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The Problems With Legalizing Marijuana

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Cannabis has been a part of civilization for thousands of years, in one form or another. It has been most widely used under the name of hemp. The hemp plant yields very strong fibers that can be used to make fabric, rope, and paper among other things. It also yields seeds that are very high in protein. For hundreds of years, the plant has been harvested in many parts of the world to supply these basic needs. It was one of the first crops planted in the new world and was harvested by many of our founding fathers.

Some strains of the plant – cannabis sativa and cannabis indica – were harvested and processed to remove a resin that was smoked and ingested. This resin is still a part of the world’s economy. The rest of the plant is no longer necessary due to the creation of synthetic fibers like nylon and rayon. Due to the resin produced by this plant, it holds a special place in the world of trade. It commands a relatively high price and is not subject to taxation. It enjoys these conditions because it is illegal.

Cannabis has not always been illegal. The push to make cannabis illegal came in the mid to late 1930’s. During this time, the U.S. Agriculture Department had been pushing for the use of hemp to ease the problem of possible deforestation. In 1936, a machine was built that could separate the pulp and the fiber in a cost effective manner. During this same time, a group of powerful companies had developed a new method to produce whiter paper. A lot of money had been invested in this project. If cheaper hemp was to be used, they stood to lose a significant amount of money. These industry giants had many government connections and were very powerful. In order to save their investment, they were going to exploit one of the properties of the cannabis plant: The fact that when smoked, it would produce a sense of euphoria.

This attribute of the plant was not well known by most of the American public. A disinformation campaign began. A Mexican slang term for the plant, “marijuana” was said to turn people into “axe-wielding murderers”. This information built on a distrust of Mexicans during this time and it was easy to convince the public that the plant was dangerous and should be eradicated. This campaign brought about the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. This act made marijuana illegal. This was despite a protest from the American Medical Association, which was very interested in its many valuable medicinal properties. Hemp was briefly legalized again during World War II as a source for hemp, but the need for additional industrial fiber passed, and it was once again made a controlled substance.

Many people don’t understand exactly what is happening when a person smokes cannabis and gets “high.” A chemical called Delta-9-Tetrahydrocarbinol (THC) is released and absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs. Once in the bloodstream, it breaks down into metabolites that travel to the brain. Here they take the place of certain normally occurring chemicals. These imitation chemicals are slightly different and affect the brain cells differently. This causes no cellular damage. After a period of time, these chemical are washed out by natural elements and the feeling of being “high” is lost. This euphoria makes sensations seem more intense, and emotions are enhanced. It produces no hangover. THC is actually an extremely mild hallucinogen. In large quantities it can produce very slight visual phenomena.

Currently, cannabis is a Schedule I drug. This means that it has been found to have no accepted medical uses. This classification is questionable. Remember that the American Medical Association suggested medical use back in the 1930s. Prohibition of this drug is quite expensive to maintain. The government attains this goal on several levels. It prosecutes dealers and users, it eradicates crops both within and outside this country, and it attempts to “teach” the public about the drug. While these are noble efforts, they are not working the way they are designed to.

There has been a recent upsurge in the number of cannabis-related arrests as the drug has made resurgence among the public. Law enforcement are making more arrests, more raids, and more seizures than ever before. Once these arrests are made, the criminals must be held and prosecuted. Because of the volume of these arrests, jail space is running out, and courtrooms are backed up. This is often seen as a violation of the criminal’s constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial. Some argue that trials are not fair anymore. There is a new type of sentencing called “mandatory minimums.” This equates the possession of illegal substances in varying quantities with varying jail sentences. The judge is legally bound to follow this set of rules. Once sentenced, the criminal must be housed somewhere. This is causing a huge boom in the prison population.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse released findings that over three-fourths of all drug-related arrests made each year are for marijuana. This is space taken up by people who have committed non-violent crimes. This mandatory sentencing may be putting thieves and murderers back out on the streets quicker than those who are only hurting themselves. Prison overcrowding is becoming a serious problem. If the number of people who smoke marijuana (now estimated conservatively at 25 million) continues to increase, there are going to be more convicts than free men.

Many people think that the problems associated with marijuana use can be solved or lessened by legalizing marijuana. It could be the biggest change in the economy since the end of prohibition. Before any of the laws can be changed, though, the public and the government would have to agree on how harmful or helpful the drug actually is. This might require a slight admission by the government that maybe not everything that they had told the public was true—unfortunately, this is not a common occurrence. Once the public had been reeducated as to the truths and myths of marijuana consumption, the work could begin on the cultivation, distribution, and uses of cannabis.

