Marijuana Legalization in the US: Pros and Cons

Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, or flowers of the hemp plant. Its other names include Mary Jane, pot, herb, weed boom, hashish, or gangster. THC delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is its active chemical. The effect that marijuana has on an individual depends on its strength, which is related to the content of THC. Marijuana can be smoked as a cigarette or pipe. It can also be eaten or mixed in food or brewed as tea. Marijuana is absorbed rapidly into the consumer’s fatty tissues and into the various organs.

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Reasons behind the smoking of marijuana vary with individuals. Influence from friends, relatives can lead to one using it. The media influences its consumption as some songs praise its usage. Young people could result to marijuana consumption to evade or escape from challenges both at home and in school. It has a relaxing feeling to some when taken, others feel high, thirsty, and hungry, but some feel nothing after smoking it.

Harmful effects of marijuana include feelings of anxiety and paranoia. It can distort one’s perception by influencing one’s sight, sounds, time, and touch. It can also cause problems with memory and learning. It interferes with how one thinks and solves problems. It can also lead to increased heart rate and loss of motor coordination. Marijuana effects are adverse when mixed with other drugs. (Gerber 18).

The benefits of marijuana vary depending on the person in question. To those who plant it and those who traffic it is their source of income. To the user, it has the relaxation or feeling high benefits, but to the user’s family, it can be a source of grief or sorrow. Marijuana’s historical uses were antiseptic and as an analgesic. It could be used in the treatment of burns and for pain-relieving and sedative effects. (Gerber 25). Others report that it could be used as an antibiotic and could be used for the treatment of tuberculosis, liver swelling, gonorrhea, impotency, and tetanus.

Marijuana has been cultivated in the US for over 400 years. However, in the 1920s and 30’s its intoxifying effect was established. During this period, it was argued that violent crimes by immigrants were due to their intoxication with the drugs. Due to these effects, marijuana was criminalized. (Gerber 37). Despite its criminalization, it still remains the most abused illicit drug in the US. Approximately 70 million Americans have smoked it at a point in their life, with 28 million being current or regular marijuana smokers.

Marijuana smokers are arrested very frequently but at a cost to society. Most of those arrested are law-abiding citizens who work to make ends meet but are treated as criminals despite their innocence. With the establishment of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse in 1972, more and more marijuana users are arrested. The harsh treatment these people face is uncalled for. They may lose their license even though they were not actual perpetrators of crime.

They lose children’s custody, federal benefits and are removed from federal housing. Most of their property or assets are seized. For instance, cars, land, and houses are lost. Discrimination on the basis of color sees marijuana users face harsher treatment than others. Since most non-violent users face longer charges than violent offenders, it places an extra cost to society when it has to spend its taxes on providing for offenders in prisons.

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Since marijuana is illegal in the US, those who would use it for its medical benefits risk being arrested. Exploiting the therapeutic uses of marijuana to alleviate symptoms of cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis is hindered. Marijuana should be legalized and more efforts put on the educative purposes as was applied in the case of alcohol. This way, the benefits of marijuana can be spread and its adverse effects learned by people.

Before 1932 when the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act and the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, there was less legal involvement with the drug. However, states like New York had criminalized it as early as 1914. According to the National Organization For Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), improper information was used when passing the legislation that marijuana was an illegal drug. It could have been biased on the basis of color. (norml.org).

The use of few instances to link marijuana to crime led to its criminalization. Simply generalizing an incident resulted in the total ban instead of regulation. The sale, possession, and production of marijuana would earn one hefty penalty. The public was also misinformed about marijuana’s connection to crime without tangible proof. Reports had it that of the narcotics that called for concerns marijuana was not inclusive. They included opiates, morphine, cocaine, and heroin. Again marijuana consumption was found to be relatively safe.

According to the US National Institute of Health and British Medical Association reports in 1997. Therapeutic benefits or uses of marijuana include analgesics, antispasmodics, anti-emetics, and appetite stimulants and can be used in the treatment of epilepsy. Marijuana relieves pain in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that damages the brain and destroys the protective coating that surrounds the nerves. Marijuana also helps MS patients by controlling the incidence of spasms.

Marijuana also suppresses nausea that is experienced by cancer patients who cannot use chemotherapy. Such patients can have control over how the use of the drug fits their needs, and this makes them enjoy life regardless of their terminal illness. Marijuana’s effect of boosting one’s appetite can be applied to patients with decreased appetites, for instance, AIDS patients and cancer patients. (Earleywine 250). It best suffices in such cases as the alternative capsules can be challenged by poor absorption in the digestive system. It is also beneficial as it reduces the costs that one would incur if human growth hormones supplements were applied.

The criminalization of marijuana was not through a scientific, medical government hearing but rather out of the ‘desire’ to protect people from its harmful effects. Ancient marijuana use also included cloth, incense, rope, and food. Not legalizing marijuana had some racist effects, as it was associated or seen as the drug that influences Negroes in their viewing of the whites. Some states in the US have legalized the possession of marijuana for medical purposes, although the federal government remains adamant.

