Term Paper: Legalizing Marijuana

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Legalizing Marijuana

There is presently much controversy regarding legalization of marijuana, as the number of supporters for the cause appears to grow concomitantly with the number of people opposing it. The former however have appeared to gain an advantage in the recent years, as society becomes more and more tolerant toward the concept. Not only does the general public has trouble when it comes to accepting marijuana as being something normal, but it (at least in the U.S.) is also reluctant to accept a series of factors related to the history of the cannabis plant. Considering the steady progress marijuana supporters have experienced recently, it is very likely that the substance will become legal in particular U.S. states in the near future.

Most people are unable to understand marijuana as it is in reality because they are unwilling to abandon their preconceptions regarding the drug. This generally happens because they associate it with stronger drugs such as heroin and cocaine, believing that there is not much difference between cannabis and these two. Because of its damaged reputation, marijuana is judged alongside of stronger drugs when it comes to people considering its legalization. "How can marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, compete with alcohol served in bars and restaurants, at cocktail parties, or before dinners graced with fine wine?" (Gerber xi). It is thus extremely difficult for marijuana to be taken individually, and it is even more difficult for the drug to be accepted because most people would rather support drugs like alcohol and tobacco instead, feeling that these two should be accepted simply because they have been around for longer. However, this is not actually true, considering that cannabis was widely used throughout history for various purposes, ranging from relaxation to medical practices (Goode 6).

The past of marijuana is often disputed between supporters and people who oppose the drug, this making it possible for the substance to continue to generate a lot of controversy. Among the earliest accounts of individuals using marijuana is the case of a Chinese who devised a book containing a series of medicinal plants including cannabis. He was a pharmacist living in 2737 B.C. named Shen Nung and felt that marijuana needed to be a part of his book because of its properties and because he believed it was very important in assisting people with their health condition. The drug reached an early apogee in India approximately a millennium ago, at the time when Indians came to grow and use the plant extensively. One of the stories that the general public is acquainted to and which virtually fuels its opposition toward the legalization of marijuana is the one relating to the band of Assassins living in eleventh century's Middle s, marijuana supporters have attempted to relate to how the substance was used by American Indians as a means of sealing a peace contract. Although Indians did smoke the peace pipe with the purpose of achieving peace and relaxation, it is very unlikely that they actually used marijuana for it, considering that it is improbable for them to be familiar with the cannabis sativa plant in the pre-Columbian era (Goode 6).

Even though people used it for a series of purposes, most of them discovered its potential to serve as medicine. Throughout history, everyone who ever grown marijuana extensively also acknowledged its medicinal role. People in the U.S. have used marijuana for many purposes related to its medicinal properties given that "from colonial days until well into the twentieth century it was used to cure a variety of ills: acute depression, tetanus, gonorrhea, insomnia, malaria, insanity, stuttering, migraine headaches, flatulence, epilepsy, delirium tremens, asthma, cancer, and chronic itching, with understandably mixed results. Until 1937, when federal law outlawed its possession and sale, marijuana was a staple in many patent medicine catalogues, and there is evidence that George Washington used the drug, probably for medicinal purposes" (Goode 6).

In spite of the substance's reputation as medicine, most people in the U.S. during the early twentieth century were unaware that it could also be used for other purposes. It was during the first decade of the century that Mexican immigrants introduced marijuana in states bordering Mexico, such as Texas and California. From there on, the drug experienced a steady progress and it came to be used by more and more people. African-Americans in New Orleans were particularly recognized as being marijuana users and the substance became associated with Negroes and jazz music during the first years of the 1920s. While Mexicans are believed to be responsible for bringing marijuana in Texas, California, and later in New Orleans, black people were most probably the ones who took it further north in urbanized territories such as New York and Chicago. This happened particularly in the case of lower class individuals, who lived alongside of African-Americans in poor neighborhoods and frequently interacted with black culture and customs. Not only did it spread through lower class neighborhoods, but it spread to many places because of its connection to jazz music, thus influencing people who enjoyed jazz in thinking that the substance was good for them. Unfortunately for its reputation, "marijuana was soon adopted by many deviant groups, those considered somewhat beyond the pale of respectability: professional criminals, juvenile delinquents, homosexuals, prostitutes, strip-teasers" (Goode 7). However, this is not necessarily proof that marijuana influences people in behaving abnormally, since people have in most cases consumed marijuana in groups, as it rarely happens that it is consumed by people who engage in deviant acts alone.

In the second half of the twentieth century marijuana became more common as it spread in parties that were not accustomed to using drugs or to committing any kind of activity believed to be abnormal. In spite of the fact that the substance became illegal in the early 1930s, it has from there on experienced a steady progress and it is presently seen as a substance commonly used in a variety of social groups. "Today, marijuana use is common in many social groups. A substantial minority of those in the arts and in the professional white-collar groups peripherally connected with the arts -- journalism, market research, advertising, and publishing -- have at least experimented with marijuana" (Goode 7). The drug is also widely used by some musician minorities and they even relate to it in their songs as an attempt to promote it and its legalization. As a result of their connection to marijuana, many musicians have a history in fighting law because of their actions. In spite of the fact that marijuana is known to be used among particular groups, it is not safe to claim that people in these respective groups inevitably come to consume the substance at a certain point in their lives (Goode 9).

There are three general opinions in regard to legalization of marijuana. The first concentrates on how the substance should be left in its present state, as it is apparently safer for society as a whole to consider it as being illegal. The second is somewhat similar to the first, only that it advises that the penalties for using marijuana should be lessened, given that it is apparently less dangerous in comparison to other drugs. The third lobbies that marijuana should be legalized and that its use restrictions should be similar to that applied in the case of alcohol (Goode 137).

Judging from the U.S. government's past in fighting drugs, it appears that the war on drugs was largely ineffective both because it had little to no success and because large amounts of money were invested in it. As a method of supporting marijuana and ending an absurd was against it, "we could shift the current stress on law enforcement to more prevention and treatment, allow judges greater sentencing flexibility for drug crimes, provide arrestees with more opportunities for treatment in lieu of incarceration, and fund more research on the medical benefits of marijuana" (Levinson).

Through legalizing marijuana the government would put an end to the drug trafficking networks that emerged as a result of producing and selling marijuana. These networks have proved to be the cause of a series of crimes, given that people interested in producing and selling the substance are fueled because of their thirst for money and many are determined to become rich through every means possible, even if this means committing other offenses. Considering that marijuana is one of the most common drugs in the U.S., it was virtually impossible for politicians or law officials not to interact with the substance. Whereas most have done their job in penalizing marijuana users and sellers, a large number became corrupt either because they had little options left or because they simply saw the opportunity to profit from the industry. In spite of the fact that the government issued a series of laws meant to reduce marijuana use, these laws have in most cases proved to be inefficient, as they did not produce any significant results (Levinson).

Although most people who are… [END OF PREVIEW]

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