LAE 221 01 - Spring 2012
February 22, 2012
Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that is made up of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant. You may hear marijuana called by street names such as pot, herb, weed, grass, boom, Mary Jane, gangster, or chronic. There are more than 200 slang terms for marijuana. Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I substance, which defines it as having a high potential for abuse. Marijuana is classified more severely than cocaine and morphine, which as Schedule II drugs are also banned for general use, but can be prescribed by doctors [LII]. Marijuana prohibition comprises a large part of the federal governments War on Drugs. Law enforcement officials made 600,000 marijuana-related arrests in 1996, and 800,000 in 1998-four out of five arrests being for possession alone. Under federal and state laws, many of which were strengthened in the 1980's, people convicted of marijuana offenses face penalties ranging from probation to life imprisonment, plus fines and forfeiture of property [get the facts]. The program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) was created by the federal government, state government, and local communities. D.A.R.E spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on the program to send local police officers to schools to teach young people to refrain from trying marijuana and other drugs [DARE]. Public controversy has been growing over the two assumptions-high abuse potential and no legitimate medical use-that underlie marijuana's status as a Schedule I drug. As a result, disputes over the abuse and medical potential have created differences of opinion over public policy. The two sides of the public are; they both agree and understand the laws the government has set down about marijuana or they disagree with the government and see it as marijuana should be legal. Supporters of marijuana's continued prohibition argue that the drug is easily abused and can lead to numerous physical and psychological harms. Short-term health effects-according to the NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse)-of the drug listed in this paper include memory loss, distorted Glass 2
perception, problems with learning and coordination, an increased heart rate, and anxiety attacks. Long-term effects according to NIDA-include increased risk of lung cancer for chronic marijuana smokers and possible damage to the immune and reproductive systems. In addition, marijuana opponents argue that many users attain a psychological dependence on the 'high'; that marijuana can create. Such dependence can result in stunned emotional and social maturity as these users lose interest in school, job, and social activities. About 100,000 people each year resort to drug abuse treatment programs to end their marijuana addiction. Marijuana is also viewed by some commentators as a 'gateway'; drug that can lead to the abuse of other dangerous and illegal substances, including cocaine and heroin. On the other hand, critics of U.S marijuana policy argue that the dangers of marijuana have been exaggerated. They contend that many, not most, users of marijuana suffer no lasting harm, do not move onto other drugs, and do not become addicts. Some surveys on marijuana use in America have shown that nine out of ten people who have tried marijuana have since quit. Researchers working with rats have found that marijuana is a far less addictive substance for the animals than cocaine or heroin. Pro-Legalization activist R. Keith Stroup summed up the views of many who oppose marijuana prohibition when he presented before a committee that 'moderate marijuana use is relatively harmless-far less harmless than that of either tobacco or alcohol.’ In November 1996, voters in two states, California and Arizona, passed referenda that legalized marijuana for medical use (these developments and the actions of other states...