The legalization of Marijuana has been one of the most controversial and widely debated issues in American society. Remarkably, recent years have seen a proliferation in the acceptance of this drug for medical and social uses among the general public. Many consider that the war against Marijuana has been one of a cultural nature, a moral crusade in defense of traditional American values (Schlosser, 1997). Yet recent studies have revealed the medical potential of this plant and have shed new light on the negative effects it has on the human body, which are far outnumbered by already legal stimulants such as Tobacco and Alcohol. Despite the U.S. government’s resistance to adopt a sensible attitude towards the research of Cannabis Sativa, scientists have made rapid advances in their understanding of the plant’s therapeutic value and limited potential for long term adverse effects.
So lets go ahead and take a moment to explore the new agenda for pot in the United States and why it should be legalized.
The idea of having thousands of Cheechs and Chongs freely walking our streets has been enough to make the American public divided on this issue for quite some time. But the tides are changing. A recent survey conducted by Time/CNN, found that 47% of the American population has tried Marijuana at least once; an 80% of the participants believes Marijuana should be used for medical purposes and 72% say that possession of small amounts of pot should only receive fines, not jail (Stein, 2002). Is this any indication that the American public understands Abraham Lincoln’s famous statement regarding prohibition? “Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes crimes out of things that are not crimes” (Lincoln).
Probably the most prevalent argument among those who disagree with pot legalization is that Marijuana is a gateway drug. Interestingly, this theory has been fairly discredited. The National Household Survey on Drug Use and the RAND Drug Policy research center found that between 1982 and 1994, while 73.6 million Americans experimented with Marijuana, 5.3 million tried cocaine and 2.7 million had tried heroin (Newman 2001). Seems like a far cry from a drug that supposedly leads irrefutably to further experimentation.
The debate on Marijuana legalization has relied heavily on the alleged harmful effects it has on the human body. However, there has never been a reported death due to Marijuana use. A 160lb. person would have to smoke approximately 900 joints in one sitting to die of THC (the active chemical in Marijuana) poisoning. In comparison, roughly 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning are reported every year. It is possible to induce alcohol poisoning with 5 to 6 drinks within one hour.
In addition, scientists have found that Marijuana’s therapeutic value ranges from appetite stimulation for chemotherapy patients, eye pressure reduction in victims of glaucoma and pain control, reducing the need for post operative, highly addictive opiates
The American government has engraved in the general public’s minds the negatives of pot legalization for too long. But when do we consider the assets? American propaganda has made us all too fearful of the possibility of living with yet another stimulant. Yet, the fact remains that Cannabis sativa is an entirely natural product that has shown promising results in the treatment of various diseases and mood enhancement. If we consider all the medications that make their way into the American market, how can a preservative-free treatment raise so much controversy? Could it be that pharmaceutical companies have entirely too much leverage on our government’s legislation? The decriminalization of Marijuana could very likely be a turning point for many facets in our society. A series of benefits seem probable and are outlined as follows:
a. It could permit society to reroute resources from the investigation, prosecution, and punishment, of pot users and use them for more productive ends. These funds could be channeled for environmental protection initiatives, third-world country assistance and improvements to educational and governmental agencies.
b. Result in a product regulated by federal agencies that is less likely to have adverse side effects due to contaminants. Given that pot users have to purchase it illegally, there is no true way of ensuring full quality of the product.
c. Cut down profits received by organized crime from illegal drug sales. This in itself may help reduce drug-related crime. Moreover, it protects users from the dangers involved in buying it illegally.
d. Allow research and development of medicinal uses of marijuana. As many debate the American government’s role in sabotaging full research of Marijuana, this measure would allow full exploration of the properties of this plant.
e. Significantly reduce the problem of overcrowding in the prison system. Prisons could be dedicated to true offenders and socially inadequate individuals, rather than accommodating individuals who might prefer Marijuana to Alcohol.
In my 31 years of life, never have I seen Marijuana yield adverse behavioral effects in its users. In contrast, many members of my family who use Alcohol have mood swings that range from highly depressive to physical violence. Very sadly, at the beginning of this year, an uncle of mine who abuses Alcohol, found himself in a horrible accident that claimed the life of a 5-year-old child. He received a penalty of 8 months of community service and three years of probation. On the other hand, one of my best friends back home, was caught with a Marijuana joint inside a cafeteria of a University of Puerto Rico campus. Given that this college is state funded, the building falls under federal jurisdiction. The penalty he received was 8 months incarceration and a class 3-felony charge .
Maybe Marijuana’s contribution to our society is overrated, because red eyes and the munchies don’t exactly fit within America’s contrived, traditional values. Years ago, homosexuality didn’t either. However, with the growing information we are finding on Marijuana, there is always the possibility that its significance is bigger than what we all want to believe. Could the debate on pot legalization be a reflection of American society’s selectiveness of the freedoms it grants? And as America continues to tolerate legal substances that truly harm society, it makes you wonder who is truly dazed and confused.