The Argumentr Regardingf The Decriminalization Of Essay

This essay has a total of 1728 words and 8 pages.

The Argumentr Regardingf The Decriminalization Of Cannabis

The Argument Over the Decriminalization of Cannabis


The majority of Americans choose the same issues as the most threatening to the nation.
Invariably among these one will see "drugs" as a major concern of most Americans. There is
speculation that this is due to a perceived association between drugs and crime (Inciardi
1). A good deal of the argument over government policy towards drugs centers on the least
unhealthy and most socially accepted of the illegal drugs, marijuana.

Marijuana, scientifically known as Tetrahydrocannabinol, belongs to its own group among
other legal and illegal drugs. It is neither a narcotic, such as heroin, nor a stimulant,
such as caffeine or tobacco, nor a depressant, such as alcohol. The cannabis plant is
thought to have grown originally in Asia, though it was also discovered upon the settling
of North America. Its leaves, when smoked, instigate physiological reactions. When the
active chemical in cannabis, THC, enters the bloodstream through the lungs and reaches the
brain, it triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that induces pleasure
(Gettman). This causes several effects upon the user, such as increased sensitivity of the
senses, a dry mouth, the inability to keep a train of thought, and fits of laughter, among
others.

Cannabis remains a legal though partially restricted substance in several countries. The
Netherlands, for example, has mostly decriminalized cannabis. Portugal and Spain recently
partially decriminalized the possession and use of recreational cannabis. However, in the
United States, the possession of cannabis or any paraphernalia is expressly illegal. While
no major legislation has been proposed to decriminalize the recreational use of cannabis,
the United States government has commissioned several studies regarding the properties of
cannabis and its effects, and also has considered bills permitting the medicinal use of
marijuana.

Cannabis was prevalent in America for much of the 18th and 19th centuries. Many
apothecaries and doctors proscribed medications containing cannabis. Until 1941, cannabis
was part of the United States pharmacopoeia. However, in the early 20th century, public
opinion swung and cannabis was characterized as an evil and destructive drug. The major
step in the criminalization of cannabis occurred when The Marihuana Tax Act was passed in
1937 (Rubin 259). This act placed a minimal tax on the possession, distribution, or
consumption of marijuana, which was punishable by severe fines of jail time.

Nearly 25% of Americans over the age of 12 admit to having smoked marijuana at least once
in their lifetime (Inciardi 167). There is a substantial portion of the American public
which favors, in some degree, the decriminalization of marijuana. There are also staunch
advocates of the prohibition of marijuana, many of them in our government. They each have
effective arguments, often disagreeing over improvable ideas.

The faction in favor of full prohibition of marijuana has a strong set of arguments.
Firstly, it argues that by causing an altered state of consciousness, cannabis is
dangerous. They argue that it is biologically and psychologically addictive and that it
the frequent use of cannabis has serious physiological repercussions. They argue that
while marijuana may have marginal medicinal uses, that there are several more effective
legal drugs for the same purposes. They argue that marijuana is a "gateway drug", which
leads users to "harder" drugs. They say that should marijuana be legalized, its use would
run rampant. Some do not believe that it contains any medicinal value whatsoever.

Those in favor of full or partial decriminalization of marijuana have diametrically
opposed arguments. They argue that the legalization of marijuana would save billions of
dollars that are fed into the "War on Drugs". They say that it would help clear our
overcrowded prison system. They say that the physical effects of marijuana and its level
of addiction are lower than those of nicotine and alcohol, both legal drugs. They say that
legalization would take the criminal aspect out of the distribution of cannabis; in other
words, as the distribution of cannabis would be taken out of the hands of criminals, there
would be less crime related to cannabis transactions. There would also be a standard for
cannabis, therefore avoiding "laced" cannabis, which can have serious physical effects.
They say cannabis has real medical value and can be cheaper than prescription medicine.
They say, most importantly, that it is an adult individual's right to choose whether or
not to use cannabis, just as it is his or her right to use nicotine or alcohol ( Inciardi
78).

Several institutes and scientists have attempted to determine the adverse physical effects
of cannabis, its possible medicinal merit, and to advise the government as to its policy
regarding marijuana. For example, Richard Nixon created the National Commission on
Marihuana and Drug Abuse in 1972. This commission recommended that possession and sale of
up to one ounce of marijuana be decriminalized. After President Nixon disregarded the
commission's finding, a panel convened in 1982 under the appointment of the National
Academy of Sciences. They reached the same conclusion as the 1972 commission, but were
equally ignored (Baggins 71).

The safety level of marijuana has been debated. A common way to dtermine safety is to
measure the safety margin of a drug or substance. One determines the amount of the
substance that causes the desired effect in fifty percent of its subjects. One then finds
the lethal dose for fifty percent of the subjects. The lethal dose divided by the amount
necessary to produce the desired effect is the safety margin. For example, 10 mg of
morphine will produce the desired effect in fifty percent of a population. 90 mg of
morphine will kill fifty percent of said population. Therefore, the safety margin of
morphine is 9. The safety margin of alcohol, a legal drug, is 10; the safety margin of
nicotine is 60. Comparatively, the safety margin of cannabis is 2600; it requires 1,300
marijuana cigarettes, in the span of approximately five minutes, to produce a lethal
dosage (Fish 413). Incredibly, while there are numerous deaths each year from overdoses of
alcohol, there has never been a death resulting from overdose of cannabis. David Baggins
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