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The Pros And Cons About Legalizing Marijuana Essay, Research Paper

Mainstream vs. Alternative Media; who do we

believe? The Journal of Media Studies Writer Discussion of the legalization of marijuana

brings up two main issues,

those who are pro- marijuana and those who are anti- marijuana. These issues have been

covered by both

mainstream and alternative media, mainstream being pro, and alternative being anti. These

two factions have been

arguing over this issue in the halls of justice for many years. Because most of the American

society is mainly

exposed to only mainstream media, they are not aware of other factors of legalizing

marijuana that alternative media

covers. The problem caused by this lack of exposure, is that the public may be deprived

of the truth, and may be

led to believe facts that are not true. Marijuana and Medicine Both pro and anti-

marijuana groups have discussed

whether or not marijuana can be used for medicinal purposes. Mainstream groups do not

believe that there are any

convincing reasons to make marijuana a treatment to sick patients. Their position is that

marijuana can have harmful

long-term effects. The Anti-Legalization Forum explains that some of these effects are:

impairment of the immune

system due to the inability of T-cells to battle off diseases, delaying puberty in both males

and females, and

unhealthy and smaller children born to women who used marijuana during pregnancy. The

Drug Enforcement

Administration believes that since marijuana is not accepted by any American health

associations, there is no reason

to legalize the drug. They think that the main reason why pro marijuana advocates use the

medical use argument is

because the uninformed public can be easily convinced to support the movement. Simply

not enough evidence

proves that marijuana can be used medically (Claim V). Unlike the D.E.A., lobbying

groups such as the Cannabis

Action Network and the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, believe that marijuana is a

beneficial herb, and not a harmful

drug (ICLU). Alternative media sources, such as “Marijuana As Medicine,” state that

marijuana can be used as

medicine for: nausea, appetite stimulation, relief from vomiting, reduction in spasticity,

glaucoma, epilepsy, anxiety,

depression, asthma, multiple sclerosis, stimulation of the immune system, Aids patient and

cancer patients. For

victims with AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis, smoking marijuana is believed to help

reduce emesis, suppress

vomiting, and stimulate the appetite. People with multiple sclerosis are convinced that

smoking marijuana also

reduces the intensity of their spasms. “Marijuana As Medicine,” a Cannabis Action

Network pamphlet, states that,

“Two highly qualified and experienced ophthalmologists have accepted marijuana as

having a medical use in

treatment of glaucoma.” When taken, parts of cannabis lower intraocular pressure in the

eye. There are rumors that

marijuana suppresses the immune system. “Marijuana Myths” dismisses this belief because

the myth was based on

studies where the experimental animals were given near-lethal-doses of cannabinoids, and

these results have never

been repeated on humans. In fact, two studies displayed that the immune system may

actually have been stimulated

by the use of hashish and marijuana. On the other hand, a separate alternative source

stated that marijuana

(Delta-nine-THC) does possess an immunosuppressive effect. Marijuana shuts off some

cells in the liver, instead of

stimulating them. The effect is only temporary and goes away rapidly. According to

“Marijuana As Medicine,”

Approximately 30% of all prescription drugs can be replaced by THC, so pro- marijuana

groups lead to believe

that one of the reasons why the drug is not legalized is because it would take the profit

away from currently used

drugs. These groups suppose that since no one has ever died from marijuana use, it must

be safe. We can already

see the different myths that people read and get confused about. The one thing that pro-

marijuana groups agree

upon is that “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active

substances known to man”

(Marijuana As Medicine). Marijuana and Crime Another issue considered by the mass

media is whether marijuana

has an effect on crime or not. As written in the “Anti-Legalization Forum,” the D.E.A.

believes that drug use

contributes to crime and violence. Many police officers say that criminal activity is not

caused by dealers, but by

those that are under the influence of the drug. A study showed that among males (18-49

years old) those who used

cannabis were ten times more likely to commit violent acts than non-users. Anti marijuana

groups look to the

example of gangs, after the repeal of Prohibition, gangster activity had not decreased.

Experts are positive that

legalizing marijuana would only add to the burden of criminal, health and social services.

