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Case for Legalizing Marijuana


What Is Marijuana? 

 Marijuana, a drug obtained from dried and crumpled parts of 
the ubiquitous hemp plant Canabis sativa (or Cannabis indica). Smoked 
by rolling in tobacco paper or placing in a pipe. It is also otherwise 
consumed worldwide by an estimated 200,000,000 persons for pleasure, 
an escape from reality, or relaxation. Marijuana is known by a variety 
of names such as kif (Morocco), dagga (South Africa), and bhang 
(India). Common in the United States, marijuana is called pot, grass, 
weed, Mary Jane, bones, etc. The main active principle of cannabis is 
tetrahydrocannabinol. The potency of its various forms ranges from a 
weak drink consumed in India to the highly potent hashish. The 
following consists of pure cannabis resin. Marijuana is not a narcotic 
and is not mentally or physically addicting drug. One can use mild 
cannabis preparations such as marijuana in small amounts for years 
without physical or mental deterioration. Marijuana serves to diminish 
inhibitions and acts as an euphoriant. Only once in a while will it 
produce actual hallucinations. More potent preparations of cannabis 
such as hashish can induce psychedelic experiences identical to those 
observed after ingestion of potent hallucinogens such as LSD. Some who 
smoke marijuana feel no effects; others feel relaxed and sociable, 
tend to laugh a great deal, and have a profound loss of the sense of 
time. Characteristically, those under the influence of marijuana show 
incoordination and impaired ability to perform skilled acts. Still 
others experience a wide range of emotions including feelings of 
perception, fear, insanity, happiness, love and anger. Although 
marijuana is not addicting, it may be habituating. The individual may 
become psychologically rather than physically dependent on the drug. 

Legalization Of Marijuana 

 Those who urge the legalization of marijuana maintain the drug 
is entirely safe. The available data suggested, this is not so, 
Marijuana occasionally produces acute panic reactions or even 
transient psychoses. Furthermore, a person driving under the influence 
of marijuana is a danger to themselves and others. If smoked heavily 
and a great deal of consistency, its use has been clearly associated 
with mental breakdown. In many persons who smoke chronically, the drug 
reinforces passivity and reduces goal-directed, constructive activity. 
The chronic use of pure resin (hashish) has been associated both with 
mental deterioration and criminality. One of the major complications 
of marijuana use is the tendency on the part of some users to progress 
to more dangerous drugs. Users in economically deprived areas usually 
go on to heroin, whereas more affluent individuals tend to move from 
marijuana to more potent hallucinogens such as LSD. There is no 
established medical use for marijuana or any other cannabis 
preparation. In the United States, its use is a crime and the laws 
governing marijuana are similar to those regulating heroin. Many 
authorities now urge that the laws be modified to mitigate the 
penalties relating to conviction on marijuana possession charges. 

The Case For Legalizing Marijuana Use 

 The United States stands apart from many nations in its deep 
respect for the individual. The strong belief in personal freedom 
appears early in the nation's history. The Declaration of Independence 
speaks of every citizen's right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of 
happiness." The Constitution and Bill of Rights go further, making 
specific guarantees. They forbid the government to make unwarranted 
entry into dwelling places. They forbid seizure of personal property, 
except when very clear reasons are approved by the courts. They allow 
every citizen to remain silent in court when accused of a crime. Legal 
decisions have extended these rights, so that every citizen may feel 
safe, secure, and sheltered from public view in the privacy of his or 
her home. 

