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Marijuana, Essay Example

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Introduction

The debate of marijuana has been a drug used since the beginning of time.  This product is used to create a temporary euphoric effect that alters an individual’s perception.  Public perception has associated marijuana with reckless fun and dangerous drug lords.  Movies that focus on getting high portrays individuals as funny, careless people who have no responsibilities other than having fun and smoking weed.   There is far more the marijuana than the 420 connotation that is associated with it.  Marijuana is a natural drug that needs has many different uses than what is portrayed through the media.

Background

Marijuana is a Cannabis plant that is a natural product.  It has been utilized recreationally, medically, and agriculturally.  Cannabis was a treatment for many different ailments until it was essentially outlawed with the Marijuana Tax of 1937.  This tax required a government stamp in order to purchase marijuana however the government refused to issue the stamps, making it virtually illegal.  “As a therapeutic mainstay, marijuana then underwent a draconian ban for almost 60 years until California passed Proposition 215 in 1996.  Since then, marijuana has undergone an important resurrection and has increasingly gained popularity, acceptance, and momentum.” (Seamon, Fass, & Maniscalco-Feichtl) This topic is important because of the money that has gone into the prevention and study of marijuana.

Thesis paragraph

The topic of marijuana has been a long-term debate that has struck a large amount of controversy.  On the pro side of marijuana, the arguments state that the ban for marijuana was based on its association not necessarily the factors of the actual drug.  It is also important to consider the excessive cost associated with controlling and preventing marijuana use and sales.  Finally, the pros of marijuana would be the medicinal benefits that it can provide.  The con side of marijuana argues that it creates a personality impairment that can have serious psychiatric side effects.  It also can lead to an addiction and need to move onto more dangerous substances.  And finally, its affects on the body when under it influence.  Both the pros and the cons argue the relevance of their positions.  The effects of marijuana have not been validated, therefore is should be legalized and controlled to benefit those who need it medically and enjoy it recreationally.  Legalizing marijuana will save the government billions of dollars and also provide a significant means of income for the United States.

Your Opinion

There is some concern for the initial reasons that marijuana was made to be illegal in the first place.  Marijuana was in essence guilty by association. This “exotic drug” was connected to the Mexicans and African Americans, adding to the need for the prohibition. This means that the majority, the controlling class, saw marijuana to be a drug associated with the unfamiliar and potentially dangerous minority class.  Banning this drug would eliminate the traffic that came with it.  California began this battle in 1915 when it made the plant outlawed in California.  Shorty after the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act finished making it illegal.  These laws did not necessarily target the prohibition of marijuana, but more so the individuals associated with it.

These claims were supported on many different levels.  Harry Anslinger, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics warned, “marihuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes” and claimed that half the violent crimes in areas occupied by “Mexicans, Greeks, Turks, Filipinos, Spaniards, Latin Americans, and Negroes may be traced to the use of marihuana.” Anslinger, who collected and circulated accounts of bloody crimes allegedly caused by marijuana, portrayed it as “the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.” (Sullum)  This title has been used for other drugs which are based on equally questionable evidence as well.

The initial claim that marijuana acted as a chemical to transforms individuals into homicidal maniacs was later contradicted by other declarations.  It was replaced with the belief that marijuana changes people into unmotivated, passive individuals.  The characteristics of marijuana show the absurdity in these accusations.  However, the contradictions did not affect legislations decision to ban the drug. “Few members of Congress knew anything about cannabis when they voted to outlaw the herb, what is this bill about?’ a congressman asked House Majority Leader Sam Rayburn from Texas, who replied, ‘It has something to do with a thing call marihuana. I think it is a narcotic of some kind’.” (Sullum) Perhaps the best option before choosing to ban anything would be to educate oneself on the true factors associated with the topic.

The cost associated with preventing marijuana is excessive. “According to the FBI, 401,982 Americans were arrested nationwide for marijuana offenses in 1980. By 1999, a record 704,812 were nabbed, 88 percent of them for possession rather than trafficking. Since cannabis arrests constitute 44 percent of all drug apprehensions, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) estimates that the government’s war on pot smokers costs taxpayers $9.2 billion annually.” (Murdock & Feder)  This is an excessive amount of money spent on preventing a product that has not been “found guilty” of being a true danger.  There are a lot of opinions as to the potential harms and side effects, but this is not different than many of the products available in the United States.  For example, alcohol and cigarettes pose harm to the human body therefore the government regulates these products.  On the same type of potential harm, look at places like McDonalds and Burger King.  When consumed in excess it can harm the body as well, however there is no ban placed on fast food restaurants.  With the money associate, jail space, and manpower to fight marijuana it is time to look at the facts again to see if there is a better option for handling and regulating it.

Medical marijuana has been a long term debate as well. There are eight states that are supporting the marijuana reform.  These states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, and Washington.  They all have the medical necessity provision and physician prescription option for marijuana except Arizona. There are other states that allow medicinal marijuana but on a much more conservative manner. Because of the state medical marijuana laws have such variation among them there could be some federal opposition that could come into play.  “Policy makers and advocates should note that the two biggest hurdles such laws will have to clear are the recognition of a medical necessity defense in state courts and the creation of a legitimate supply mechanism for patients that does not result in increasing the use of recreational marijuana.” (Pacula, Chriqui, Reichmann, & Terry-McElrath)  The states have the authority to make such policies in regards to medicinal marijuana the federal government will most likely not be involved unless there is a need for them to be.