“There is no denying the

fact that drug use changes behavior and exacerbates criminal activity” (Claim I). “Hemp

for Food” claims that

marijuana supporters believe that the only criminal activity caused by marijuana is done

because of the illegal status

of the drug, and not because of any influence that the drug may have on users. They think

that legalization would

eliminate black market activity. In Holland, marijuana is legal and so far, the Dutch crime

rate has declined and not

increased as one would anticipate (87). Supporters of the legalization of marijuana say that

the United States

government can profit from legalizing marijuana because they can tax the drug. A study

done by Vera Rubin, of the

Coptic study, found no links of cannabis to criminal behavior. She said that smokers and

non-smokers had identical

extroversion scores and work records. There was no proof found that marijuana impairs

motor skills, so she

believes that large doses of marijuana cut short one’s motivation to work (86). Marijuana

and Behavior Behavior is

altered by using marijuana. The Medical Post states that “marijuana has always been

depicted as producing a

lethargic, mellow, laid-back effect rather than acting as a stimulant.” A study was done on

young, male marijuana

users to show any signs of stimulation. These participants engaged in antisocial behavior.

The doctors concluded

that these drugs could possibly disturb social interactions. Anti- marijuana groups feel that

legalizing drugs

encouraged non-users that drugs are acceptable (Anti-Legalization Forum Claim III).

“Hemp for Food,” an

alternative source printed that subjects in a Jamaican study described marijuana as having

the effect of making them

smarter, more energetic, happy, and more conscious. They believe that the drug produced

an overall sense of

well-being and self-defense. The subjects used it as a work motivator (86). The

implication for legalization is that

the drug has different effects on different groups of people, so we are not able to predict

outcomes for individuals

(Now Research). Marijuana and the Brain Mainstream media believes that marijuana

produces flat brainwaves.

“Marijuana Myths” asserts that the Partnership for a Drug-Free America ran an ad that

tried to display this belief. A

few years ago they made a commercial that first showed a normal brainwave, then they

showed a second

brainwave that supposedly belonged to a 14-year-old marijuana user. It was a flat

brainwave that tried to show that

the brainwaves or a drug user is the same as a comatose human being. ABC got the group

to admit to lying, yet

they still ran the ad. “Marijuana Myths” wrote about a study that was done to show that

marijuana causes damage

to the brain. The study was thrown out because of its insufficient experiment. There were

too many criticisms,

particularly because the study was done on only four monkeys. Real studies on humans do

not show any damage to

the brain. In actuality, smoking marijuana has the effect to increase alpha wave activity by

a small amount. Alpha

waves are related to relaxation, which can be associate with human productivity. Experts

are unsure if marijuana

affects short-term memory, but they think that any effect disappears when the person is no

longer under the

influence, similar to the immune system effect. According to “Hemp for Food,” a study

done in 1981 showed that

the subjects tested actually believed that smoking potent marijuana 16 times a day had

improved their minds over a

time period of 10 years. Their brains have been tested, and the results showed that there

was no difference between

their brains and one of a non-smoker. There is also no proof of an increase in IQ by

smoking marijuana. Another

study said that there was no impairment of physiological, sensory and perceptual-motor

performance, tests of

concept information, abstracting ability or cognitive style and tests or memory. The study

states that heavy and

prolonged use of ganja does not damage one socially or psychologically (86). Marijuana

and the Reproductive

System There are many claims that say that marijuana causes damage to the reproductive

system. The D.E.A.

states that smoking marijuana can make young children go through puberty much later than

normal children. They

also state that the drug can cause difficulties in babies born to mothers who smoked during

pregnancy. From this

source, Peter Fried, Ph.D., found that “Marijuana use during pregnancy has harmful

effects on children’s intellectual

abilities a decade or more after they are born.” The harm done by drugs is real and

long-lasting. Dr. Drew from the

TV program Loveline, had said that marijuana can cause birth defects if either the male or

female used it, even if it

was used four months prior to conception. He also believes that smoking marijuana can

lower one’s sex drive, and

that it does not help if the man has an impotency problem. Marijuana use may lower the

sperm count in males, but

not to the point to be used as birth control. “Marijuana Myths” responds to the belief that

marijuana causes

developmental problems in children, by claiming that it was a false rumor created by anti

marijuana groups in order

to steer people away from drug use. They state the studies done on this subject to be

faulty or misread. However,

they do admit that there may be some effects to childhood development, but they say that

they are not drastic and

are rare. They say that marijuana does not make men impotent or sterile and that for

some, it enhances their sex

lives. Feelings and emotions become more colorful to them. Bill Drake, author of

“Marijuana: An Herb for the

Aging,” states that marijuana may actually arouse an interest in sexuality in the elderly.

