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Marijuana Essay, Research Paper

Over 3000,000 people a year are arrested because of it in our country. It’s recreational usage boomed in the 1960’s and by the 1980’s one half of all college students had tried it. Once a simple plant, cannabis satria, or marijuana, has become one of the most controversial topics of the 20th century. Although illegal for some time now in the United States, we know of its widespread availability and usage. Once a huge threat to society, it is now being overlooked as we turn to the seemingly more serious problems of cocaine and heroin. But should we be taking a second look at it, cracking down on enforcement and trying as hard as possible to rid our country of this drug?

Well the police officer I interviewed said “Billions and billions of dollars are being spent on narcotic task forces and it is doing no good. Smoking dope makes a person mellow, but drinking booze gets a person violent and angry, he becomes a real *censored*. People do what they would like anyway, the law is not going to stop them. I would much rather see the money go towards getting drunk drivers behind bars then tracking down kids who smoke dope.”

Or should we be using it as medicines to help the sick in their need? It helps people with glaucoma, rare cancers and pain and muscle spasms. There are only eight people in the United States who can smoke marijuana legally. This is an ongoing battle that could be resolved if we educate ourselves about the drug and both it’s positive and negative effects on our society.

The marijuana plant is grown all over the world in a variety climates and soils. It has a long been used as a medicine in India, China, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South Africa and South America for various ailments such as malaria, constipation, female disorders, absentmindedness, fevers, insomnia, and loss of appetite. It wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that western doctors began prescribing it to their patients, and soon it could even be bought in drug stores. It was commonly used in the U.S. to treat asthma, epilepsy, dysmemarrhea, gonorrhea, and migraines, being compared to opium in strength but much kinder on the body. The use of marijuana declined with the development of aspirin and barbiturates, which were much more dependable. The belief that Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This new law to discourage recreational smoking required anyone purchasing the drug for certain medical purposes to pay a tax of one dollar per ounce, while those inclined to use it for other purposes paid one hundred dollars per ounce. In 1970 Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, assigning psychoactive drugs to five schedules. Cannabis came under schedule 1, the most restrictive. Drugs outlined under schedule 1 were said to have no medical use, a high potential for abuse and no safe uses. In 1978 New Mexico enacted the first law to make it legal for medical use, and by 1994, 36 other states followed. Cannabis was not recognized as a medicine by the federal government , and in order to dispense it, states had to conduct special research and receive FDA approval. Because this was so hard to do, only 10 states actually established programs in which cannabis was used as a medicine. Patients had to complete extensive paperwork in order to get legal permission to take cannabis. The near impossibility to receive treatment through this program caused most cancer patients to use street marijuana, which was easy to get and much more potent than the prescribed form. But in New Mexico, 250 cancer patients received either marijuana or THC between 1978-1986. THC come from the cannabis plant, but several of it’s chemical relatives, like synhexyl and nabilane have been developed to replace it. The marijuana proved to be superior with 90% of those receiving it reporting significant or total relief. When AIDS patients also began applying for legal permission, the government felt swamped and cut off access totally in June of 1991. They would no longer prescribe cannabis to sick patients.

Many people think this should remain the case. They feel that marijuana is a dangerous drug that needs to be kept as far away from the American public as possible. There is no reason for it to be legal- we have advanced a lot in the world of medicine since cannabis was readily used. The drugs of choice for controlling vomiting from cancer treatment, metoclopramide, and compazine, are both more effective than THC. When administered orally for glaucoma there are many unnecessary side effects, and no THC preparation can be applied directly to the eye. It’s actions are too diverse and varied, it’s absorption into the body is limited and inconsistent, and it has undesirable side effects. There are safer, more specific, and more effective drugs out there today.

People on this side believe that through legalization we will hurt the future of our country. The long-term effects of marijuana use are cancer of the lung, head and neck, increased viral infection, abnormal sperm, fetotaxity, persistent memory deficits, and schizophrenia. It is also believed that long-term use of marijuana brings on passivity, aimlessness, sloth, apathy, uncommunicativeness, and lack of ambition, what is called amotivational syndrome.5 And like most other drugs, marijuana causes the person using it to behave differently, perhaps leading to a rise in crime and violence.

Some say that marijuana is not something you develop a tolerance for. Over a long period of time using the drug, you will get used to it and the amount you take will have to be increased in order to produce the same effects. If the user has to keep increasing, he/she may be tempted to move on to greater drugs because they are no longer getting the high they desire. Which brings us to what is called the Stepping-Stone hypothesis. People who smoke marijuana, as harmless as they may think it is, are more likely to move onto using much more dangerous drugs, like opiates and others. In fact, a child 12-17 years old who uses marijuana is 85 times as likely to use cocaine as a child who does not.6 And the facts on cocaine are very clear.

