Marijuana is perhaps one of the most misunderstood drugs in today’s society. Unlike other hard drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines, marijuana is grown naturally. It is a greenish gray mixture of dried and broken leaves, stems, seeds and flowers from the Cannabis Sativa plant. It has been illegal in American society since the passing of the marijuana tax law in 1937 removing its legal status. (LegalizationOf Marijuana.com , 2001).
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Since then questions from the population regarding its legal status and health risks have been endlessly debated. It has been demonized as a gateway drug, meaning its can lead to the use of even harder drugs such as heroin. The illegality of Marijuana requires that people make a stand against the illegality of its religious, medical and political use. This topic will give reasoning in regards to why Marijuana should be legalized.
Legality of Marijuana
The main reason which has been given against the legality of Marijuana is the fact that it is classified as a Schedule I drug. What this means is that it has a high potential for abuse. Marijuana has been under this status more than 38 years and was banned for 33 years before that during the passing of the Marijuana tax law in 1937. The passing of these laws and the relative unknown effects of the drug due to limited scientific research has created a perception of the drug which has made it seem as if it is far more potent than it actually is. The perception that it leads to harder drugs is another assumption which has been brought forth by the media in the war on drugs which has no conclusive basis in any scientific study.
In fact there have been studies which have proven that when taken in moderation the marijuana drug is not considered to be more harmful than alcohol and tobacco. The amount of tobacco which is used in the creation of Marijuana cigarettes is quite miniscule compared with the amount which is found in normal cigarettes. Cigarette studies have proven the product to be much more dangerous than Marijuana with known links to various cancers.
Perhaps the greatest crime which can be associates with Marijuana use is that smoking it creates criminals of those users who simply which to indulge and those who simply which to sell. The use of Marijuana in the Netherlands has been decriminalized since 1976.
The enforcement of criminal laws against the possession of this drug is still considered a crime but it is not enforced by any state. Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Belgium, England and Italy have also followed this example and decriminalized the drug in 2004. In contrast to these countries the United States is the only country in the world which has not only passed this legislation; rather it is the only country which has actually increased the drug penalties for Marijuana. The penalties for Marijuana use have increased not only for those who use it in the form of new fines against individuals like these. But the growing or the selling of Marijuana can also lead to serious jail time for certain individuals.
In order to consider how many individuals smoke Marijuana in the United States we can take a look at a study which was conducted by the National Survey on drug use and health. This study looked at the average usage of Marijuana among people of 12 years and older from 1999-2001 and found that an average of 5.1% were found using it (Natonal Survery On Drug use and health, 2005). Other statistics which have focused on the war of drugs have found that the number of arrests which have occurred due to simple possession of Marijuana in New York have numbered over three hundred and fifty thousands in between the time periods of 1997-2006.
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It was also reported that 52% of the individuals arrested were African American in origin. These statistics have also shown that the successful arrests which were made against the use of Marijuana were only done so by allowing the frisking of nearly four hundred and seventy nine thousand people. According to these statistic eighty seven percent of these individuals were innocent at the time they were searched (Levine & Small, 2008).
It can be seen how the fear mongering of the war on drug has created an environment where the loss of privacy of the civilian population has became the last concern for law enforcement officials. They are willing to do whatever measures are required to make these arrests. Additionally, what his not known about the effect of these arrests, is that these individuals can be charged with misdemeanors and even casual usage of this drug can turn into a prison sentence. These legislations are directed against repeated offenders who are thrown in jail creating a huge tax burden on the American economy.
A report on the budgetary implications on the legalization of Marijuana found that if the government legalized Marijuana they could save nearly 7.7 billion dollars a years in costs which are directly related to enforcement of its laws. The study also found that if Marijuana was legalized it would yield a tax revenue of 2.4 billion dollars annually if it were taxed according to legislations on other good and it would make the country 6.2 billion dollars annually if it was taxed in the same way as alcohol or tobacco (Miron, 2005).
