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Historically marijuana was used by certain populations and cultures as therapy for fever, insomnia, rheumatic pain, headaches and constipation. The drug was listed as an official licit drug in 1857. It was believed it had many medicinal benefits. The recreational use of the drug surged during the Prohibition period.
To reduce the widespread use of marijuana the government introduced a taxing mechanism in 1937. In 1970 the drug was listed as an illicit drug and it was declared that drug possession would be a criminal offence. The government felt that the drug had a high potential for abuse. There was also no medically accepted use of the drug.
In the recent past more and more people have been advocating for the legalization of the drug citing various reasons. This paper analyses the arguments proposed by the proponents of the drug and concludes that these arguments are inconclusive and unconvincing.
Arguments in support of legalization of marijuana
There are several arguments that have been proposed in support for the legalization of marijuana. In 1965 scientists were able to separate the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the cannabis plant. After several years scientists were able to separate 400 chemicals and currently 21 of them are being investigated by the US FDA (Mechoulam, Maximilian, Peters and Murillo-Rodriguez, 80).
There are natural and synthetic cannabinoids that have been approved for treatment of certain medical conditions. Patients who have lost appetite due to cancer therapy and AIDS have gained as certain cannabinoids are used to stimulate appetite. They are also used to treat nausea, vomiting, neuropathic pain and overactive bladders.
There have been suggested uses of smoked marijuana and cannabinoids that have not yet been approved by the FDA. These include spastic syndromes in neurological disorders, pain syndromes and glaucoma. It has been argued that smoking the drug causes relaxation and pleasure. There is a sense of well-being. If someone is stressed, the drug causes relief and the individual is able to deal with hard realities (Stokes, Egerton and Watson, 1522).
In the United States there are several States which have chosen to legalise the use for Marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes. In a survey conducted by Pew Research Centre 60% of the population in the country believed that it would not be right for the federal government to interfere in areas where marijuana use had been legalized (Connelly par, 6).
Two months ago a bill was introduced in congress that calls for the protection of medical and non-medical marijuana businesses from federal Prosecution in these States. Currently in the country 18 states and the District of Columbia actually allow physicians to prescribe marijuana to their patients. In November 2013 voters in the State of Washington and Colorado started progress towards legalization of marijuana use for adults above the age of 21(Connelly par, 7).
It is believed that marijuana prohibition will soon come to its end since most Americans are now against it. It is also argued that the legalization of marijuana should be allowed not just on moral grounds but on practical and financial factors or consideration. A Pew research survey found out that over 65% of Independents, Democrats and Republicans believed that enforcements costs are not worth it as they are quite high (Connelly par, 9).
For the first time in four decades since marijuana research studies were conducted the Pew Survey showed that majority of Americans wanted the legalization of marijuana. In 1969 only 12% of the population supported legalization. In 2013 the percentage has increased by over four times (Pew Research Centre par, 2). The findings further showed that the youth between 18-32 years of age were the ones who mostly contributed to this new opinion.
There are other arguments advanced by scholars in support of legalization of marijuana in addition to the increase in American population advocating for its legalization. The introduction of tougher drug laws ensured that drug-related arrests increased during the Reagan, elder Bush and Clinton administrations. On the other hand the use of marijuana actually increased in the country. The drug laws did not reduce the consumption at all.
When the Prohibition was introduced in 1937 it was estimated that there were only 55,000 users of the drug in the country. However 65 years later the number of users had exploded to 30 million. In 1994, statistics showed that there were 481,098 marijuana-related arrests. By 2000 the number had increased to 734,500. In 1981 statistics showed that 49% of the arrests were of juveniles who were having their first contact with the criminal justice system because of the arrest (Rosenthal and Kubby, 16).
It is therefore argued that marijuana contributes to jail overcrowding which has adverse economic consequences. It is further argued that due to the arrests these “criminal innocents” are exposed to personal danger and dangerous criminals in the jails where they learn illegal trades. When they are released, they are not the naïve criminals that were sent to prison (Rosenthal and Kubby, 16).
Arguments against the legalization of marijuana
The arguments that advocate for the legalization of marijuana are unconvincing. On the medical angle there are safer and alternative prescriptions for the medical conditions. Studies that have investigated the effects of smoked cannabis and prescribed cannabinoids have shown that they have undesired side effects.
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These include acute psychosis and cognitive dulling in some of the patients. The drug causes the heart rate to increase in patients who have heart-related conditions. There is similarity in the components found in tobacco smoke and marijuana. The marijuana affects breathing and worsens respiratory conditions. It may also lead to abnormal cell growth which increases the growth of cancer (Hashibe, Straif andTashkin, 265).