When compared with alcohol, marijuana seems like it too should be legalized. But it’s abuse power may be up to 7 times that of alcohol. “Opiates, cocaine, and cannabis in minute amounts cause much greater disturbance in the brain mechanisms controlling behavior than does alcohol in larger amounts, and a greater incidence of compulsive drug-oriented behavior resulting in frequent daily intoxication.”7 Surveys in countries where the use of marijuana is accepted show that it has a much greater addictive power than alcohol. In alcohol-consuming countries such as our own only 6-8% of all alcohol consumers drink enough to get drunk on a daily basis. But in Jamaican villages, where marijuana is freely available and socially accepted, 50% of the marijuana users consume it heavily every day.8

But there are people who strongly believe that it is our right to use marijuana as a medicine, and we should stop prosecuting it’s use as a crime. There are over 300,000 people arrested a year with marijuana charges, and one-third of our federal prisons are filled with drug charges.

“It costs so much money to enforce this stupid law. It is not a very thought out law. Hamden spends tens of thousands of dollars on cars, gas, and training on busting kids with marijuana.” Said the police officer I interviewed.

The government spends 10 billion dollars on drug enforcement, and hundred of millions more housing and feeding drug dealers and users.9 If marijuana was legalized, we could save all of that money and prison space for the people who are really endangering society, like the murderers and rapists. The evidence of marijuana’s harm to society just doesn’t have enough strength. There has not been one death attributed to marijuana, along with no cases of lung cancer or emphysema. In the 1890’s, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission interviewed 800 people and found, “no evidence that moderate use of the cannabis drugs produced any disease or mental or moral damage or any more than moderate use of whisky.”10 In a year-long study of fairly heavy users, there were no discovered effects on learning or perception. In 1938, a 4 year study done by a committee of scientists in New York found, “no proof that major crime was associated with marijuana or that it caused aggressive or antisocial behavior; marijuana was not sexually over stimulating and did not change personality; there was no evidence of acquired tolerance.”11

In the U.S., there are proportionately fewer marijuana users than users of alcohol, tobacco, heroin, or cocaine. “Those in favor of legalization disagree with the idea of marijuana leading to other drugs. It is the person, not the drug, that leads to drug use. If someone is willing to try alcohol, they may also be willing to try marijuana and harder drugs. Grinspoon and Bakalar, authors of Marijuana, The Forbidden Medicine, explain this by saying that anyone who smokes marijuana has most likely tried alcohol first and anyone using a dangerous drug has most likely smoked first. Most marijuana smokers do not use heroin or cocaine, just as most alcohol drinkers do not use marijuana.”12

The use of marijuana in the medical world is important. It is one of the most effective treatments for problems that come along with cancer chemotherapy, glaucoma, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, and quadriplegia, AIDS, chronic migraines, menstrual cramps and labor pain, depression, asthma, and many more. It is gentler on the body and has fewer side effects than that of most medications used today. Cannabis does impair attention and short-term memory, tracking and coordination, but so does Valium, Xanax, and Halcion. Their patients are cautioned about these effects and told not to drive under these conditions.

In my opinion, marijuana should be legalized for medicinal purposes. Those who are suffering and in pain should have access to all that is available. Just like any other drug, when they are given it the patient should be instructed on how to use it and the symptoms that may arise because of it. When the stigma of being a criminal is taken off, the use of marijuana, people who do have a problem won’t have to fear the law. They will be able to get help without having to spend years in jail. The jail space could be filled with the real threats to society and enforcement could focus on drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and drunk drivers. People who do use marijuana would be using it safely, not smoking something that could be laced with the unknown. I think it should be treated like alcohol with the age limit, but in my opinion the age limit should be dropped to 18. It does not seem right that people in our country can choose the president, but can’t make heir own decision’s about what to do with their bodies. But I think the money saved on enforcement should be spent on making it harder for kids under the age limit to get marijuana. Purchasing marijuana now is simple, but if you had to go to a store or bar to get it, it would pose a problem.

“In Hamden there are 5-6 people brought in on possession of marijuana. If I ever caught a kid with dope, I would probably just throw the joint out and tell him to watch himself. I would rather see the money go to something good like alcohol prevention or teaching then tracking down dope fiends.” Said the police officer.

The argument over marijuana legalization is something that we may never resolve. We may become the first of the more powerful countries to legalize the drug, making it a worldwide controversy. There have already been steps toward legalization taken by the states of California and Arizona. These states gave their doctors the right to prescribe the drug for medicinal purposes only.13 If other states follow, is something that can not be predicted. All we can do is educate ourselves in case there is some kind of new law on the ballad in the year 2000. And whether marijuana is safe or dangerous, legal or illegal, we will always have the right to choose whether or not to put it into our bodies.


1. Califano, Joseph A. Jr., New York Times Magazine, Jan. 29, 1995 – Miller Memorial Library, old magazine archives.

2. Grinspoon, Lester, MD., Bakalar, James B., Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine, copyright 1993 by Yale University

3. Mikuriya, J.H., “Historical Aspects of Cannabis satria in Western Medicine,” New Physician, (1969) : 905

4. Nahas, Gabriel G., MD., Ph.D., D.Sc., Keep Off the Grass, copyright 1990 by Gabriel G. Nahas, MD., PH.D, D.Sc.

5. Rogers, Adam, “Seeing Through the Haze”, Newsweek Magazine, Jan. 13, 1997, page 60.

6. The New Book Of Knowledge, Volume 4, copyright 1992 by Thomas Szasz

7. Szasz, Thomas, Our Right to Drugs, copyright 1992 by Thomas Szasz

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