Opponents of the legalization of marijuana argue that the legalization of marijuana in some states on the grounds of its medicinal benefits could increase its use in the black market, precipitating its abuse. They also argue that making it known for its medical purposes could increase its overall use, and people could misuse it. However, these concerns are uncalled for as the drug is readily available, and the black market could be insignificant. Most doctors and researchers advocate for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, but this seems to be a far reached dream.

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There is much controversy behind the legalization of marijuana as some, like Francis Young, a Drug Enforcement Administrative Law Judge, praise it as ‘one of the safest therapeutically active substances known by man.’ The federal policy views its use as ‘misguided and inhumane.’ The federal government’s adamant position can be justified by its fears of being perceived as ‘weak’ in the fight against drugs. It would be appropriate for the federal government to differentiate the uses of marijuana. Recreational use that can lead to abuse should be separated from medicinal use that benefits the users. It should spend more of its expenditure in carrying out research on the medicinal properties of marijuana. (Levinson and Johnston 158)

Threats linked to marijuana are, in most cases, exaggerated. It is less harmful than cocaine and heroin. Cocaine produces aggression; it is expensive and can encourage criminal activity. Heroin is also expensive and highly addictive. Marijuana, on the other hand, is relatively cheaper. It is less addictive compared to heroin and cocaine. Laws against marijuana and other hard drugs should therefore be varied as their effects are. Just because one has been tested positive for marijuana in urine samples is not evidence enough that they are irresponsible and deserve legal measures. (Levinson 145). Flexibility in the judicial system should be followed so that one’s conduct determines one’s sentence.

For instance, treatment of a violent criminal or one promoting drug use to the young population should not be the same as for innocent marijuana users. Much concentration should be on hard drugs and should not be put on the criminalization of marijuana. If the public is not complaining about the effects of marijuana in society, then unnecessary costs curbing marijuana should not be incurred. (Levinson 146)

Marijuana in its oral form is known as dronabinol but traded as ‘Marinor,’ and it’s used in cancer chemotherapy and appetite stimulation for Aids patients. (www.drugscience.org). However, faster effects can be reached if the marijuana is smoked than taken orally. THC is very soluble in lipids, although it is not soluble in water. Large doses can produce hallucinogen effects. Acute effects of marijuana include laughter, intensified sensory experiences, talkative, impaired memory of recent events, slowed reaction response time, and impaired driving. The intensity of the effects depends on past experience, setting, and one’s expectations.

Overdose of marijuana by an inexperienced and sensitive person would lead to depression, anxiety, or hallucination. Marijuana worsens schizophrenia, and its chronic use can lead to loss of motivation, and it impairs one’s education.

There are many myths surrounding the use and benefits of marijuana. Some people argue that it causes permanent mental illness. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this. The effects of marijuana are mostly temporary. Even the large consumption of marijuana causes temporary toxic psychosis, and it occurs when it is eaten than when it is smoked. Most marijuana users in the US are occasional users, with less than 1% daily consumers.

Again, a smaller proportion is physically addicted to the drug. Consequently, the argument that it is highly addictive is not appropriate. Withdrawal effects tend to be mild, and through the help of professionals, abusers of marijuana can get help. The strength that marijuana had in earlier years is the same that it has today. Consequently, the benefits it had in the latter years are the same that can be exploited today. (www.drugpolicy.org ). Many arrests are recorded each year, with a high percentage being in possession. Punishment against them varies from imprisonment to proportion, fines, and civil sanctions, for instance, seizure of property and termination of employment. Despite these harsh measures against its consumption, marijuana is still widely used and readily available.

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Moderate marijuana smokers have a lesser risk of lung cancer and bronchitis. Since marijuana smokers smoke lesser often than tobacco smokers, their risks of cancer are minimal despite the marijuana content of irritants and carcinogens. Moderate consumption results in lesser smoke intake. According to research by the American Thoracic Society in 2006, heavy marijuana smokers did not register higher risks of lung cancer.

They are also not likely to develop emphysema as they did not exhibit obstruction of the lungs’ small airway. (www.drugpolicy.org). Associating marijuana with a crime is not a proven theory. The common crime among marijuana consumers is the mere fact that they possess it. Studies on human beings as well as on animals show that marijuana reduces aggression rather than increases it.

Studies have also shown that the use of marijuana during pregnancy does not have adverse effects on the newborn. It shows no physical, developmental, or cognitive deficiencies in newborns whose parents have used it. (www.drugpolicy.org) It does not cause adverse physiological effects on pregnant women and their newborns. Their weight, size, and gestation period are similar to those of non-smokers. Opponents of the legalization of marijuana condemn it on the basis that it impairs one’s immune system making them more susceptible to infections like HIV. This argument has no tangible proof and can be dismissed as a mere myth, although more research can be carried out to prove it.

Marijuana is slowly excreted from the body, and this explains why it can be traced in urine days after its consumption and effects. Due to its effects on one’s alertness, coordination, concentration reaction time, marijuana can lead to numerous road accidents. However, in most cases where road accidents were due to drug effects, a combination of drugs was reported. This makes it hard to argue that the accidents were solely due to marijuana. Therefore overall, highway accidents cannot be blamed on marijuana.