The driving force behind all of this is, as always, money. Specifically, who gets it? The idea of revenue from cannabis taxation should thrill the government. If the number of smokers is conservatively estimated at 25 million, and they very conservatively spend 200 dollars a year on cannabis that is taxed at the special rate of 10%, that’s 750 million dollars in taxes. These numbers are probably on the low side. Taxes are only the beginning, though, since money will be saved through prison population reductions and law enforcement reductions.

We must ask ourselves, how would legalization hurt people? The first concern of the anti-drug advocate is lost productivity in the workplace. This is unfortunately true, as some people will abuse this new freedom. The workplace is no place to be high. This leads to the cost of a system to test and make sure that no one works under the influence. The lack of motivation one often feels with marijuana use can slow down a workplace. A new type of drug test would need to determine how long ago a person was last under an influence.

Other casualties of legalization would be the tobacco and alcohol industries. With another mood-altering drug on the market, their profits would decrease. Addictive cigarettes keep the people coming back at an alarming rate. Cannabis would not. Alcohol would bear a much bigger loss than tobacco, simply because cannabis acts so much like alcohol, but with more pleasant mental effects and no hangover.

The final cost that would be incurred by the people would be their physical health. The smoking of any plant matter does damage to one’s lungs. The damage done by pot smoke is still less than that done by tobacco smoke. Nicotine hardens the arteries and increases blood pressure. THC does not.

A major concern with legalization is the operation of motor vehicles. No one should operate a motor vehicle under the influence of anything. Currently, alcohol is the biggest factor in highway accidents and fatalities. Pot and other drugs account for only about 8% of these accidents. With wider availability, this number could rise.

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Scott almost 7 years ago Scott

Simon, hi, thanks for the input:) I read your comment, it's intriguing, do you have any substantial medical evidence that marijuana could cure 80 pct of diseases? I don't think you do, so why not just admit you came up with an erroneous figure to back up your argument, okay? Now here's the thing, some people want it legalized, and I am for legalizing it for medical purposes. It has properties which can have an impact on " some" health issues in humans. But truth be told, to make it legal for recreational use with no checks or balances is highly irresponsible. It is a drug, if it wasn't, no one would use it. Can you tell me honestly that it is a great motivator?? No I don't think you can, does marijuana alter perception? Yes, we all know it does. Do you think that sensory response is effected by regular marijuana use? I'm pretty sure it is. Now, I've used my share of marijuna, and I can tell you, it definitely gets you high, yes indeed. And it also effects how you think. Now wait I can hear it now," It's no different than alcohol". Well, you're right, and alcohol is regulated, so by the same token, marijuana should be regulated/ What bothers me, frankly is seeing so many young people in thier teens and twenties doing nothing but spending thier money on it, or selling it to make money to buy it and get it free. Introducing other younger people to it thru peer pressure, and yep, just like alcohol. Recently in my town a young man who was stoned ran his SUV into a daycare center, right thru the big windows. He was found in possession of a large amount of weed, and yep, he was extremely high at the time. He said so. Lucklly no kids were in the school at the time. He was tested for ' ANY" substances, but they only found marijuana in his system. Now tell me, please, do you think that he should get to go home and smoke a blunt and forget about it? I don't think so either. What if he had killed some of these kids? I smoked for many many years, and I 'KNOW what it does to your cognitive and motor skill functions. Perhaps it should be " decriminalized' But it should still be controlled and regulated, and nope, we shouldn't be able to operate heavy machinery while high, nor any other motor vehicle. And if you are living in Mom's basement and smoking blunts everyday, and spending your money on it, maybe its time to rethink the strategy, just sayin. I was a member of NORML for many years, and it's the ' i just wanna get high all day" yahoos that are keeping it from being used for other helpful purposes. No one is going to take a red-eyed stoner spouting " hey man, like, I just want to smoke some good budz and get high" seriously. I'm tired of hearing about how much good it does, when, I still see no proof at all that it does, as a pain-killer, yes it can, to improve appetite? Oh yeah, it does that for cancer and aids patients, but sorry, it doesn't " cure" anything that we know of...so if you are going to make an intelligent argument for marijuana, then do it, but if you are going to just smoke a bowl, and make preposterous statements about it, then please, do the folks who can 'USE IT RESPONSIBLY" a favor, just sit there, get stoned, and shut up:) peace man.

