The Chinese, among others, used it for medicine thousands of years ago. The first settlers of America used hemp for paper, clothing and rope. So far this so called “Evil Weed” does not sound so harmful. In fact, it is not as harmful as it has been made out to be over the years. Everything from prejudice to misinformation has been the reason for this plant to be made illegal. In actuality, society can benefit from Marijuana being legalized and decriminalized. Today, there are thousands of Americans flooding our legal system because of petty marijuana charges, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
We know that it helps cancer and aids patients live a much more comfortable life because of the properties it holds. If it is a “Gateway Drug” then it is because of how it has to be obtained, on the street where drug dealers would be happy for you to try there other dangerous products such as crack and heroin. If compared to the legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and their risks, Marijuana seems like a “Walk in the Park”. At least it could make for a nice enjoyable one. The reality here is, the legalization of Marijuana could benefit society.
If the people of our country could look beyond politics, discrimination, and passed misjudgments to see the true benefits Marijuana carries, the decriminalization of the so called “evil weed” could have a great and positive impact on our society with medical marijuana, reducing unnecessary costs in our legal system and by being a taxable commodity. Through all of history, man has known about and used Marijuana. Some believe that if it were discovered today, it would be considered a miracle drug for it’s medicinal properties.
The use of Marijuana can be traced back before 7000 B. C. when it is believed that the first woven fabrics were made of hemp (Pete Guither, 2002). Growing Marijuana even has history with some American Presidents. George Washington’s main crop at Mt. Vernon was hemp, and it was Thomas Jefferson’s second largest crop at Monticello. “Marijuana has been illegal for less than one percent of the time that it’s been in use…and it was legal as recently as when Ronald Reagan was a boy (Pete Guither, 2002).
So if Marijuana has such a long history and has very legitimate uses, why did it become and why does it remain illegal? In the 1900’s there was a huge number of Americans addicted to drugs. Many more than there are today. Depending upon whose report, or whose assessment you accept, there were between two and five percent of the entire adult population of the United States addicted to drugs in 1900 (Whitebread, 1995). You can imagine that there was some worry. Most of these addictions involved morphine and it’s derivatives, being used for legitimate medical practices.
What happened is, Marijuana being a relatively unknown substance in the early 1900’s, got mixed up in the problems America was having with Morphine, Alcohol and even Cocaine. At the time there had not been any studies or anything of the like, to prove that Marijuana was a harmful substance, but there was racial prejudice and fear of substitution. In the 1930’s Marijuana was very new to the national scene yet some states prohibited it along with narcotics and alcohol that were prohibited nationally. Why? Unfortunately racial prejudice played a major roll in making Marijuana an “evil weed”.
Increases in Mexican immigration at the turn of the century brought on sizeable Mexican-American minorities in the western states and these people were thought to become criminals when they ate “the killer weed” (Bonnie, Whitebread 2005). The following is a recording from a Montana newspaper, “The Montana Standard”, when giving full cover to a proposal to create a separate marijuana statute on January 27, 1929. There was fun in the House Health Committee during the week when the Marihuana bill came up for consideration. Marihuana is Mexican opium, a plant used by Mexicans and cultivated for sale by Indians.
When some beet field peon takes a few rares of this stuff,” explained Dr. Fred Fulsher of Mineral County, “He thinks he has just been elected president of Mexico so he starts out to execute all his political enemies. I understand that over in Butte where the Mexicans often go for the winter they stage imaginary bullfights in the ‘Bower of Roses’ or put on tournaments for the favor of ‘Spanish Rose’ after a couple of whiffs of Marihuana. The Silver Bow and Yellowstone Delegations both deplore these international complications” Everybody laughed and the bill was recommended for passage (Bonnie, Whitebread 2005).
In the Eastern states Marijuana was even less known. It did carry a stigma though with nothing to back it up. On July 29, 1914, an article in the New York Times stated, “This narcotic has practically the same effect as morphine and cocaine, but it was not used in this country to any extent while it was easy to get the more refined narcotics” (Bonnie, Whitebread 2005). It is quite obvious by this statement that there was little known about Marijuana but because it is referenced with morphine and cocaine and not yet prohibited, we have the “fear of substitution”.
In other words, when hard narcotics become hard to get, the “evil weed” will take its place with addicts. Marijuana didn’t have much of a chance from the beginning. Another stumbling block is marijuana has is its reference to being “The Gateway Drug”. This term means that if you try Marijuana you are going to use other more dangerous drugs. It may be true that individuals that use Marijuana, at some time, turn to harder drugs, but why. Could it be that because it cannot be purchased in a corner store, individuals are forced to the streets and introduced to harder drugs by the dealers?