A test on animals showed that marijuana decreases host resistance to bacterial and viral infections. (Shohov, 119). However, this test could have different results altogether when human beings are used. The similarity between current marijuana laws and the 1920’s prohibition is that they are both biased. They prohibit the possession of marijuana regardless of the purpose or intention. Distribution of marijuana even when no remuneration is to be attained is treated as possession and punishable in a court of law. Both manufacture and possession are criminalized, and one could serve a jail term depending on the amount of marijuana one has.

Penalties are also aggravated if one distributes it to a minor or around public places like schools, playgrounds, or youth centers. If one is found guilty of manufacturing, importing, or distributing marijuana with the intention of perpetuating its usage, one can be sentenced to death. (norml.org).

Marijuana is one of the few drugs that, although they are illegal, can have positive effects or benefits to their users. Its use could rise tremendously if it were made legal. It has few disadvantages, as it has not recorded a death overdose over the years. Its positive features could be exploited to the maximum only if it was legalized. Legalization would pave the way for the development of safer smoking ways such that its adverse effects can be countered. Marijuana users use it moderately as its effect is longer in the body. Most users would not like to interfere with their daily routine chores due to its intoxication and hence the moderate consumption.

Opponents also argue that legalizing marijuana would cause many people to experiment with its effects. This would lead to further misuse or abuse of the drug. They argue that some people do not use the drug for fear of what could befall them if they are caught using or in possession of illegal drugs. The development of a black market is associated with overdose or abuse of the drug. Legalization, on the other hand, opens the doors to variety, and one opts for one’s preference or taste.

Legal and ethical issues surrounding or related to marijuana hinder its legalization. Limited funds are given to fund the research on the beneficial purpose of marijuana despite the knowledge that such research would incur reasonable costs. Others argue that for marijuana to attain approval for its medicinal values, it must first outdo other drugs with the same capacity. (Shohov, 119). They further advocate and opt for drugs with a lower potential for abuse and thus reducing the chances of legalizing marijuana. Drug companies could dismiss the legalization of marijuana to exploit its medicinal properties as it could be acting as a hindrance to their profit levels. They tend to favor the drugs that ensure they earn profits.

Marijuana is beneficial to glaucoma treatment. The disease affects over 60 million people around the world. The eye has heightened pressure, which drastically hinders one’s vision. The disease prevalence varies with age and ethnicity, with the old and people of color experiencing more impact. Smoking marijuana lowers the pressure within the eye, thus relieving many from anguish and pain caused by glaucoma. Reducing the pressure minimizes the damage caused to the optic nerve. Oral administration of THC faces difficulties and is not as effective as smoking it. (Zimmerman et al. 178). It’s also easier to monitor the dosage. Smoking marijuana for glaucoma patients is, however, criticized as it ensures the continued take to serve its purpose.

The effect of marijuana lasts for a few hours, thus forcing the patients to keep smoking to prevent optic nerve damage. With the anti-smoking in public places laws, the smoking of marijuana for health reasons will be further threatened. Physicians have since time immemorial been using marijuana as a pain relief drug. A study showed that it could be used to alleviate pain in patients suffering from arthritis. (Earleywine 250). It can also relieve mouth and gum pains. The drug was also used after surgery due to its analgesic properties.

Marijuana drug dangers have been exaggerated since it was prohibited in the 1920s. The unproved debates associated with the initial criminalization of marijuana are used in governments to verify issues before passing legislation on marijuana. Criminal acts are still associated with it and thus the hefty punishments when one is found with its possession. Studies and researches have proved that although we cannot deny the fact that marijuana affects human beings, it is a relatively safe drug. It does not have adverse effects on people’s brains, immune systems, reproductive system development, and personality, especially when consumed moderately. Funding of its research and the dissemination of information is highly politicized, and this hinders its effective legalization. (Fish 200).

Works Cited

Rudolph Gerber. Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics. Marijuana and Government Policy in United States. Greenwood Publishing Group. 2004. P 10-121.

Levinson M and Johnston P. The Drug Problem: A New View Using the General Semantics Approach Greenwood Publishing. 2002. P 158.

Martin Levinson. Sensible Thinking for Turbulent Times. Psychology / Cognitive. Universe. 2006. P 145.

Tatiana Shohov. Medical Use of Marijuana: Policy, Regulatory, and Legal Issues. Marijuana Therapeutic use United States. 2003. P 119.

National Organization For Reform of Marijuana laws. Federal Laws. Web.

Bill Zimmerman, Nancy Crumpacker and Rick Bayer. Is Marijuana the Right Medicine for You? A Factual Guide to Medical Uses of Marijuana. Keats Publishers.1998. p 178.

Jefferson Fish. Drugs And Society: U.S. Public Policy. Drug abuse and Government policy in United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2006. P 200.

Mitchell Earleywine Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence. Oxford University Press. 2002. P 250.

Drug Policy Alliance. The Myths and Facts About Marijuana. Web.

Drug Science. The 2002 Petition to Reschedule Cannabis (Marijuana). Potential for Abuse: Cannabis and Dronabinol. Web.

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