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Legalization Of Marijuana Essay, Research Paper

Currently, drugs remain high on the lists of concerns of Americans and are considered one of the major problems facing our country today. We see stories on the news about people being killed on the street every day over drugs. To many people drugs are only an inner-city problem, but in reality they affect all of us; users and non-users. I believe that the negative affects we associate with drugs would be greatly reduced if the United States adopted a policy towards the total decriminalization of marijuana. However society today is set very much against the legalization of pot. The question is ?why??. After being legal and socially acceptable, why in only the last century have people decided to make it illegal? With all of the evidence that now shows that marijuana has medicinal benefits, why are people still hesitant to make it legal? (Guideline #1)

The problem is that the current drug policy of our government is obviously failing. Drug laws have created corruption, violence, increased street crime, and disrespect for the criminal justice system. Current drug legislation has failed to reduce demand. It’s just too hard to monitor illegal substances when a significant portion of the population is committed to using drugs. (Guideline #2)

Marijuana comes from the cannabis plant, which can readily be grown on fields across the nation and was cultivated heavily in the colonial period. After 130 years of being legal, marijuana?s potential problems were brought into the public eye by Harry J. Anslingler, the commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the author of Marijuana: Assassin of Youth. In his book, Anslinger portrayed images of Mexican and Negro criminals, as well as young boys, who became killers while under the influence of marijuana. With the added public pressure, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This law made the use and sale of marijuana federal offenses. At this point marijuana was removed from the public eye, and heavy users included poor Negroes, migrant Mexicans, and Jazz Musicians. Marijuana reappeared in the mid 1960’s with the emergence of the “Hippie.” Widespread objection to the use of marijuana remained because of the set of valued and lifestyles associated with it, but use appeared in colleges and among middle-class youths in the suburbs. Marijuana became a symbol of a counter-culture, and youthful rebellion. As a consequence, marijuana use rose for the next ten years. Marijuana was becoming more accepted across the nation. As the users of Marijuana changed, the attitudes about the danger of Marijuana broke down. In 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act reduced the classification of simple possession and non-profit distribution from felonies to misdemeanors. This was a good start. (Guideline #3)

However, President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1973 and over the next 20 years, each succeeding president continued to escalate the drug war. This policy has obviously done nothing to stop the recreational use of drugs in this country; on the contrary, it is causing great harm. It’s time to try something new. (Guideline #3)

When most people imagine the legalization of marijuana, they fear a marijuana free-for-all with everybody constantly getting high. Legalization would be a burdensome task for the U.S. Government. In fact, the legal process would include a law passed by Congress allowing the government to control the content, quality, and distribution of marijuana. The laws would be similar to the current laws regulating alcohol, including laws governing age, limits for driving, and distribution. A thorough investigation of the costs and benefits of legalization must be examined before any policy is implemented, but I believe it will show that the benefits far outweigh the detriments. (Guideline #4)

Just because I believe this doesn?t mean it is correct. The facts are that the three general areas where people opposed to the legalization of marijuana center their argumentsis on health care, increased crime, and social aspects. Marijuana is more dangerous than cigarette smoking. Two Marijuana joints create more airway impairment than do an entire pack of cigarette. One joint contains three times more tar than do cigarettes and is considered four times more dangerous. It dramatically increases the pulse rate and blood pressure during use. If marijuana is legalized, many project that lung cancer will increase as the amount of marijuana use increases. These are all valid arguments, but cigarette smoking is legal, a booming business, and causes the same exact problems. (Guideline #5)

There are a number of myths associated with the use of marijuana and its effects on your body which people who are opposed to its decriminalization repeatedly cite. One of these in that Marijuana causes brain damage. This claim is based on a study of the rhesus monkey performed by Dr. Robert Heath in the late 1970’s. Heath’s work was criticized for its insufficient sample size (only four monkeys), its failure to control experimental bias, and the misidentification of normal monkey brain structure as “damaged”. Actual studies of human populations of marijuana users have shown no evidence of damage to the brain. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) conducted two studies in 1977 and they showed no evidence of brain damage in heavy users of marijuana. Later that same year the AMA came out in favor of the decriminalizing of marijuana. It seems to me that the AMA wouldn’t do that if it thought marijuana was damaging to the brain. (Guideline #3, #6)

Another myth is that marijuana damages the reproductive system. This is based on the work of Dr. Gabriel Nahas, who experimented with tissue cells isolated in petri dishes. The cells were dosed with near lethal levels of cannibinoids (the intoxicating part of marijuana). Nahas’s generalizations from the petri dishes to human beings have been rejected by the scientific community as being invalid. Studies of actual human populations have failed to demonstrate that marijuana adversely affects the reproductive system. (Guideline #3, #6)

A persistent myth about marijuana is that it is a gateway drug, leading to the use of harder drugs. The Dutch partially decriminalized marijuana in the 1970’s since then the use of heroin and cocaine has sharply decreased. The opposite of this gateway affect is also present the United States. In 1993 a study by the Rand Corporation compared drug use in states that have decriminalized marijuana and those that have not. It found that in states where marijuana was more available, hard drug abuse as measured by emergency room episodes decreased. What science and real experience tells us is that marijuana tends to substitute for much harder drugs like alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. (Guideline #3, #6)

