Why Marijuana Should Be Legalized in the U Research Paper

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The legalization of marijuana: Is the hysteria about the drug all smoke and no fire?

The 18th Amendment, which prohibited the use of alcohol, is now regarded dismal failure. Its one 'success' in changing American civic life was the way it solidified the grip of organized crime upon the nation's urban landscape. However, prohibition of drugs, including marijuana, remains the law of the land in America today. America has always emphasized more punitive approaches to drug enforcement, even in comparison with its Western European counterparts, which have tended to stress treatment and management of addiction as a disease. Because marijuana use is particularly common, a disproportionate number of individuals convicted for drug possession are marijuana users. Ironically, marijuana is also considered to be the most benign drug of all illegal substances, thus most law enforcement efforts in the drug war have focused upon what some consider to be a relatively minor social problem.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Paper on Why Marijuana Should Be Legalized in the U.S. Assignment

Marijuana is the most commonly used drug in the United States. According to the "National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 102 million Americans aged 12 or older have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetimes, representing 41% of the U.S. population in that age group" (Marijuana facts and figures, 2010, Office of National Drug Control Policy). Since 1990 alone, "nearly 5.9 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, a greater number than the entire populations of Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming combined. In 2000, state and local law enforcement arrested 734,498 people for marijuana violations. This is an increase of 800% since 1980, and is the highest ever recorded by the FBI" (Legalization of marijuana, 2010, Legalization of marijuana). The majority of those charged with marijuana violations were charged with simple possession without intent to sell. "The total number of marijuana arrests for 2000 far exceeded the combined number of arrests for violent crimes, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault" (Legalization of marijuana, 2010, Legalization of marijuana). Keeping marijuana out of the United States is a time-consuming endeavor. "Most foreign-source marijuana smuggled into the United States enters through or between points of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border. During 2006, 1,115,710 kilograms of marijuana were seized along the Southwest Border. Cannabis cultivation in Mexico remains high and most of the marijuana produced in that country is destined for U.S. drug markets" (Legalization of marijuana, 2010, Legalization of marijuana).

Proponents of legalization of marijuana allege that diverting human and legal resources to prosecuting users of a relatively harmless drug is counterproductive and unjust. But law enforcement agencies state that today's marijuana is considerably more potent than the drug used in ages past. There is a widespread increased "prevalence of higher potency marijuana, measured by levels of the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)…Average THC levels rose from less than 1% in the mid1970s to more than 6% in 2002. Sinsemilla potency increased in the past two decades from 6% to more than 13%, with some samples containing THC levels of up to 33 per cent" (Marijuana facts and figures, 2010, Office of National Drug Control Policy). Opponents of legalization argue that people who base their opinions of the drug on their memories of the 1960s and 1970s counterculture fail to understand how the marijuana 'industry' has changed over the years.

Additional confusion about the drug's negative effects may be due to the varied way users and abusers imbibe marijuana. "Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). The main active chemical in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Short-term effects of marijuana use include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, loss of coordination, increased heart rate, and anxiety" (Marijuana facts and figures, 2010, Office of National Drug Control Policy). Marijuana can be inhaled through a cigarette or pipe, brewed into tea, and baked into foods, and the potency level can vary wildly, depending on how it is ingested. Additionally, people may use marijuana for very different reasons: some for medical reason as a palliative, others for purely recreational reasons.

Advocates of continued enforcement of existing drug policy state that marijuana is a 'gateway drug' to harder drug use. A "2002 SAMHSA report, Initiation of Marijuana Use: Trends, Patterns and Implications, concludes that the younger children are when they first use marijuana, the more likely they are to use cocaine and heroin and become dependent on drugs as adults. The report found that 62% of adults age 26 or older who initiated marijuana before they were 15 years old reported that they had used cocaine in their lifetime" (Marijuana facts and figures, 2010, Office of National Drug Control Policy). But it could be argued that correlation is not synonymous with causality. Simply because a child using marijuana at a young age is more likely to use harder drugs later on in life does not mean that marijuana physically or psychologically motivates the later drug abuse. Rather, it could be other factors in the child's life, like a lack of parental supervision, spurs the initial use and that children more likely to encounter marijuana at a young age are the victims of other social factors that promote later hard drug abuse.

Proponents of legalization point out that the marijuana use is widespread and many users do not become addicts. Results of a Center for Disease Control (CDC) 2007 survey indicate that 38.1% of high school students reported using marijuana at some point in their lifetimes and 47.5% of college students and 56.7% of young adults (ages 19 -- 28) surveyed in 2007 reported lifetime use of marijuana. Furthermore, some of the arguments against marijuana use could also be made against alcohol abuse, say marijuana's defenders. But unlike controlled and recreational use of alcohol, it is uncertain if there is any 'safe dose' of marijuana. "Marijuana abuse is associated with many detrimental health effects. These effects can include respiratory illnesses, problems with learning and memory, increased heart rate, and impaired coordination. A number of studies have also shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and schizophrenia. Long-term marijuana abuse can lead to addiction. Studies conducted on both people and animals suggest marijuana abuse can cause physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms may include irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving" (Legalization of marijuana, 2010, Legalization of marijuana).

While recreational legalization is unlikely in the near future, some states have moved to legalize the ability of doctors to prescribe medical marijuana as a painkiller, or to combat the loss of appetite associated with some medical treatments, such as chemotherapy. Marijuana has a palliative effect and the potential for abuse -- just like some prescription medications. Advocates of medical marijuana support doctors prescribing the drug to individuals suffering chronic pain for whom other efforts have failed, like people with MS and cancer -- and also for glaucoma sufferers, as marijuana is claimed to help some of those who are afflicted with the ailment.

However, reluctant physicians counter that no reliable studies have supported the supposed benefits of medical marijuana for any of these illnesses. "While smoking marijuana may allow patients to temporarily feel better, the medical community makes an important distinction between inebriation and the controlled delivery of pure pharmaceutical medication. The raw (leaf) form of marijuana contains a complex mixture of compounds in uncertain concentrations, the majority of which have unknown pharmacological effects" (Medical marijuana fact sheet, 2009, White House). Remember that "delicate immune systems of seriously ill patients may become compromised by the smoking of marijuana, and may be damaged while the patient is still struggling back to health" (Medical marijuana fact sheet, 2009, White House. The chronically ill may be more prone to dependence, because of chronic pain or psychological complaints that accompany or gave rise to their ailment.

It is questionable if the desperately sick should not be encouraged to try a potentially dangerous drug for the respiratory functions. "The daily use of marijuana compromises lung function and increases the risk for respiratory diseases, similar to those associated with nicotine cigarettes" (Medical marijuana fact sheet, 2009, White House). A patient who uses marijuana for pain relief during cancer treatment may leave him or herself more vulnerable to contracting other cancers. Furthermore, in response to those who argue that they have been nonresponsive to legally prescribed painkillers, "Marinol, the synthetic form of THC (the psychoactive ingredient contained in marijuana), is already legally available for prescription by physicians whose patients suffer from pain and chronic illness," and there is no need to embark upon a slippery slope of legalization (Medical marijuana fact sheet, 2009, White House).

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marijuana has no medical value as determined by Congress "in the case of the Controlled Substances Act, the statute reflects a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception outside the confines of a government-approved… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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