The Right To Privacy 

 In recent years, Americans have referred to privacy as one of 
the basic human rights, something to be claimed by anyone, anywhere. 
United States citizens feel strongly about this and often tell other 
countries that they must honor their people's claims to privacy and 
personal freedom. Foreign leaders often disagree. They resent what 
they deem arrogant meddling by the United States. Leaders of the 
Soviet Union, for example, regard individual privacy as trivial when 
compared to the needs of the state. If the United States is to be 
persuasive in promoting freedom in other parts of the world, it must 
respect the privacy of its own citizens. Sometimes it is hard to do 
this because what goes on in people's private lives may seem 
offensive. But, according to U.S. traditions, there is a strong case 
to be made against legislating the private behavior of adults, so long 
as that behavior does not in turn violate the rights of others. Some 
people feel that this reasoning should hold also for marijuana. A 
person who smokes at home is not doing injury. The marijuana user is 
indulging in a minor pleasure over which that government should have 
no jurisdiction. It is quite clear from survey data that most people 
do not become physically dependent on marijuana. The majority use it 
as others use alcohol - to relax occasionally and to indulge a festive 
mood. How can a mild intoxicant, taken less than once a day by most 
users, be seen as a public threat? Even those who are "hooked", or 
psychologically dependent upon their habit, should not be penalized by 
the law. Some people find any compulsive and unproductive behavior 
disgusting. But that is not a reason for outlawing it. Consider 
eating, many people develop compulsive habits about food. They talk 
about it frequently. They spend many of their waking hours 
anticipating, planning, obtaining, and consuming food. This may be 
unattractive. It certainly is not productive and it can be harmful if 
the "food addict" is over weight. But there are no laws to prevent 
food addiction. If Congress tried to forbid the eating of ice cream 
sundaes or cotton candy, many people would be outraged, others would 
simply laugh. The same sort of argument is raised by some people with 
respect to marijuana. Even compulsive marijuana smoking by an adult is 
not so offensive that it injured neighbors or requires government 
intervention. The attempt to use the law to tell people what they may 
and may not consume at home is an arrogant invasion of personal 
privacy. Protecting the Drug User's Physical Health Sometimes it is 
said that the law must protect the drug user from himself. The 
argument takes two forms. One has to do with the damage a drug may do 
to a person's health and the other with the individual's power of 
self-control or freedom. First consider the health effects. By any
reasonable standard, marijuana is a mild drug and as for overdosing, 
there is no scientifically valid evidence of anyone dying of an 
overdose of marijuana smoke. Of course, it is possible to commit 
suicide by consuming large amounts of marijuana. But it is possible to 
die by eating too much salt. Salt is not illegal. Aspirin kills by 
overdose and that's legal. Many people die by drinking too much 
alcohol, an addictive drug. It too is legal. Why is marijuana 
considered more dangerous? 

Protecting Society from Marijuana 

 One argument made against the legalization of marijuana is 
that it damages not only the user but innocent bystanders. This 
argument, like the one about protecting the user, has two parts. The 
first deals with physical injury and the second with spiritual health. 
The main physical threat to society is that users under the influence 
of a drug with crash a car or airplane, or lose control in some way 
and do harm. People who have recently smoked marijuana do show signs 
of clumsiness and disorientation. They should not operate machinery in 
this condition. One study estimates that alcohol plays a part in 55% 
of all fatal highway crashes. Marijuana may present similar risks, but 
at present there are no reliable data on its importance in accidents. 
According to John Stuart Mill's writings, the government should try to 
control only the aspects of drug use that injure society. In this 
vein, it makes sense to have laws against driving under the influence 
of marijuana similar to those governing driving under the influence of 
alcohol. In other words, driving while on marijuana should be outlawed 
by not the use of marijuana itself. Some people believe that marijuana 
threatens society in a more insidious way. They argue that it drains 
workers' energy and makes them less productive. This in turn lowers
the vitality of the economy, depressing the overall quality of life. 
In addition, drug use- including marijuana smoking- is seen as a
plague on society that must be isolated. This disease theory holds 
that legalizing marijuana would make it more widely available and that 
this would tend to increase its use as well as the use of all kinds of 
drugs. One of the detriments of tolerating drug use, according to this 
theory, is that is encourages the use of more and different drugs. The 
National Institute on Drug Abuses 1984 report to Congress cited no 
evidence to support the idea that drug use is hurting economic 
productivity. It said: "The fact is, very little is known about the 
complex relationship which undoubtedly exists between drug abuse, 
worker performance, and productivity, or the lack thereof.... Simply 
put, the number of unanswered questions currently far outnumbers the 
available answers." Nor is there any strong evidence that legalizing
marijuana would increase use of the drug. In fact, there is some 
evidence suggesting that drug use under a relaxed legal system might 
not increase at all. Many states have removed the penalties for 
marijuana possession that were on the books in the 1950s and 1960s. 
The change occurred during a reform movement that swept the nation in 
the mid 1970s. Yet in spite of the less stringent laws, studies show 
that the use of marijuana in the affected states has, after an initial 
increase, declined. Although marijuana became easier to use (from a 
legal standpoint), it also became less popular. 