The argument that smoking the drug causes relaxation and relief is also inadequate. Marijuana use reduces the levels of cortical dopamine which is responsible for higher cognitive functions and executive function. As the users search for the relaxation they actually end up experiencing cognitive dulling (Stokes, Egerton and Watson, 1522).
Cannabis use also affects the work performance of individuals. The drug affects cognitive involvement and decision-making. There is lower alertness and slower response levels in the workplace. Many employers do not tolerate any drug use in their staff. They carry out urine tests to find out the presence of marijuana in the employees.
The tests are effective for a period of at least two weeks. Some of the THC components have an elimination half-life of only 20 hours. There are those components that remain stored in the body fat. They have an elimination half-life of 10-13 days (Buddy, par. 6). If employers know the adverse effects of the drug on the productivity of their staff then the drug should not be legalized.
In a separate study, it was noted that the drug had a significant adverse effect on the individual’s safety. There were higher levels of reported self-accidents such as road accidents and minor injuries. The drug also has an adverse effect on the mental health of individuals. A study showed that mental problems were more likely to be exhibited in cannabis users than non-users (Svarikic and Lustman, 95).
The fact that the American population supporting legalization of marijuana has increased rapidly should not be a justification to demand for legalization of the drug. The fact that more and more people have become softer towards its use does not mean it is morally right to legalise the drug. As much as certain States have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis it is still a federal-controlled drug and its possession and distribution is illegal.
There have been a lot of current efforts to legalise the crude cannabis through State legislative laws. There are efforts to avoid imposition of federal laws or procedures on marijuana. The advocates of the medicinal use of the drug and the legalization or decriminalization of the drug are doing it in such a manner that bypasses the normal testing and regulatory testing processes of the FDA which are carried out for all drugs that are proposed for human consumption in the country.
These advocates therefore unfairly put legislatures and voters in the position where they have to decide on proposals that have a great impact on human health yet they are not qualified to understand the scientific evidence that is in the market (Svarikic and Lustman, 90).
The federal government released a statement in 2009 clarifying its position on the legalization of marijuana. Smoked marijuana is not fit for medicinal purposes. The FDA believes that there is no sound scientific evidence that supports the medicinal use of marijuana in the country.
In 2001 the view was further supported by the Supreme Court in the case of United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative. The court further affirmed the authority of congress to regulate the use of harmful substances across the country whether certain States had legalized the use of “medicinal” marijuana or not. It is not only the DEA or the federal government that is reluctant in the legalization of marijuana.
The American Medical Association believes the drug should not be legalized (Meyers par. 6). The American Cancer Association has communicated that the area still needs further research before legalization. The American Academy of Paediatrics fears that legalization will lead to an increase in drug dependency among the young people. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society further states that there is no convincing evidence that clearly shows the benefits of the drugs to its patients.
The British Medical Association actually warns that the drug is linked to greater risk of heart disease, lung cancer and bronchitis. It is therefore clear to see that based on the arguments mentioned that marijuana use should not be legalized across the country. It is important that the federal government continues to protect the health of the citizens of the country. Legalizing the drug will affect young people who will engage in other vices due to drug addiction.
Buddy, Tim. How Long Does Marijuana Stay in the Body? Marijuana Is Rapidly Metabolized. 2012. Web.
Connelly, Louise. Marijuana Legalization 2013: Respect State Marijuana Laws Act Would Ban Federal Crackdowns. 2013. Web.
Hashibe Mia, Kurt Straif and Donald Tashkin. “Epidemiologic review of marijuana use and cancer risk.” Alcohol 35.3(2005):265–275. Print.
Mechoulam Raphael, Maximilian Peters and Eric Murillo-Rodriguez. “Cannabidiol—recentadvances.”Chemistry and Biodiversity 4.8(2007):1678–1692. Print.
Meyers, Dev. The DEA Position on Marijuana. 2009. Web.
Pew Research Centre. Majority Now Supports Legalizing Marijuana. 2013. Web.
Rosenthal Ed and Steve Kubby. Why Marijuana Should Be Legal. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. 1996. Print.
Stokes, Paul, Alice Egerton and Ben Watson. “Significant decreases in frontal and temporal [11C]-raclopride binding after THC challenge.” NeuroImage 52(2010): 1521–1527. Print.
Svarikic, Dragan and Patrick Lustman. “Legalization, Decriminalization & Medicinal Use of Cannabis:A Scientific and Public Health Perspective.” Missouri Medicine 109.2(2012): 90-98. Print.