January 15, 2012
Legalization of Marijuana
A random telephone poll conducted by CBS News in October 2011 revealed that 77% of those polled believe that doctors should be allowed to prescribe marijuana for serious illnesses. This compares to 65% just one year prior (ProCon.org, 2011). Popular opinion that marijuana should be legalized for medicinal purposes is shifting as the positive aspects of enacting laws allowing its use come to the public’s attention. Illegal importation of drugs into the United States is a multi-billion dollar industry with all of the profits going to criminal drug dealers. The black market for marijuana would be eliminated if marijuana were legalized as well as the expense of waging war on this drug (legalize.org, 2005). Serious illness related to or stemming from marijuana use is negligible compared to its legal counterparts, alcohol and tobacco. “What would happen if marijuana was legalized? Would everybody become a pothead … This legalization would inevitably add a new and powerful industry to our draining economy” (cultureshockkk.com, 2011). Legalization of marijuana can have a positive affect on the economy without negatively impacting acceptable social values and behavior. Today, cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, is widely used as a recreational drug for the purpose of getting high, or becoming intoxicated. The medicinal qualities are widely debated, as is the legislation backing the legalization of its use. According to MarijuanaToday.com, it is believed that marijuana has been used long before recorded history. It was cultivated in China as long ago as 4000 B.C. Five main uses have been discovered which include use of hempen fibers, use of oil from the seeds, use of seeds for food, and use as a medicine and as a narcotic. The first signs of marijuana in North America date back to the 1600s. In the 1800s, marijuana was legal in most states and crops were grown for the hemp fiber. It was also an ingredient in medicine, sold at most pharmacies. After the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Mexican immigrants introduced Americans to the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. The Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 prohibited narcotics not prescribed by a doctor and in 1925 the use of hashish (Indian hemp) was banned. Regulation in all states occurred in the mid 1930s making possession or transfer of cannabis illegal, with the exception of medical and industrial uses in which an excise tax was imposed. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes (ProCon.org, 2011). Since then, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana (ProCon.org, 2011). However, federal law does not recognize marijuana as a medicine (Anonymous, 2010). That means that the federal government has the authority to prosecute medical marijuana patients even if they are abiding by their own state law. In addition to those who use marijuana for medicinal purposes, there are millions of other users. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States” (Newport, 2011, p. 1). Behind tobacco and alcohol, marijuana is the most popular recreational drug in America. A poll conducted by ABC News/Washington Post in January 2010 showed that 81 percent of Americans feel that doctors should be able to prescribe marijuana to their patients (Anonymous, 2010). Medical marijuana is used to improve immune function and weight gain in AIDS patients as well as to counteract the effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients. However, the medicinal uses of marijuana are argued extensively amongst those in the medical community. Former...