There is not something in Marijuana that causes someone to crave cocaine. “Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug in the United States today. Therefore, people who have used less poplar drugs such as heroin, cocaine, LSD, are likely to have used Marijuana (Dr. Zimmer & Dr. , 1997). This term is a scare tactic and works well. If Marijuana is looked at as being a gateway drug, what about alcohol and tobacco. There should be less emphasis on the drugs themselves and more to what factors shape a persons behavior.
More time should be spent, for example, on parenting skills and a child’s environment. This is where the prevention of true drug abuse should start. If Americans as a whole cannot agree that Marijuana should be legal to possess and use by responsible adults, then we need to, at the very least make it legal for medical purposes. Many Americans that suffer from AIDS and cancer can benefit from this drug. It helps with anything from loss of appetite to the relief of pain. Why would we want to keep a drug illegal that is known to make peoples lives more bearable?
The Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) own Administrative Law Judge, the honorable Francis Young, stated in 1998, “Marijuana is the safest therapeutically active substance known to man…” He went on to say, “The evidence clearly shows that marijuana is capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision…it would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance (Carter G. T. MD; Mirken B. 2006).
It is fact that Marijuana smoke contains many of the same toxins that cigarette smoke does. However, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications (Joy J. E. , Watson, S. J. Jr. & Benson J. A. Jr. , 1999). New studies are showing that THC, the key compound in marijuana, may also be the key to new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease, because it blocks the formation of brain-clogging plaques better than current Alzheimer’s drugs (DeNoon, 2006). This study is nowhere near it’s final stages but so far the findings are incredible.
It was found that THC blocked an enzyme named acetylcholinesterase, which speeds the formation of amyloid plaque in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s (DeNoon, 2006). When compared to the Alzheimer drugs Cognex and Aricept, which were tested at double the concentration of THC, Aricept blocked plaque at only 22% and Cognex blocked plaque at only 7% as well as THC. That study is sounding good so far. We really don’t have that far to go with other studies to show that Marijuana has great health benefits. In fact we should be about finished after decades of study.
It seems as though one major negative influence in the complete legalization of marijuana is the FDA itself that as recently as April 20, 2006 claimed that “no sound studies” support the medical use of marijuana contradicting a very large amount of scientific literature (Carter, Mirken 2006). Politics I tell you, politics. What else could it be? In actuality, thank goodness, there are states in the U. S. that have already made this bold and humane move of legalizing medical marijuana. “Since 1996, twelve states have legalized medical marijuana use: AK, CA, CO, HI, ME, MT, NV, NM, OR, RI, VT, and WA.
Eight of the twelve did so through the initiative process (2004). What happens if we don’t? I can tell you. We will continue to fill our legal system with petty misdemeanors that cost taxpayers billions of dollars a year. Since 1990 the war on drugs has made its primary focus on low-level marijuana offences. This is probably due to ease of arrest. There is a decent bit of our population that enjoys marijuana. If there is an easy way to get numbers up and make the war on drugs look like it is actually making a difference than that would be the way to do it.
There were nearly 700,000 arrests for marijuana in 2002 and only 1 in 8 resulted in a felony conviction, which translates to roughly four billion dollars per year for petty marijuana offenses alone (King & Mauer M, 2006). It is truly a waste of money and police allocation to still concentrate on this plant called marijuana. Caught up in politics, discrimination and the bashing by the uninformed, marijuana has really had a bad rap since the beginning of the 20th century. If there are drugs such as alcohol and tobacco considered legal, taxed and regulated, there is absolutely no reason marijuana should not be handled in the same way.
I must say that I in no way condone under age drug use, to include all drugs. I do condone a responsible adult being able to enjoy a joint of this wonderful plant created by nature itself. Even President Clinton enjoyed a puff, although he might have enjoyed it more if he had inhaled. I also believe that marijuana as a medicine is by far, more safe than most of our “over the counter” meds, to include one of our favorite liver destroyers, Tylenol. There are mounds and mounds of evidence that prove marijuana to make life much more bearable for AIDS and cancer patients.
Please pull marijuana out from under the blanket of lies that keep it from being some help and relief to society. Relieve some of the costs it incurs within our legal system. Tax it and make more money available possibly for some real education on the destruction of drug addiction. Regulate it so a person who wants to smoke it, knows exactly what they are getting. Most important, take it out of the hands of drug cartel that become millionaires, kill and take advantage of countries with little money. Legalize it! Legalize It! Decriminalize It!