Legalization of Marijuana3 Essay

This essay has a total of 5384 words and 23 pages.

Legalization of Marijuana3

Several pressing issues have arose throughout time, such as abortion and capitol
punishment. The controversies have been addressed and decisions have been made. A new
topic has emerged l states (1986, Congress), (Buchsbaum, 8). This crowds court rooms and
jail cells, often times forcing judges to release violent offenders. In 1994 alone, 1.35
million people were incarcerated because of possession and use of marijuana (Buckley, 70).
Even though only an estimates ten million Americans use marijuana on a monthly basis,
about seventy million have at some time tried it. The current laws would justify putting
all seventy million citizens in jail (Buckley, 70).

Several pressing issues have arose throughout time, such as abortion and capitol
punishment. The controversies have been addressed and decisions have been made. A new
topic has emerged and demands recognition. It is the legalization of marijuana.
Legalizing marijuana has become a widely discussed topic in the United States and the
world for several reasons, including its role in industry and in recreation.

Over the centuries, marijuana has been used to make such things as rope, sails, paper,
cloth, oil, birdseed, and other various products. It was a major cash crop in the United
States until 1937 when the Marijuana Tax Act was enacted by Congress. Harry Aslinger is
responsible for leading the nation in an anti-marijuana movement. He initiated the uproar
by publishing false stories of people in Mexico dying and going insane due to the use of
hemp, or marijuana, products. Aslinger created a myth of the "killer reefer" and the
"assassin of youth", in which he depicted marijuana as the plant of evilness. The public
naively presumed his stories were true, and avidly protested the growth of marijuana. The
government had no choice but to act on the issue, outlawing the production of marijuana in
an effort to satisfy the public's demand.

Today, however, there is a growing number of marijuana activists. In 1994 alone, there
was twenty-five million dollars worth of products created from hemp (Barry, 22). China,
France, the United Kingdom, and Spain are large suppliers of hemp products which the
United States imports. Such companies as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Adidas, and Disney
offer hemp commodities to the public. Popular Mechanics has listed over 25,000 products
which marijuana could be used to make. Daily uses include: clothes, soaps, hair products,
flour, candles, oil, paper, motor and fiberboard for building, hemp chips for horse
bedding, textiles, and machine lubricants. The list is endless. If marijuana was used to
make oil, it would reduce gasoline consumption by one half. Likewise, it would cut back
deforestation by one half if the pulp was excreted to create paper. The United States
Department of Agriculture has calculated that, "over twenty years, one acre of hemp would
yield as much pulp for paper as 4.1 acres of trees." (Barry, 22)

Perhaps one of the best arguments for marijuana activists is that the marijuana plants are
actually environmentally-friendly. The crop can be produces with little or no fertilizers
or pesticides, which could "help save the planet from chemical doom." (Barry, 23).
Cotton, presently one of the largest cash crops in the south, is a chemical dependent crop
and requires large quantities of water, which, in most cases, must be supplied by
artificial means. Not only would marijuana eliminate a large amount of chemicals that are
being pumped into our environment daily, but it would also remove heavy metals from the
soil and replenish the ozone.

The legalization of industrial marijuana is under consideration in California, Colorado,
Hawaii, Missouri, Washington, and Kentucky, which was the largest producer of hemp when
outlawed by the Marijuana Prohibitive Act of 1937 (Elvin, 17). Struggling Vermont farmers
are supporters of revitalizing this "miracle" plant, and rightfully so. A majority of the
Vermont farmers presently produce milk, which has a gross income of three hundred million
dollars annually. Just and acre of hemp would have a nine hundred dollar commercial
value. The legalization of industrial hemp would undoubtedly improve Vermont's economy.
(Elvin, 17)

There are two major oppositions to industrial hemp legalization, the law enforcement and
the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The law enforcement argues that it would be
difficult to differentiate between a farmer growing marijuana for industrial purposes and
someone growing marijuana to be used and sold for illegal, recreational purposes. In
truth, they are two separate plants with distinct differences. The industrial plant is
tall and stalky with few leaves, whereas the smokable plant is short and bushy with a
plethora of leaves. The diversity is obvious, even to an untrained eye. The DEA detests
industrial hemp for similar reasons. DEA spokesman, Dana Seely, stated that "If you're
doing aerial surveillance there would be no way to tell." (Elvin, 17). Seely is
referring to the visible difference between industrial and smokable forms of marijuana.

The genetic properties of the two plants is also entirely different. The amount of active
tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, in an industrial plant is under .02 percent.
The smokable plant contains anywhere between four and eleven percent active THC (Elvin,
17). The Economist illustrates the fact when printing that industrial hemp "contains so
little of marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, THC, that even the most determined pothead
could smoke it all day to little effect." (28).