Federal Government and State Governments’ Views on Marijuana
There are currently eight states in the United States which have legalized the use of Medical Marijuana. They are in alphabetical order Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. All of these states have passed laws which allow the use of Medical Marijuana under certain special circumstances. One other states Hawaii has legalized the use of Medical Marijuana as well (Joffe & Yancy, 2004).
However, the federal government is so set on its antiquated ideas it is actually passing legislations which can prevent even criminalize the use of Marijuana by physicians to alleviate the pain and/or suffering of seriously ill patients. The New England Journal of Medicine has called this legislation “misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane.” The journal further says that it does not understand the problem of the federal government to issue such terminally ill patients Marijuana especially since addiction is not an issue in this case and they allow the use of morphine in this case in order to relieve pain.
The journal further says that it is more important to patient that he feels relief by taking the drug not that there is a chance of addiction, the relative serious condition of the patient deprives any chance of its efficacy being known by a controlled trail (Kassirer, 1997).
Other research which has been conducted shows that Marijuana may also be used to treat several other debilitating conditions. Marijuana has been widely advertised as being used to alleviate symptoms of nausea in chemotherapy. It has also been associated with wasting, anorexia, AIDS, intraocular pressure in Glaucoma to reduce pressure in the eyes and the reduction of muscle spasticity which can be caused by conditions such as multiple sclerosis. These contentions regarding the benefits of Marijuana in these diseases were found in two studies conducted by the Institute of Medicine and the American Medical Association (Joffe & Yancy, 2004).
The Journal also states that the legislation against Marijuana is also a form of hypocrisy since the drug known as Dronabinol, which contains one of the ingredients active in Marijuana has been in use for more than a decade without any legal ramifications. Though, it is not well known what level of the drug can be used to have therapeutic effects of their patients. By contrast smoking Marijuana can increase the blood stream levels with active Marijuana ingredients almost immediately (Kassirer, 1997).
One of the most recent instances of Marijuana legalization in the United States has been the passing of proposition 215. Proposition 215 is also called the compassionate use act. It speaks of the use of Marijuana for medical purposes. It permits seriously ill Californians to use Marijuana strictly under the recommendation of doctors. It also gives legal defense to doctors who prescribe it to their patients (Institute Of Governmental Studies, 2003).
There have been many forces in the federal government which have said that the legalization of Marijuana in any shape of form will lead to anarchy. However, there has been a study which has shown the relationship between the use of Marijuana in San Francisco and Amsterdam which found that the criminalization of Marijuana does not deter its usage and the decriminalization of Marijuana does not increase its usage.
Contrary to popular belief, this study has proven that the legality of Marijuana will not lead to the increased use of the drug in many communities, nor will it became a gateway to several harder drugs as it has been suggested. All criminalization truly does as this study proves is making criminals of those people who smoke Marijuana and create more of a burden on the American Economy (Reinarman, Cohen, & Kaal, May 2004).
In fact the passage of this bill has actually been considered an important benefit to the failing Californian economy. Studies have estimate that Marijuana is the single biggest cash crop of the United States with sales of nearly 14 billion dollars a year. A study has found that by implementation of these laws California stands to make 1.3 billion dollars a year due to its new Marijuana legislation (Stateman, 2009).
The latest state which has joined the Marijuana legalization bandwagon is Rhode Island which recently voted into legislation a law which would allow patients to receive Marijuana from dispensaries. A state representative said that patients should not have to deal with drug dealers in order to receive the medicine they require. With the current attitude of the Obama administration towards the state approach of medical Marijuana law state dispensaries have a much greater leeway from federal prosecution than ever before (The Wall Street Journal Blogs , 2009).
Growing Trend of Legalization
There have been numerous other bold steps towards the legalization of Marijuana that are still taking place now around the United States. Several prominent political leaders such as Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Mexican presidents have actually called for debates to discuss whether Marijuana should be legalized. There have already been thirteen states which have legalized Marijuana for medical uses, with three more which are going to join in the near future.
