may be substituted. In

many cases it is more effective than the commercially available drugs it

replaces. Groups such as the American Public Health Association and the

Federation of American Scientists9 have recently endorsed the medical use of


Marijuana is an effective means of overcoming the nausea and vomiting

associated with cancer chemotherapy, and the nausea and appetite loss in the

wasting syndrome of AIDS. It is useful for various spastic conditions including

multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, and quadriplegia. It also lowers intraocular

pressure in people who suffer from open-angle glaucoma. For some people with

epilepsy it is the only anticonvulsant that works. For centuries, it has been

used as an analgesic and is considered by many to be the best approach to

migraine. It is also useful to some patients for the symptomatic treatment of

depression, menstrual cramps, asthma and pruritus.

Many seriously ill patients in this country are already using marijuana

to reduce their pain and suffering, even though it means they and their families

must risk arrest. Informal buyers’ clubs, which supply marijuana to the

seriously ill, have been formed in many cities. Some of these clubs are small

and clandestine; a few, such as the one in San Francisco, operate openly and

serve several thousand clients on a regular basis. Despite these heroic efforts,

the underground emergency distribution system reaches only a small proportion of

the tens of thousands of patients who could benefit from legal marijuana.

Also, in the papers last year was the story of an elderly mother who was

arrested for grownig marijuana for her ailing son. The old woman said’ “If Jesus

were her, he would help me plant.” (Elders, 4)

NORML first raised this issue in 1972 in an administrative petition

asking that marijuana be moved from schedule I to schedule II of the federal

Controlled Substances Act, so that it could be prescribed as a medicine. After

16 years of legal battles and appeals, in 1988, the DEA’s own administrative law

judge, Judge Francis Young, found that “marijuana has been accepted as capable

of relieving distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with

safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and

capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits

of this substance in light of the evidence in this record. “Judge Young

(5)recommended “that the Administrator transfer marijuana from Schedule I to

Schedule II, to make it available as a legal medicine”. The DEA Administrator

overruled Judge Young, and the Court of Appeals allowed that decision to stand,

denying medical marijuana to seriously ill patients. Congress must act to

correct this injustice.

Works Cited

{1} National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Household Survey on Drug Abuse:

Population Estimates – 1994 (Department of Health and Human Services, Public

Health Service, Bethesda, MD, 1995).

(2) National Organization for thte Reformation of Marijuana Laws. Internet,


{3} National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, Marijuana, A Signal of

Misunderstanding (New York: The New American Library, Inc., 1972).

{4} Elders, Pete. Seeds of discorn. People weekly, 1995. Austin, Texas

{5} In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition, Docket 86-22, Opinion,

Recommended Ruling, Finding of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Decision of

Administrative Law Judge, September 6, 1988 (Drug Enforcement Agency, Washington,

DC, 1988).

{6} ACLU National Survey of Voters’ Opinions on the Use and Legalization of

Marijuana for Medical Purposes (March 31-April 5, 1995).


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