The advantages of legalizing industrial marijuana are evident. The citizens of the United
States and their government must decide if such advantages constitute legalizing, or if it
would be more beneficial to observe the present laws. Either way, the issue must be
faced, and all options weighed accordingly. Industrial marijuana is the possible primary
cash crop, and demands acknowledgment.

There is yet another expanding group of activists that deem that the recreational use of
marijuana ought to be legal. One of the largest organized activists groups in the United
States is the Drug Policy Foundation (DPF). DPF was founded by Arnold Trebach. The staff
of ten has worked to gain over 13,000 members. They recruit powerful members of society,
such as lawyers and public officials. They raise and spend millions of dollars to boost
their efforts. Presently, DPF is focusing on legalization of marijuana for medicinal
purposes. Other activists groups include Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Alliance
for Cannabis Therapeutics, Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (FEAR), National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and Cannabis Action Network. Cannabis
Action Network is unique because it is a youth activist group. Members promote
recreational usage of marijuana primarily on college campuses and at concerts (Cotts,

All advocates argue that marijuana is virtually harmless, and therefore, should be legal.
Marijuana is not physically addictive. However, it is thought to be extremely
psychologically addictive. Marijuana is linked to lung cancer and short term memory loss,
but activists argue that these problems are no worse than those of tobacco or alcohol. No
one has ever actually died from an overdose or misuse of marijuana. Studies do show,
however, that marijuana leads to the abuse of harder drugs, which in time, may kill a

Marijuana's popularity is thriving. In 1994, marijuana expanded into a ten million dollar
industry. It is prevalent in television shows, lyrics of songs, caps, T-shirts, earrings,
and tattoos. Between the years of 1992 and 1994, twenty-six percent of seniors in high
school had smoked marijuana at some time, and the number of students who considered
marijuana to be harmful decreased by ten percent. Presently, ten states have
decriminalized being in possession of marijuana, which makes the crime equal to a parking
violation (Buchsbaum, 8).

The number of citizens that feel marijuana should be legal for medicinal reasons is also
on the rise. An estimated seventy-five percent of Americans feel that marijuana should be
available for doctors to prescribe. In December of 1993, Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders
was quoted as saying that legalization was "worth studying." (Buchsbaum, 8). Most recent
changes are occurring in California. Activists have successfully convinced the government
to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. In other words, doctors may now prescribe
marijuana for such illnesses as AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and several
other diseases.

Recreational use of marijuana is legal in the Netherlands, Columbia, Switzerland, and
Australia, as well as, parts of, Germany, Austria, and Britain. The Netherlands legalized
marijuana in the mid-1980s in an attempt to "drive a wedge between the hard-drug and
soft-drug communities, between casual users and big-time dealers." (Morais, 115). The
country's officials argued that "it wasn't the psychoactive properties of hashish, ...but
contact with the criminal subculture that leads to serious antisocial behavior." (Morais,

Immediately proceeding legalization, "coffee shops" emerged throughout the Netherlands.
The coffee shops sell various foods made with marijuana and the plant in smokable form.
There are approximately 450 coffee shops in Amsterdam, distributing about 150,000 dollars
worth of marijuana annually. Siberia sells 1,000 dollars worth daily. Tourists purchase
an estimated 180 million dollars each year, which accounts for twenty-five percent of the
country's income from tourism.

The legalizing of marijuana has boosted the Netherlands economy. There are more jobs in
farming due to the sudden high demand. The accumulated number of business owners have
sky-rocketed. This is primarily a byproduct of the public demand for coffee shops.
Furthermore, the government profits from legalization. The government now has the ability
to tax marijuana. Before, all the proceeds went to drug lords and petty drug pushers.
The government has also gained more control over the trafficking of marijuana. They
control the supply, which in turn means they control inflation of the price and
availability. (Morais, 118)

The coffee shops contribute to the medical field as well. Store owners work with area
doctors to prescribe various forms of marijuana to patients. Also, each coffee shop helps
to donate a total of twenty kilos of marijuana to the Berlin Institute for AIDS Research
annually (Morais, 118).

Some critics feel that the coffee shops are trading stations for a number of hard-drugs
that remain illegal. That simply is not true. Coffee shops are placed under strict
regulations. The shops are instantly closed if there is even suspicion of hard-drug
dealing, such as heroin or cocaine. With so much to lose, coffee shops owners have hired
bouncers to eject anyone using or selling hard drugs. In other words, "the Dutch cops now
have the soft-drug communities helping them contain and discipline the hard-drug users."
(Morais, 120). Bernhard Scholton, the Amsterdam police's foreign affairs spokesman, said,
"It's better to have all this in the open so we can keep and eye on it." (Morais, 120).