In fact Massachusetts voters have actually put into legislation a law which makes possession of an ounce or less of Marijuana legal with a dozen more states and lawmakers now taking the same steps. Polls among American Adults have shown that for the first time in history the American people are actually open to the debate of the legalization of Marijuana since the ones who are now voting are the same individuals who popularized the smoking of this substance in the first place. A poll in California in May, 2009 found 56% of voters willing to support legislation to legalize Marijuana (Crary, 2009).
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Pros and Cons of Marijuana Usage
It must be acknowledged that the legality of Marijuana though in question by the federal government will bring in much tax revenue to these states. Additionally the standardization of the drug in these states will ensure that people who buy it are not only putting money into the tax revenue stream but also buying a product which meets safety standards and has fewer contaminants which can cause susceptible diseases (BalancedPolitics.org, 2009). There are several countries in Europe which have legalized Marijuana and found that its legality has positive effects on society (LegalizationOfMarijuana.com , 2001). In contrast there were 734,000 people arrested in the United States in the year 2000 in relation to Marijuana related crimes (LegalizationOfMarijuana.com , 2001).
Research into the use of Marijuana has shown that it can have the same effects on an individual’s brain as that of a long term drug usage. Additionally the New England journal of Medicine has found that the pulmonary effects of smoking Marijuana can be even more than smoking tobacco. However, it must be considered that the legalization of Marijuana can put limitations on its usage in society and can also inform the public to keep such safety concerns in mind by pursuing further research which is not biased due to the viewpoint of the federal government (Wu, Tashkin, Djahed, & Rose, 1988).
There is no doubt that the use and abuse of Marijuana is a serious matter which must be curtailed before it gets out of control. However, what the federal government refuses to see is that the myths of hazard and the title of criminality which they are associating with the drug is not helping the public realize the true issue behind Marijuana usage. The country of Amsterdam has legalized the usage of not only Marijuana, but several other hard drugs for years without any rise in criminal activity.
In fact by offering individuals with drug problems facilities where they may find relief from their dependence instead of cells where they may be incarcerated them have found better ways to educate and free their populations of the effects of these drugs. It can be clearly seen how the legalization of Marijuana if only for medical purposes can bring the United States some much needed revenue in these dire economic times. If they continue to tout laws and regulations which act against the legalization of this drug the only person they will be continuing to support are the dealers who make their livelihood selling this product to innocent civilians.
BalancedPolitics.(2009). Should Marijuana be Legalized under any Circumstances? . Web.
Crary, D. (2009). Momentum builds for broad debate on legalizing pot. Web.
Institute Of Governmental Studies. (2003). Medical Marijuana in California. Web.
Joffe, A., & Yancy, W. S. (2004). Legalization of Marijuana: Potential Impact on Youth. Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics Vol.113 No.6 , 632-638.
Kassirer, J. P. (1997). Federal Foolishness and Marijuana. The New England Journal of Medicine Volume 336 Number 5 , 366-367.
LegalizationOfMarijuana.com. (2001). Arguments for and against the legalization of Marijuana. Web.
LegalizationOfMarijuana.com. (2001). US Policy on Drugs. Web.
Levine, H. G., & Small, D. P. (2008). Marijuana Arrest Crusade. Ne York: New York Civil Liberties Union.
Miron, J. A. (2005). The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition. Web.
Natonal Survery On Drug use and health. (2005). Marijuana Use in Substate Areas. New York: Natonal Survery On Drug use and health.
Personal Health Zone. (2005). Marijuana Side Effects. Web.
Reinarman, C., Cohen, P. D., & Kaal, H. L. (2004). Cannabis in Amsterdam and in San Francisco. American Journal of Public Health Vol 94 No. 5 , 836-842.
Stateman, A. (2009). Can Marijuana Help Rescue California’s Economy? Web.
The Wall Street Journal Blogs. (2009). Rhode Island Joins States Legalizing Sale of Medical Marijuana. Web.
Wu, T., Tashkin, D., Djahed, B., & Rose, J. (1988). Pulmonary hazards of smoking marijuana as compared with tobacco. The New England Journal of Medicine Volume 318 Issue 6 , 347-351.