Marijuana Policy Reform (Legislation): Public Health Issue, Research Paper Example
Words: 2699Research Paper
There are many social issues, which have magnificent public health impacts due to extensive medical and psychological implications influencing their use or control. Drug usage or abuse of any type has serious connotations for a community’s health. For example, marijuana has over the years become a threat to the population’s health when it has been abused by people of any age. This discussion will embrace an analysis of marijuana reform policy and how it will impact public health institutional management; discipline or being a problem. However, before engaging into a deeper discussion of the marijuana legislation it would be appropriate to review marijuana as a drug and social force.
Marijuana: The Drug
Marijuana is derived from a plant called Cannabis and contains medicinal properties. These have been isolated and their pharmacological significance documented as a psychoactive drug containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is merely one of 483 known compounds in the plant. There are some other 84 species of this drug, which includes cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabigerol (CBG) (Mahmoud, 2007).
Due to its medicinal properties many effects have been identified some positive and others not as positive. Form convenience these effects have been discussed as pyscho active and psychological. As a psychoactive ingredient marijuana exhibits hallucinogenic; stimulating and depressive reactions. These are produced as a single reaction or combination of all three. Presently, the American Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of this drug for any condition for which it has been recommended for medicinal purposes. Among these are pain relief; reduction of intraocular pressure in glaucoma; stimulation of appetite; multiple sclerosis and depression.
From a psychological premise studies have revealed that marijuana has influenced memory; learning and intelligence. University of California Santiago School of Medicine Researchers revealed that while the drug did not cause long term brain damage it created perception alterations. Marginal long term disturbance in memory were identified with special significance to the way users react to time, space, attention, execution of motor skills management; language and reasoning. These adjustments were temporary and occurred as an immediate response to use. Researchers reiterated that there were no long term dangerous effects (Beasley, 2003).
However, studies on adolescents proved conflicting since researchers found where there was irreversible brain damage which was not reversed after subjects stopped using the drug. Thus it affected perception, intelligence, memory, psychomotor development and learning generally. Ultimately researcher did differ slightly on these results stating that the socio-economic variable as well as IQ of individuals must be considered before validating the conclusions (Zalesky, 2012).
Marijuana is usually prepared and distributed as dried flower; kief; hashish; tincture, essential oils; infusion and pipe rasin. Other less popular methods include chalk and soap bars. On many occasions they have been blended into many other substances to hide distribution since use of the drug is illegal. Precisely, it is consumed through smoking, as a vaporizer or in teas (Ponto –Boles, 2006)
Marijuana: A Social Force
In perceiving marijuana as a social force inevitable forces an analysis to embrace it as having public health significance in the same way as domestic violence and crime occurring in a community. Importantly, marijuana social use has been linked to both domestic violence and crime. Studies show where the real effects of marijuana use is not so much medical, but social, which it a very important factor in relating its use to public health intervention.
Although it has been popular belief that marijuana is used for recreational or medical reasons studies have shown that certain religions inculcate the drug as part of their spiritual rites since it is believed to stimulate the manifestation of extra sensory forces. United Nations estimated that global consumption of marijuana to be 4% of the entire world population adults which is actually 162 million people. This is a yearly estimation rate. Importantly, this reflects a 0.6%, 22.5 million people using marijuana daily (Ponto –Boles, 2006).
As it pertains to United States of America, marijuana is considered the mostly used illegal drug in the county. Some 5.1% of Americans are consistently using it for at least 30 consecutive days. A 1977 study showed where, 38% of 12th graders were found using the substance regularly for a consecutive 30 day period. Similarly, in 2011, 23% of the same age group was reported to have continued its use within the same consecutive day sequence. Hence, the public health significance of this dysfunction is that beginning from the early 20th century the use of marijuana has been made illegal. Still there has been widespread use among adults and children of all ethical dispositions or orientations, to the extent of United Nations making a statement that marijuana is the most illegal drug used internationally. This is amidst regulations limiting the amount one can have in his/her possession, sale of the commodity and preparation (Ponto –Boles, 2006).
Consequently, since 1993 there have been over 8,000,000 arrests made for neither possession, not manufacturing nor distribution. Research shows where despite these arrests there is also large scale growing operation among interests groups within the society. Police have been kept busy raiding farms, automobiles, cars and homes for marijuana possessing or growing. After 1997 a shift in arrests and incarceration occurred whereby there have been fewer inditements for actual possession, but situations associated with the use and manufacture; distribution and growing of the commodity (Degenhardt et.al, 2008).