simon almost 7 years ago simon

Hi the two main reasons weed is illegal is due to the fact you cannot patent a plant and therefore easily tax it! The other main reason is that the vast multi billion dollar drug industry cannot successfully Synthesize this plant derived drug! THC is a kind of bio-active molecule with a unique resonance and molecular spin on Its atomic axis! Simply turing it into a pill is beyond their capability and medical weed I'd really just resin packed to look like a pill! If real THC was allowed to be legal it would cure 80+ percent of most diseases loosing the drug industrybillions of dollars!! That's not even mentioning the ongoing fight in canada and many other countrys literally Fighting to get the proof out that THC cures CANCER!!! Another reason why it is illegal because until another disease comes along with such devastating effects will the cure for cancer be 'discovered'!!A cold fact folks but without world wars (Thank god) the governments like to keep the population trimmed at a controllable rate at least!? This plant has been used for thousands of years for treating diseases and many other uses but now we have a drug industry controlled by the banks, bilderberg group, freemasons, skull and crossbones etc etc then the future of such a great healer is very bleak so it is up to the ' little man' to keep the truth out there for the next generations to come!? Thanks for your time! (Please listen to devin townsend (OCEAN MACHINE) to know me) thanks)

For Mr. "idiot below me" about 7 years ago For Mr. "idiot below me"

Just because that kid is 16 does not control whether he can share his opinion on this subject, especially when the teenage population is suffering the most from the drug industry!!

Speez over 7 years ago Speez

Too many lives have been ruined by cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs and alcohol. Too many lives have been ruined by the draconian penalties for the possession of marijuana. I believe that small amounts should be decriminalized immediately. This article is absolutely right about the need for a new test to see if you are under the influence or have been within an 8 hour work day though. (in reference to the ability to legalize it). I work a job that has great potential dangers. The last thing I want to do is be working with someone that's a little too "happy".

Donegan over 7 years ago Donegan

Marijuana has a higher concentration of tar, though most people think that it is no big deal because no one smokes that much weed. also there is still no comprehensive testing done because the FDA will not release it from Schedule I. if you want to put it into your bodies at least educate yourself better. The pro-pot websites are just as biased as the goverment sites. so look around and try to learn the truth.

to_the_idiot_below_me almost 8 years ago to_the_idiot_below_me

I have a couple questions for you. how was it harmful in the first place? who's life has been ruined because of weed opposed to the familys being torn apart from the enforcement of this futile law? If you are in fact 16, what business do you have commenting on this post? When marijuana is legalized it will be for adults 21 and over. If you want to bash any substance bash alcohol for killing my older cousin.He was a marijuana advocate and was killed by a drunk driver. Oh yeah, the world is so "sucky" because there are a lot of idiots like you that completely trust the governments judgments on delicate matters. Just because the government says something doesn't mean it's correct or the common view of the us, like marijuana for example.

Mr.Rainy about 8 years ago Mr.Rainy

The legalization of marijuana... I find it that many supporters are users already and find it that the con's to the drug are outweighed heavily by the pro's. But my worry is that they do not fully understand the indirect effects marijuana will have on communities. Low-income families who suffer from alcoholism or drug-abuse will have another form of sensation to suffer from if pot is legalized. Our posterity will lose much motivation and ambition because of the want to divulge in pot, and potentially harder drugs. Theft and Crime related to marijuana possession will cause many neighborhoods to feel insecure and unsafe due to pot fiends or thieves looking to get a fix or secure their own supply for sales. People convicted of drug abuse and sales who also may have violent charges now are re-released into society. And the list goes on, because I'm sure many have gone through this same list as I am going through now. But my most concerning worry is that with the hardships of the economy and the slow decay of public education... making pot legal and more attainable for children just makes it more difficult for them to obtain a good future. How can kids want to go to school when they rather smoke pot and feel good? My high school. No good comes from this at all. Pot should be strictly for medical purposes, not public consumption. :/

Kevinsa5 about 8 years ago Kevinsa5

@TG2012 Okay, I respect your opinion. But you present no facts. None. Nada. nothing. You claim it's bad and harms society, but where's the evidence? In case you didn't notice, the author of the article provides specific numbers and evidence, so I'm infinitely more compelled to believe her over you. Also, if you want to persuade people, you should probably invest in a grammar book. No offense, but you seem to be a generally ignorant person. I'm 16 as well, but I'm sure that if it were put to a test, people would be more inclined to listen to me based on grammar alone.

