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Legalizing Marijuana Essay, Research Paper

Davis 7

Legalizing Marijuana

Marijuana is the name for the drug that comes from the leaves and flowers of the Indian

hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. It is a tobacco-like substance produced by drying the leaves and

flowery top of the cannabis plant. Marijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette called a joint or in

a pipe or bong. Recently, it has appeared in cigars called blunts which are longer. This drug is a

mild hallucinogen, meaning that it distorts sensory perceptions. The intoxicating part of the

plant lies mostly in its strong-smelling, sticky, golden resin. This is given off by the hemp

flowers, especially those of the female plant. The resin protects the plant from heat and helps it

stay moist during its reproductive cycle. Many users describe two phases of marijuana

intoxication: initial stimulation, giddiness, and euphoria, followed by sedation and pleasant

tranquillity. Mood changes can often accompany altered perceptions of time and space and one’s

bodily dimension. The hemp plant can be found growing as a weed or as a cultivated plant

throughout the world, in many soils and climates, with the more potent varieties produced in dry,

hot, upland, climates (Berger 1).

All forms of marijuana are mind-altering. They all contain THC, the main active

chemical in marijuana. THC was first identified in the mid-1960s. Its chemical structure is

complex and unique, making it unlike that of any other psychoactive drug. There are also four

hundred other chemicals in the marijuana plant besides THC, but they do not cause the same

effect. For this reason, marijuana is, by far, the most frequently used illegal drug. Though its

use in the United States is primarily for the pleasure effect of the drug, it has been used as an

intoxicant in various parts of the world for centuries. Marijuana is known as a “Schedule I drug

which means it is one of the most tightly controlled drugs” (McCormick 94). Only few

countries around the world have legalized marijuana, but those that have, have seen good results.

Marijuana has many benefits and is used for various reasons other than the reaction from the

drug, and therefore it should be legalized.

The first existence of marijuana was first described in print in a “Chinese book of

medicine” in the second century B.C.E. and was used in China as an anesthetic five thousand

years ago (Freeman 58). Its earliest use was recommended as a painkiller during operations.

Known in Central Asia as early as 3000 BC, marijuana was used as a folk medicine. The

practice of smoking it was brought to Brazil by black slaves from Africa. After spreading

throughout Mexico, it was brought to the United States by Mexican laborers. In the 1800s, it

was popular with black field hands in the South and in the hashish houses that often took the

place of opium dens. Many people knew that they would profit from marijuana in America and

they imported the drug any way possible. “Marijuana was smuggled across the Mexican border

in a variety of ways including inside the gasoline tanks of motor vehicles” (Bugliosi 13). During

the 1920s and 1930s, marijuana rose in popularity, especially among jazz musicians, most of

whom were black. The effects of marijuana back then, were believed to turn men into social

deviants capable of crazed, even homicidal behavior. The violence of which they were capable

had more to do with white racist imaginings than with facts. Nonetheless, marijuana was

outlawed in 1937. These beliefs played a part in the passage of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act,

which tried to control the use of marijuana. The Marijuana Tax Act made the use or sale of

marijuana without a tax stamp a federal offense. The law also included stiffer penalties for

marijuana use. Over the next decade, drug penalties got even tougher.

Most of the marijuana that is smoked in the United States is grown in the United States.

Most wild United States cannabis is considered inferior to the Jamaican, Colombian, and

Mexican varieties that range much higher in percent THC potency. This drug accounts for many

arrests every year and costs each state millions. More recently, many marijuana growers have

taken their illegal crop indoors. It is now frequently grown in basements, attics, and

outbuildings under lights with timed fertilizer and sprinkler systems. Growers generally try to

get the highest THC in order to produce the greatest possible effect, which would result in more

sales and profit. Few marijuana growers are severely punished, and many are never caught. The

Drug Enforcement Administration, responsible for seizing domestically grown marijuana, finds

only a small percentage of this illegal crop (Schleichert 48).

Most of the population in America has tried marijuana, but very few that have, still use it

daily. In the 1950s, drugs were not considered a serious problem, and teenagers that used drugs

was an unknown occurrence. Marijuana use increased during the 60s due to the abuse of the

drug by teenagers. During this time, smoking it became a form of protest for teenagers and as

many as ninety percent of students on college campuses had tried marijuana (Bugliosi 185).

In the late 1970s, thirty-seven percent of the teens surveyed said they had used

marijuana in the past month, and eleven percent said that they used it daily. In

the mid-1980s, only twenty-five percent of the teens had smoked pot in the past

month, with only five percent used it daily. Much of this decline is due to the

ongoing drop in the use of marijuana, which is the drug most often used among

teenagers. (Ryan 15)

Today, surveys concluded that almost twenty-one million Americans used marijuana in 1990,

and almost sixty-seven million Americans have experimented with the drug (Bugliosi 185).

Many view marijuana as a gateway drug, the user’s first drug, that leads to more

dangerous drug use. Marijuana does not have any characteristics that “make” people go on to

harder drugs (Schleichert 45). The biggest reason that the drug is used today is because the level

of THC is higher causing the effect of marijuana to increase. This means that it is more potent

than it was ten or fifteen years ago. Many use it , hoping that they may lose their shyness and

inhibitions. Others might try to numb their emotional pain with marijuana. Though many

factors, both genetic and environmental, can encourage marijuana use (Schleichert 40).

The uses of marijuana have changed over the years. “F

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