Surrounding countries feel that the Netherlands have become too relaxed with the present
drug policy. Nevertheless, statistically, the Netherlands tower over all neighboring
countries. In 1994, police seized 524,000 pounds of illegal marijuana trafficking. That
is four times what France obtained, yet still, France is threatening to close its borders.
The Netherlands shut down twenty-seven highly organized drug rings, netted 18,000 pounds
of cocaine, 541 pounds of amphetamines, and 437 pounds of heroin (Morais, 119).

Hard-drug use has descended as well. The Netherlands have 1.6 addicts per 1,000 people.
In comparison, France has 2.5, Italy has three, and Switzerland has 5.3. The Netherlands
government accredits marijuana for the low rate of hard-drug addicts. Again, this is due
to the fact that the mild drug, marijuana, users are aiding the police in shutting down
illegal drug activities. It simply is no longer welcome in their society. (Morais, 115)

As far as marijuana use, the Netherlands statistically exceeds the United States.
According to estimates by the United Nations International Drug Control Program, over
seven percent of the United States population abuses cannabis. It was found that some ten
million Americans smoke marijuana on a monthly. In the Netherlands, marijuana abuse is
just four percent (Morais, 115).

On May 5, 1994, Columbia legalized the possession of small quantities of cocaine and other
drugs, including marijuana. The war on drugs in Columbia, sponsored primarily by the
United States, actually did more harm than good. There was a sharp rise in human rights
abuses, government corruption, and crime. Trying to reduce the drug supply hurt the
people of Columbia. For example, a fifty percent crop reduction would only cause a five
percent inflation of the drug's price. However, the farmers would be in despair, which
would "escalate violence and social dislocation." (858). Columbia's attorney General
Gustan de Griff addressed the United States in saying,

Couldn't it be that there are people in the United States Senate who would like to see...
[the] struggle continued in Columbia, a safe distance away from the United States, rather
than consider alternatives that distribute the burdens of the drug war more equally?

The United States spends between fourteen and twenty billion dollars a year on their own
War on Drugs. About two-thirds of that money is used to stop the supply, which
essentially means to more funds for a larger law enforcement force. Sadly enough, less
than one-third is used to stop the demand, which constitutes education and treatment. If
marijuana was legalized, money would be spent to stop the demand. Drug treatment
facilities would emerge across throughout the country. Overall, treatment would prove to
be seven times more cost efficient than the constant increase of the law enforcement.
Take tobacco use for example, which has been continuously dropping. It is not dropping
because tobacco was outlawed, but because the public is more educated on the risk

The Unites States jails and judicial systems are highly overcrowded. In fact, fifty
percent of trial time and fifty percent of jail spaced is used by drug offenders.
Presently, the possession of marijuana has a mandatory jail sentence in severaf legalizing
marijuana. It could put criminals out of business. There would be no need for pushers to
be invading the playgrounds, or drug lords controlling the communities. Legalization
could help to end drug wars. There would be more room in jails for violent criminals,
which would create a safer, harmonious environment. The government would be in control of
the price, purity, distribution, and access. Addiction would be treated as a health
problem, not a crime. If the government kept prices low, addicts would not have to steal
to support their habit. The government would be able to tax marijuana which would be
extremely profitable.

There is also legitimate reasons not to legalize. In the Netherlands, teenage use of
marijuana has increased 250% while it has decreased two-thirds in the United States
(Califano, 7). In theory, health and welfare costs would rise due to the growing number
of addicts. The government has been unable to control underage use of cigarettes and
alcohol. If marijuana was legalized, it would be nearly impossible to ensure any set age
limit would be respected. The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has found that
adolescents who smoke marijuana are eighty-five times more likely to use cocaine, and are
more prone to violent behavior and suicide (Forbes, 26).

There are also physical dangers to consider. One joint does the equivalent damage to the
lungs as four cigarettes. If marijuana was legalized, a rise in the number of lung cancer
patients should be expected to rise. Marijuana weakens the immune system. It reduces the
IQ's of babies born to inhaling mothers. Marijuana distorts perception, impairs memory,
and reduces concentration. It is known to be psychologically addictive (Forbes, 26).

Legalizing marijuana would reverse much of the work to lower drug use. In 1990, Alaska
recriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana by a 55% vote (47). From 1979
to 1994, drug use has dropped from 24.8 million people to thirteen million people
(Califano, 8).

It is time that this nation faces the issue of legalizing marijuana, and determine what
would enhance the lives of American citizens. Both the use of marijuana for industrial
and recreational purposes has evolved into a moral question. One must look inside himself
or herself to arrive at a personally satisfying answer. In the end, righteousness will
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