Importantly, Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report revealed that in 2008 there were 847,864 arrests. 754,224 were associated with possession only. The other remaining 93,640 were connected to “sale/manufacture.” Interestingly, this category is not definitive. There is no distinction between arrests for cultivation offenses and other aspects of interaction with marijuana hereby making the law either ambiguous or inadequate to deal with the issue of marijuana use, distribution and growth. No allowances have been made for people who carry or grow small portions for health or religious purposes. To date arrests associated with marijuana account for 49.8% of all drug related arrests in America (Degenhardt et.al, 2008).
The real public health issue here is according to Michele Alexander (2012) more black men are incarcerated in the twenty-first century than were enslaved during the plantation era. Further, the statistics showed where 75% of them return after being released (Alexander, 2012). Public health implications are that family structures are being affected. When this occurs the long term effect is that a great percentage of children have to be raised by mothers in drug infested communities where poverty, underdevelopment and crime are increasing. Crime in itself is a public health issue because it can range from sexual violence, incest, domestic violence and murder. These are all elements that affect population growth and well-being. World health organization’s definition of health clearly identified that health a state of mental, social, emotional and spiritual well-being. Health is not merely the absence of disease (World Health Organization, 2013).
While the reaction by law makers to marijuana use, possession and cultivation is not classified a disease entity my perception is that the way society been forced to relate to a plant used as any other for medicinal or religious purposes, this response is as if there has been outbreak for which social drug interactions have become resistant. Therefore, the time has come for law makers, public health officials, politicians and religious leaders to sanction a reformation of these apparently ineffective measures to quarantine a perceived dangerous organism.
Marijuana Policy Reform (legislation)
Marijuana policy reform has been initiated largely through nonprofit organizations such as the National Organization for Reform Marijuana Laws. The focus of this movement is to force perception changes lifting awareness regarding the truth concerning marijuana use and effects. Questions offered for contemplation are whether marijuana use is a menace to society or a political game to keep law enforcement employed and drug cartels active as underground strategies in balancing economies of both developing and developed nations. What is the social problem impacting public health intervention? Is it the use in itself or the commercial impact of the commodity on the world market? What is the true reason for legislating it illegal?
Precisely, NORML advocates removal of all criminal penalties associated with private possession and responsible use by adults of marijuana. This includes, ‘cultivation for personal use, and the casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts,” and “supports the development of a legally controlled market for cannabis’ (NORML, 2013). NORML and the NORML Foundation also intervene for people incarcerated due to marijuana possession as they work towards legalizing use of the product. Further, NORML petitioned President Obama in 2009 requesting the appointment of a “Drug Czar” who is expected to perceive drug abuse as a health problem rather than a criminal one. This was after extensive surveys proved that the slogan “War on Drugs” was creating more negative messages than positive ones (NORML, 2013).
Consequently, House Bill 1661 was officially given to the committee for a hearing date. This was expected to be heard on Wednesday, February 20th at 1:30PM, 2013.Implications are that this bill when passed would nullify convictions charged under RCW 69.50.4014. This goes beyond a 21+, age group of one ounce decrim which became effective last December, and applies to those who were caught possessing up to 40 grams, and those 18+. House bill 1661 specifically aims at clearing criminal records of people convicted of marijuana drug possess misdemeanor (Marijuana Policy Project, 2013).
House Bill 1084 focusing on protecting patients using marijuana for medical reasons from arrest did not receive a hearing. It is hoped that with some inclusion into a Senate 5528 bill the right of this category of offenders would be addressed. This bill when passed is expected to protect patients in possession of 24 ounces of the commodity, farmers who cultivate a 15 plant limit to no longer face prosecution/persecution from police officers (Marijuana Policy Project, 2013).
Meanwhile the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has issued a statement confirming that arrests due to possession of small amounts of marijuana is one of the most common drug-related points of entry into the criminal justice system. Further, they identified that arrests ‘are often directed primarily at people of color, despite strong evidence that whites use marijuana at higher rates. As such, Criminal Law Reform Project along with ACLU advocate for the decriminalization of personal possession of marijuana across the nation’ (ACLU, 2013).
Therefore, marijuana reform legislation is imperative at this point in human history. The overall social and public health impact cannot be overestimated. Prohibiting the use of marijuana according to criminologists has escalated America’s incarceration rate to an unacceptable level, being a country with most the imprisoned people and highest likelihood of going to jail, besides being shot and killed. Marijuana offenders account for 500,000 of the 2 million plus in America’s prisons and jails.
