Legalization of Marijuana

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Thesis Marijuana is a substance that has become

very much a part of American culture. Nearly 65

million Americans have either used it occasionally

or regularly. The use of marijuana hit mainstream

America about thirty years ago and it has been

accepted by a large segment of society ever since

(Rosenthal 16). The debate on whether this

substance should be legalized or not remains a

very hot topic today. Despite government efforts

to isolate and eliminate its use, it is clear that the

use of marijuana is still very popular. There is an

obvious problem concerning marijuana today.

Governments on all three levels: local, state, and

federal are trying desperately to find an

appropriate policy involving marijuana. National

polls show that more than 70% of the American

people, from both ends of the political spectrum,

support controlled access to marijuana for

medicinal purposes. Despite fierce opposition

from the federal government, voters in California

and Arizona passed ballot initiatives in the fall of

1996 favoring the legalization of medicinal

marijuana (Randall 33). If support for marijuana at

least as a medicinal remedy is so high, then why

have only a few states taken steps to change their

policy? There are several reasons why marijuana

remains illegal. Mainly, it is a political issue kicked

around by certain special interest groups. Some of

these groups perceive marijuana as a threat to the

home, tearing families apart and causing them to

abandon traditional values. However these groups

usually are not legitimate areas of legislation. The

more powerful groups have other, more practical

reasons for keeping marijuana illegal. Among the

most powerful of these groups are the combined

law enforcement-judiciary-penal systems. This

group sees the elimination of marijuana laws as a

threat to their jobs. Add to this group defense

lawyers, who stand to make millions of dollars

defending marijuana offenders. Consciously or

not, they support anti-marijuana laws (Rosenthal

2). Another interest group includes the scientists

whose marijuana research is funded by the

government. If marijuana were legalized, they

would lose millions of dollars in research grants

intended to prove the detrimental effects of the

substance. Two other unrelated and very influential

groups are the liquor lobby and pharmaceutical

companies. Their spending is usually very secretive

and not publicized very much. Legalization of a

competing product that can be produced with

relative ease by anyone with access to a plot of

land would cut deeply into their profits. And the

drug companies want control, rather than just a

ban, for they know the medicinal benefits of

marijuana (Rosenthal 9). Therefore the major

reason marijuana still remains illegal is that special

interest groups are blocking legislation by

extensive lobbying. Clearly it is seen that many

people support its use, at least for medical

reasons. It is obvious that the current policy for

marijuana is not working very efficiently. The

government spends billions of dollars every year to

stop its use. This leads to the opening of a very

extensive black market for marijuana, because the

drug is still in high demand. With the black market

comes all the crime and violent acts that create a

new problem of overcrowding prison populations.

In effect, the government does not really solve the

marijuana problem; instead it just creates a new

one in its place. Present Policy The present policy

on marijuana is that it is classified as a Schedule I

drug in the Controlled Substances Act. This law

established criteria for determining which

substances should be controlled, mechanisms for

reducing the availability of controlled drugs, and a

structure of penalties for illegal distribution and...
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