Other Side   

Marijuana has been the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States for some time.  Being educated on this topic is important for many reasons.  According to Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States, “Marijuana use is associated with impaired educational attainment, reduced workplace productivity, and increased risk of use of other substances. Marijuana use plays a major role in motor vehicle crashes and has adverse effects on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.“ (Compton, Grant, Colliver, Glantz,& Stinson)   Any type of mind altering substance can affect the ability of an individual to operate vehicles or make decisions that they normally could.  The effects that it has on the bodies functioning can be dangerous as well this includes the need to pursue additional means of getting high.  This is done by moving up the chain of other substances that have a longer more intense effect on the human body.                                                                                                                                              Another concern that is that, even though it’s not sufficient, it is a condition that starts marijuana dependency and abuse which is a problem in and of itself.  “Marijuana abuse is defined in the DSM-IV as repeated instances of use under hazardous conditions; repeated, clinically meaningful impairment in social/occupational/educational functioning, or legal problems related to marijuana use. Marijuana dependence is defined in the DSM-IV as increased tolerance, compulsive use, impaired control, and continued use despite physical and psychological problems caused or exacerbated by use. Beyond the seriousness of these disorders in their own right, marijuana abuse and dependence increase the risk of other serious consequences, most significantly, major mood, anxiety, and personality psychopathology.” (Chen, Wagner, & Anthony)  The dependency on marijuana can become increasingly greater, also creating an alteration in an individual’s mood in the event that marijuana is not available. This disorder can cause serious harm to the individual’s ability to rationalize and act in a manner that they normally would.

Refute

As with any drug, there is a serious concern about the effect on teenagers and young adults alike.  Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Arkansas, Alan Budney states, “one of those risks is the development of addiction or dependence; that means teens may find themselves using more marijuana than they had planned.” (Faiad)  He also continues on to show that in his findings that three out of ten teens who smoke marijuana find themselves developing a drug addiction.  A thirty-percent chance is very high for any type of addiction, especially when drugs are involved.  This shows the need to regulate the ability for teenagers to have access to controlled substances because it can lead to a very unfavorable outcome.  Addition is dangerous, costly, and needs to be prevented when possible.

The gateway theory has been one of the biggest oppositions for banning marijuana.  Individuals who were born after the 1960’s were far less likely to move from tobacco or alcohol to marijuana.  Those who did use marijuana were not likely to progress to a harder drug.  It was not till the mid-90’s that an increase in youthful marijuana began.  “The probability of progression from alcohol or tobacco to marijuana use has increased in recent years, but the risk of progression by 17 years of age to cocaine powder, crack, or heroin has so far remained at relatively low levels. These youthful marijuana users may never progress to hard drug use.” (Golub &Johnson) Ethnographic studies show that among inner-city New York, the cultural norms encourage marijuana use but discourage harder drugs.  The gateway phenomenon shows restricting youth’s access to drugs will not prevent hard drug use.  Instead of assuming that the link is between marijuana and additional usages, it is more a much more viable answer to know that the initiators that are affecting the usage of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco.

Conclusion
The effects of marijuana have not been validated, therefore is should be legalized and controlled to benefit those who need it medically and enjoy it recreationally.  Marijuana is a large cash crop, one of the largest in the nation.  “It’s kind of amazing. Most people who have been doing this [advocacy work] over the last 20 years agree this is a very unique time and exciting time for reforming our marijuana laws and looking at the possibility of instituting some policies that will do a lot more good for our country.” (Cardinale)   The cost of prevention, the dangers associated with marijuana, and the potential for income brings the reality of legalization close to home.  Legalization with regulation is the best way to generate income and allow the government enforcement agencies to focus on other more pressing issues.  It is time to put marijuana reform on the table for the overall betterment of the nation.

References:

Cardinale, Matthew.. “Politics-U.S.: Buzz Grows on Idea OF Marijuana Legalization.” Global     Information Network. 19 Mar. 2009 Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

Chen CY, Wagner F, Anthony J. “Marijuana Use and the Risk of Major Depressive Episode:       Epidemiological Evidence from the United States National Comorbidity Survey”. Soc   Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2002;37:199-206. Print.

Compton WM, Grant BF, Colliver JD, Glantz MD, Stinson FS. “Prevalence of Marijuana Use     Disorders in the United States: 1991-1992 and 2001-2002”. JAMA. 2004;291(17):2114        -2121. doi:10.1001/jama.291.17.2114. Print.

Faiad, Andrea. “DANGEROUS DRUG.” Current Health 1. 01 Oct. 2007: 26. Web. 24 Apr.         2013.

Golub, Andrew., Johnson, Bruce D.. “Variation in Youthful Risks of Progression from Alcohol   Tobacco to Marijuana and to Hard Drugs Across Generations.” American Journal of    Public Health 2(2001):225.Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

Murdock, Deroy., Feder, Don.. “Symposium: Q: Should Conservatives Support the Legalization of Marijuana?.” Insight on the News. 01 Oct. 2001: 40. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo., Chriqui, Jamie F., Reichmann, Deborah A., Terry-McElrath, Yvon.. “State Medical Marijuana Laws: Understanding the Laws and Their Limitations.” Journal of Public Health Policy. 01 Jan. 2002: 413. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

Seamon MJ, Fass JA, Maniscalco-Feichtl M, et al. “Medical Marijuana and the Developing Role             of the Pharmacist”. Am J Health-Syst Pharm. 2007;64:1037-1044. Print.

Sullum, Jacob. “The War Over Weed.” Reason. 01 Jan. 2013: 60.  Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

 

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