April 10, 2008
Legalization of Marijuana
The legalization of marijuana has been a controversial issue ever since it was made an illegal substance in 1937 with the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act. Currently the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) lists marijuana as a schedule I substance, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use in the US. Many groups have formed attempting to change marijuana legislation. The most well known is the organization NORML (The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). They make many claims including that it is a harmless drug, that it has medicinal advantages, and that the reasons it was made illegal in the first place were illegitimate. They have been somewhat successful in their efforts and have succeeded in having marijuana “decriminalized” in twelve states. This means that as opposed to facing jail time for possession, users who are caught have to pay a small fine. I chose this topic because I have had many difficulties with drugs including this one and now I have overcome them I cannot support the legalization of something that caused so much damage to my life. Marijuana is a gateway drug to other substances, and it alone is harmful to the point that there is no justification for making it legal.
The scientific name for marijuana is cannabis sativa L. It is a mind-altering drug which produces euphoria, a stimulated appetite, and mild hallucinations for one to three hours after it is taken. The active chemical in marijuana is THC (Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol) and it is found mostly in the flowers produced by the marijuana plant. Marijuana can be cooked into foods and can be distilled into a drink, however the most common way by far to get “high” off of marijuana is to smoke it, and in this essay I will assume users are using this method.
The use of marijuana goes back into prehistory and has had various religious or cultural uses over time. The use of the drug was slightly frowned upon by some over time but there was no serious attention brought to it until the early 1900s. Henry J. Anslinger is credited as being most responsible for getting marijuana illegalized. He was appointed the head of the United States’ newly-formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930. From that point on he began a campaign against marijuana which, in 1937, succeeded in passing legislation to make marijuana illegal. When arguing for marijuana legalization today people often point to this man’s campaign and say the drug should be legalized today because based on his arguments “it should never have been made illegal in the first place”.
On this point, to some degree, I must yield. Anslinger did use racism and exaggerated “facts” in his campaign which took advantage of people’s ignorance of the drug. His slogans included that "Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men" and "You smoke a joint and you're likely to kill your brother".. However, the marijuana back then was not the same marijuana found on the streets today. In 1935 the average level of THC in marijuana was under one percent, whereas today the average sample tests at about 10 percent THC content. With such a significant difference it is hard to even compare the effects of marijuana back then to the ones today.
Despite his largely erroneous campaign, Anslinger did produce one very valid argument which is still used today, “The Gateway Theory”. The gateway theory holds that use of marijuana is likely to lead to use of other, harder, illegal drugs, such as LSD, PCP, cocaine, heroin, and crystal methamphetamine. While supporters of marijuana legalization will say that marijuana is harmless, none of these supporters will try to argue that these drugs are not. What they will try to argue is that this gateway theory is not true. Common sense can see that this is ludicrous if you think of the scenario of a clean and sober individual picking up a...