The Failure of Prohibition 

 Examining the U.S. policy on marijuana on the basis of 
performance, one must judge it a miserable failure. The number of 
people who have smoked the drug at least once has grown from an 
uncounted few in the 1950s, when some of the strictest antimarijuana 
laws were imposed, to nearly 50 million today. During this period the 
federal government has made steadily increasing efforts to stop its 
production and importation, and seizures of marijuana in the ports has 
grown steadily. Elaborate and costly international police campaigns 
have been launched, and the number of drug arrests in the United 
States has increased. The federal budget for drug enforcement 
reflected in several agencies has gone above $1 billion a year. And 
yet the illegal trade in marijuana continues. Supplies are so 
plentiful that the price has actually come down. The response has been 
to redouble police efforts and hope that things will change. The 
result is that more money is spent on a failed policy, creating an 
ever-growing army of drug enforcers dedicated to keeping the policy 

alive. The illegal market for marijuana grows even faster than the 
police force, however, because the drug users are willing to pay more 
to get what they want than taxpayers are willing to pay to stop it. 
The drug police enjoy their work and are not going to quit. And why 
should they as long as their salaries are paid? The admission that the 
marijuana laws have failed will have to come from someone else- not 
from the police. Marijuana is a common weed, easier to produce than 
the bathtub gin of the Prohibition years. It is not surprising that
thousands of "dealers" have been drawn into the marijuana business. 
Despite the great risks they face, including bullying by other dealers 
and the threat of arrest, they are attracted by the profits. The law 
cannot change the economics of this market because it operates outside 
the law. All the police can do is to make it risky to get into the 
marijuana business. This is supposed to drive out the less courageous 
dealers, reduce the amount of marijuana available, and inflate prices. 
But even by this measure, the police effort has failed. As mentioned 
earlier, the price of marijuana is declining. There are several ways 
in which the policy on marijuana imposed a burden on society. The 
obvious one is the cost of supporting the federal enforcement effort. 
Aside from this, there is a hard-to-measure but significant impact on 
society because the law creates a huge criminal class. It includes not 
just dealers who are out for profit but a much larger group of users. 
Consider three major penalties for having such a large criminal class. 

Some Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana 

 By lifting the ban on marijuana use and treating it like other 
drugs such as tobacco and alcohol, the nation would gain immediate and 
long-term benefits. This change in the law would greatly improve the 
quality of life for many people. Victims of glaucoma and those needing 
antinausea treatment, for example, would find marijuana easily 
available. If the medical advantages that are claimed for marijuana 
are real, many more patients would benefit. Research, which has been 
slowed in the past by the government's reluctance to frant exemptions 
to the marijuana laws, would be easier to conduct. The cloud of 
suspicion would disappear, and doctors could get on with investigating 
marijuana's medical uses with out fear of controversy. It might become 
possible to discuss the dangers of marijuana use without getting 
caught up in a policy debate. Meanwhile, the black market would 
disappear overnight. Some arrangement would be made to license the 
production of marijuana cigarettes. Thousands of dealers would be put 
out of business, and a secret part of the economy would come into the 
open. It is difficult to say whether this change would reduce crime 
because criminals would probably continue to sell other drugs. But it 
would have an impact on the amount of money flowing through criminal 
channels, and this might weaken organized crime. Lastly, the federal 
budget would benefit in two ways, Federal revenues would increase, 
because marijuana cigarettes would be taxed at the point of sale. The 
companies that make the cigarettes would also pay income taxes, adding 
to the federal coffers. Second, there would be a reduction in the 
amount spent on law enforcement efforts to apprehend and prosecute 
users and sellers of marijuana. The drug enforcement authorities might 
reduce their budget requests, or, more likely, focus more intensely on 
hard drugs and violent crimes. The courts would be relieved of hearing 
some drug cases, as well. The most important gain would be in the 
quality of government. The sorts of temptations and opportunities that 
lead to corruption would be significantly minimized. The illogical 
pattern of law enforcement, which now treats marijuana as more 
dangerous than alcohol, would end. It would set more achievable goals 
for law enforcement, and this would lend strength and credibility to 
the government.

Alcohol vs. Marijuana 1: Over 100 thousand deaths annually are 
directly linked to acute alcohol poisoning. 2: In 4,000 years of
recorded history, no one has ever died from a pot overdose. 3: Alcohol 
causes Server physical and psychology dependence. 4:
Alcohol is reported to cause temporary and permanent damage to all 
major organs of the body. 5: Cannabis is a much less
violent provoking substance then alcohol. * With over 60 million 
people using cannabis in the U.S. Today our laws and law
makers should view it under the same light. As they do alcohol.

Marijuana Status 1970: 11% of high school seniors said they were using 
marijuana every day. 1975: About 27% said they had
used marijuana sometime in the previous month. 1978: The monthly users 
grew up to 37% then in 1986 dropped to 23%.
1979: 12 to 17 year olds reported using it within the last month has 
dropped from a high point of 17% and in 1987 dropped to


1. Adams, Leon; "Marijuana". Encyclopedia International. Vol 11.
p365-347. LEXICON PUBLICATIONS. Philippines, 1979

2. Lorimer, Lawrence; "Marijuana" Encyclopedia Year Book 1993. 


3. Snyder, Solomon. The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Drugs. Series 2.




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