Jamaican studies, from

“Hemp for Food,” have displayed that mothers who use marijuana believe that their

children are healthier. The

experiment that was done that claimed that marijuana is harmful to the reproductive system

was rejected by the

scientific community because the controlled animals were given near-lethal doses. Once

off of the drug, the animals

returned to normal. When done on actual human beings, experiments have not shown

damage to the reproductive

system. Not all mainstream claims are false, and not all alternative claims are true, but

people would rather get their

news from the television than from a piece of paper that they found in their mailbox. The

majority of the population

gets its information from mainstream media sources because they believe that it is more

credible than alternative

media sources. Evidence shows how the public is provided with contradictory facts, so

one can see that it can be a

difficult in choosing the which source to believe. The news has to make stories short, due

to limited time, but

alternative media sources have plenty of time to gather hidden or unbroadcasted

information. In contrast to TV

news, documentaries done on this topic are able to spend unlimited hours researching

since they rarely have

deadlines. People should be presented with facts only if they are in complete detail and

have been thoroughly

investigated. Alternative media seem to have this ability, yet are sometimes doubted for

their information because

people usually believe things that are said on either TV, radio, or other sources of

mainstream media. There is not

much that can be done to fix this problem. Alternative media groups are constrained in the

medium of their

production. They have small budgets and are unable to spend the same amount of money

that mainstream media

sources spend. Since they don’t have expensive equipment to work with, they are forced

to make the best out of

what they have. Because their projects may appear unprofessional, people assume that

what they have to say

cannot be trusted. What people can do is try to educate others of this issue and attempt to

get people to change

their attitudes toward alternative media. What might be effective is if these alternative

groups put their effort into

creating a video or display that exhibited why alternative media is restricted, and why

people should start looking at

their claims from a different perspective. People would be better off if they are faced with

both sides and come to a

reasonable conclusion derived from both sources. Since the topic being discussed is on

the legalization of marijuana,

we need to use this information in creating a solution for this dilemma. Because marijuana

is illegal, there are few

mainstream groups that will go against the law and promote the legalization process.

Perhaps groups like C.A.N.

can create a video or anything as effective to reach out to the public and make them aware

of what they are missing

out on. The pamphlets that are already being distributed by these groups are a small step,

yet people are still

hesitant in believing any information printed on them. However, people might change their

minds if the information

written on these pamphlets informed them of reasons to credit them. Alternative media

groups are getting this idea

across slowly. It is only a matter of time until people start taking their claims into account.



Action Network. Cannabis Action Network – Strategy and Objectives. New Orleans.

—. Lies Lies Lies.

Berkeley, Lexington, New Orleans. —. Marijuana As Medicine. New Orleans. —.

Restriction Lifted on Growing

Hemp. New Orleans: 1993. —. This is What The Government Says About Marijuana.

Berkeley, Lexington, New

Orleans. Cronin, Russell. “High Hopes for the First Legal Cannabis Crop.” The

Independent 12 July 1993: 6.

Drake, Bill. “Marijuana: An Herb for the Aging.” 1986. Online. Netscape. 10 Feb 1997.

Florida Legalization

Organization. Hemp for Food, Fuel, Fiber & Medicine, The Economy and the

Environment. Lacrosse, Florida:

1989: 1-3, 5-8, 15, 80, 86-89. Gettman, John. “Marijuana & the Brain.” High Times

March 1995: 33-36. Hager,

Paul. “Marijuana Myths.” Indiana Civil Liberties Union Drug Task Force. Online.

Netscape 9 Feb 1997. Hilts,

Philip J. “Relative Addictiveness of Drugs.” New York Times 2 Aug 1994, sec. 3:3+.

“Now Research Indicates

Marijuana is a Stimulant.” Medical Post 15 Oct. 1991. Loveline. Prod. David Sittenfeld.

With Dr. Drew, Adam

Carolla, and Kris McGaha. MTV. 25 Feb. 1997. Rotstein, Arthur H. “Pot Studies Called

Likely Key to Brain’s

Secrets.” Arizona Daily Star 12 Nov 1995: C12+. United States. Drug Enforcement

Agency. Anti-Legalization

Forum. FBI/D.E.A. Training Academy: GPO, 1994.

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