Another misconception is that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol. Extremely high doses of cannibinoids cause death. Extremely high doses are the key words here. Scientists have concluded that the ratio of cannibinoids needed to get a person intoxicated (stoned) relative to the amount necessary to kill him is 1 to 40,000. That means that to overdose on marijuana you would need to consume 40,000 times as much as you would to get stoned. The ratio of alcohol varies between 1 in 4 and 1 in 10. Over 5,000 people die of alcohol overdoses each year, and no one has ever died from overdosing on pot. (Guideline #3, #6)

These are just a few of the myths used by various groups in order to keep marijuana illegal. Along with these myths comes the false belief that crime will increase if marijuana is legalized. Allen St. Pierre, Assistant National Director of the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML), says that legalization will wipe out the already 60-billion dollar black market by placing marijuana in the open market. (Guideline #4)

It is the enforcement of the laws criminalizing the possession, use, manufacture, and distribution of marijuana that are causing the violent crime. This war on drugs is wasting the money, as well as the lives of American people. The widely recognized opinion maker William F. Buckley, Jr. writes:

…The time devoted to tracking down, arresting and then trying marijuana users and then trying marijuana users is perhaps the greatest exercise in lost time in contemporary activity. In the last two years, approximately 750,000 arrests were made in our mad, quixotic effort to stamp out marijuana. What this adds up to is millions of police hours spent on bootless missions, millions of hours of court time wasted, and millions of months in jail, using up space sorely needed to contain people who can’t wait to get out in order to resume mugging and murdering. (Guideline #5)

The drug laws imprison a multitude of otherwise law abiding people, a disproportionate number of them who are poor or minorities, for non violent acts that are directed at no one but themselves. Instead of eliminating drugs, the prohibition of them just fosters an illegal industry able to inflate prices. This is hauntingly familiar to the prohibition era of gangsters present when alcohol was illegal in the 1920’s. Because drugs are sold on the black market, they cause violence, deaths due to no quality regulation, and diseases from sharing illegal drug paraphernalia. (Guideline #3, #6)

The American Civil Liberties advocates the full decriminalization of the use, possession, manufacture, and distribution of drugs. It does this for constitutional reasons. The following is an excerpt from their policy on drugs which was adopted in 1994:

Criminalizing the use, possession, manufacture, and distribution of drugs violates the principle that the criminal law may not be used to protect individuals from the consequences of their own autonomous choices or to impose upon those individuals a majoritarian conception of morality and responsibility…..Enforcement of laws criminalizing possession, use, manufacture of distribution of drugs engender violations of civil liberties. Because drug enforcement is aimed at behavior which is inherently difficult to detect and does not involve a complaining “victim,” it necessarily relies on law enforcement techniques — such as use of undercover operations, arbitrary or invasive testing procedures, random or dragnet seizures, and similar measures — that raise serious civil liberties concerns. These enforcement techniques lead in practice to widespread violations of civil liberties guarantees, including those secured by the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments. (Guideline #7)

The supporters of legalization believe that it will benefit society in three ways, including revenue enhancement, medical benefits, and hemp production. The ingest argument for marijuana legalization is revenue enhancement for the U.S. Government. Much of the money will be saved due to less law enforcement, court time, and the cost of incarcerating prisoners whose only crime is possession. (Guideline #7)

Considering America’s annual marijuana harvest was worth $50.7 billion in 1989 and $41.4 billion in 1988, $28 billion greater than corn at $31.4 billion, marijuana could become the leading agricultural product in the United States. With trade regulations, industry regulations and consumption taxes on he product NORML has estimated that legalization would produce over $40 billion in taxable revenue. As Congress debates the national debt, legalization would provide the needed funds to help our economy. (Guideline #7)

Legalization advocates constantly tout marijuana’s medicinal benefits. For cancer patients, marijuana reduces nausea and increases the appetite. Marijuana also reduces epileptic seizures and reduces nerve disorders in multiple sclerosis patients. If it helps patients get extra quality time out of their lives, then attempts to decriminalize it should be supported. Legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, as California recently did, could provide answers about diseases and allow research to be conducted for future purposes. (Guideline #7)

An area that does not gather too much publicity in the legalization issue is hemp production. Marijuana comes from the top leaves and flowers of the female hemp plant. The fiber from the top can be used to make clothing, paper, rope, and methanol fuel. Hemp is a plant that can be grown in poor soil, thus not taking up any valuable agricultural land. Hemp now grows in the U.S. because of its heavy production in the 18th and 19th centuries. Seventy-Five to Ninety percent of all paper used before 1883 was hemp paper, including the first two drafts of the Declaration of Independence. Hemp is safer for the environment. Hemp requires 40% fewer chemicals to produce paper, and, over twenty years, one acre of hemp can produce four times as much pulp as can an acre of trees. The production of hemp would save trees and clean up the air. (Guideline #7)

With all of the information made available to society by past experiments, it should be easily seen that marijuana should be legalized. The benefit of its decriminalization would overshadow any of the detriments. However, I do realize that some time in the future, further tests and studies may prove that marijuana does cause harm to people. And if there is enough evidence that can show a good reason for pot to remain illegal, then I believe it shouldn?t be legalized. However, until the time where this information will be shown, I still think that marijuana should be legal for all people of age to use (Guideline #8)


Internet Web-Site Sources



2. Marijuana: Facts for Teens


3. The Medical Marijuana Magazine


4. Science of Medical Marijuana


5. Marijuana: Advances in Research


6. Marijuana Myths



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