Sadly, as was pointed out previously in this discussion, 75% of offenders return to prison within the first year. This is due to the creation of an altered social background debarring employment. Often they fail drug tests. The critical observation of psychologists, social analysts; psychotherapists is that a great number of these offenders happen to be in the wrong place when imprisoned since they are no risk to society or public safety. Therefore, in removing criminal penalties for marijuana offenses the U.S. prison population is expected to be reduced by more than 50% (ACLU, 2013).
The money utilized to keep these, ‘no threat to public safety criminals in jail’ can be utilized in health promotion projects as effect health care reform interventions. Advocates for marijuana reform law suggest that these tax payers’ money can be more effectively applied towards protecting the public from real criminal activities and providing low cost quality health promotion ventures for children and pregnant women who are inadequately insured to receive quality health care (ACLU, 2013).
The Public Health Issue
It is no understatement to say that marijuana has proven beneficial as a remedy for many medical conditions and not merely a life style pastime as cigarette smoking. As such, the public health impact relating its use as a drug must not be overlooked above the social implications governing interactions with the commodity. Prohibiting marijuana use is preventing the application of less costly available remedies for illnesses in a society where healthcare is unaffordable due to inadequate health care insurance coverage.
ACLU published contemporary scientific evidence confirming the numerous reports testifying of the immense therapeutic influence of medical marijuana. The drug has offered unique pain and emotional relief for life threatening conditions such as cancer, AIDS and sickle disease to name just a few. Patients testify of the minimal side effects incurred when using marijuana medicinally in comparison to other chemotherapy drug interventions. Statistics show where over one million patients nationwide, to date have used medical marijuana as prescribed by their doctors based on previous legislations passed sanctioning its use (ACLU, 2013).
In examining the social force of marijuana in relation to public health there is magnificent misinterpretation of an action, which has reached epidemic proportions. This can further escalate if laws are not passed to quell this madness. The truth as depicted in previous sections of this document marijuana use is no real threat to public safety. However, society expects public heath’s reaction to the phenomenon be addressing a natural/national disaster through extensive drug rehabilitation programs. In fact the marijuana effect is a manmade virus/disaster.
The first assessment is identifying if a problem exists and where is the point of initiation. Studies have proven that there has been no long term brain damage to any adult who has been using marijuana overtime. However, children and adolescents are the at risk population. Therefore, in the same way public health measures are taken to protect children and adolescents from second hand smoke and other environmental hazards, public health policies could restrict marijuana exposure to children and adolescents. This would indeed limit the number of arrests and psychological dysfunctions resulting from imprisonment, which creates a more serious public health issue.
Imprisonment carries with it its own serious ills since prisoners are often unprotected while in jail. Many are raped and sodomized by other prisoners. As such, marijuana imprisonment in itself is definitely a socially imposed public health dilemma. In an era where public health is focused on controlling the spread of sexually transmitted diseases reports show evidence where there are increases in sexually transmitted diseases among prisoners, who transmit them to their partner after release (Degenhardt et.al, 2008).
Hence, the misery- goes-round of the ‘marijuana effect’ designed by the present social structure. In concluding this section it is clear that marijuana use in itself is not life threatening, the people imprisoned for its possession are no threat to public safety, then why are there laws prohibiting its use?
The foregoing discussion embraced an analysis of marijuana reform policy and how it impacts public health institutional management; discipline as being a problem. Before engaging into a deeper discussion of the marijuana legislation a review of marijuana as a drug and social force was undertaken. Marijuana as a drug is was discovered to be harmless; being a social force its far reaching effects have serious public health implications.
Therefore, the urgency ‘Marijuana Policy Reform (legislation)’ is imperative. Fewer men will be imprisoned who could be more usefully engaged making vital contributions to society; more money will be available for affordable healthcare; a source sexually transmitted diseases will obliterated and family structures operate as a sacred unit.
ACLU. Marijuana Law Reform. 2013. Accessed March 9th , 2013 from http://www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/marijuana-law-reform
Alexander, Michelle. New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The New York Press. 2012. Print
Beasley, Deana. Study – Pot doesn’t cause permanent brain damage. Reuters Health E-Line. 2003. Print
Degenhardt, L. Chiu W-T. Sampson N; Kessler, RC; Anthony, J. Toward a Global
View of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis, and Cocaine Use: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. PLoS Med, Vol 5, No7, e141. 2008. Print
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Marijuana Policy Project. Marijuana Policy Reform Bills 2013. Accessed 10th March, 2013from http://www.mpp.org/legislation/marijuana-policy-reform-bills.html
NORML. Working to Reform marijuana Laws. 2013.Accessed on March 9th, 2013 from http://norml.org/
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Zalesky A. Effect of long-term cannabis use on axonal fibre connectivity. Brain Vol 135, No.7 55. 2245–55. 2012. Print
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