TG2012 about 8 years ago TG2012

So what most of you people are saying is that we should legalize something that was a harm to our humanity in the first place?...i mean seriously you think just because some people have found out that marijuana is fun that it automatically makes marijuana something thats not harmful I honestly think this i s why our economy is going to crap you should be ashamed of yourselves Im 16 and watch people ruin their lives because of this crap and now you want it to be legalized thats just dispicable and we all wonder why the world is so sucky now a days but really you are contributing to it!!...this world is horrible we are all greedy and all for ourselves..

Chris over 8 years ago Chris

He seems to be supporting the legalization mostly, seems quite unbiased... a couple of points though... people wouldn't turn up to work high, most people would treat it the same as being drunk... and alcohol and tobacco are way way worse the cannabis... but somehow still legal

janelle over 8 years ago janelle

cannabis calms your soul and relaxes you. it is deffinatly not a harmful drug unless abused. smoke two joints a day thats what i say!

jabow over 8 years ago jabow

weed is safe and it helps more people then it harms thats a fact

morgan over 8 years ago morgan

there is proof that there is a link between marijuana and birth defects and an example is me. i was born with both lungs collapsing premature at 28 weeks, i was a true miracle marijuana baby and i am living today healthy as a regular person.

Garrett Davenport over 8 years ago Garrett Davenport

Where are your sources for these such statements your making?

clint almost 9 years ago clint

I would add that the effects of legalizing marijuana would displace millions of jobs in the criminal justice, rehabilitation, construction (for all the prisons) and many other sectors of the public. More importantly I think, there would be a huge moral question about those that are currently serving sentences in jail, paying fines, parole, etc. How should society deal with the release of so many "convicted" felons? My grandmother wouldn't be too happy about the notion and neither would a lot of people.

bigs almost 9 years ago bigs

i think thay should leaglize weed because it helps every one by bringing in money.

Buzzbait almost 9 years ago Buzzbait

Birth defects from marijuana????? Not sure I believe this. I think it is more feasible to blame the defects on the chemicals used by greedy growers. Harsh fertilizers leave traces in the plant. Also did the grower use insecticide? Did the grower dry his harvest correctly ? If not marijuana is very susceptible to mold at this point. Ever smell "musty" herb? Musty = mold = cheap weed to be avoided. Legalization and taxation would lead to higher quality and standards for the grower. Plus it would put a huge hit on the illegal importer of marijuana. Oakland, CA and Breckenridge, CO have already legalized weed, and tax it. Other cities will see the "cash" benefit of these cities, greed will set in and other cities will vie for a piece of the pie!!!!!

Mark almost 9 years ago Mark

I agree with Maren-- It is rather asinine to directly conclude that because a marijuana user's son has a birth defect that it was caused by marijuana.

josh over 9 years ago josh

Maren, although i know what ur saying, i think any substance misused- for example the excessive use of marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco can cause cell mutations (however minor) to the sperm. So weed could possibly be responsible for birth defects. Afterall it can be associated with impotence :s. Although i think that it is silly to justify wanting it to be illegal for that reason, when even too much sun, and other environmental conditions can be associated with birth defects. If anything should be illegal, its tobacco, which has serious adverse health effects and birth defect possibilities. Although i believe in freedom of choice, smoke marijuana myself, and know that i can stop when i need to, am much calmer and happier on weed than on alcohol, and if i wanted to have a kid, i'd be bright enough to Quit the pot. Legalize marijuana!

Maren over 9 years ago Maren

What medical proof do you have that the child's birth defect was a direct result of the father's marijuana use? If marijuana causes no permanent damage to the cell, how could it possibly affect genetic reproduction? Especially when it is the father consuming? Alcohol, on the other hand, when consumed by the mother does have known effects on the fetus. It is alcohol we need to control better, not marijuana.

Jessi over 9 years ago Jessi

Another thing that i don't think was mentioned in this article. Is the problem that many children are born with serious birth defects due the the Chronic use of illegal marijuana. I have a very good friend who was a pot user. his child was born with a sereious birth defect that took his life when he was 4. I hope with every fiber of my being that marijauna never is legalized.

chris A Sweetman over 10 years ago chris A Sweetman

we shold legalize marijuana