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Essay/Term paper: Is the illegalization of marijuana valid?

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Alcohol and Drugs

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Is The Illegalization of Marijuana Valid?

The debate over the legalization of Cannabis sativa, more commonly known
as marijuana, has been one of the most heated controversies ever to occur in the
United States. Its use as a medicine has existed for thousands of years in many
countries world wide and is documented as far back as 2700 BC in ancient Chinese
writings. When someone says ganja, cannabis, bung, dope, grass, rasta, or weed,
they are talking about the same subject: marijuana. Marijuana should be
legalized because the government could earn money from taxes on its sale, its
value to the medical world outweighs its abuse potential, and because of its
importance to the paper and clothing industries. This action should be taken
despite efforts made by groups which say marijuana is a harmful drug which will
increase crime rates and lead users to other more dangerous substances.
The actual story behind the legislature passed against marijuana is
quite surprising. According to Jack Herer, author of The Emperor Wears No
Clothes, the acts bringing about the demise of hemp were part of a large
conspiracy involving DuPont, Harry J. Anslinger, commissioner of the Federal
Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), and many other influential industrial leaders such as
William Randolph Hearst and Andrew Mellon. Herer notes that the Marijuana Tax
Act, which passed in 1937, coincidentally occurred just as the decoricator
machine was invented. With this invention, hemp would have been able to take
over competing industries almost instantaneously. According to Popular Mechanics,
"10,000 acres devoted to hemp will produce as much paper as 40,000 acres of
average [forest] pulp land." William Hearst owned enormous timber acreage so his
interest in preventing the growth of hemp can be easily explained. Competition
from hemp would have easily driven the Hearst paper-manufacturing company out of
business and significantly lowered the value of his land. Herer even suggests
popularizing the term "marijuana" was a strategy Hearst used in order to create
fear in the American public. Herer says "The first step in creating hysteria
was to introduce the element of fear of the unknown by using a word that no one
had ever heard of before... 'marijuana'".
DuPont's involvement in the anti-hemp campaign can also be explained
with great ease. At this time, DuPont was patenting a new sulfuric acid process
for producing wood-pulp paper. According to the company's own records, wood-pulp
products ultimately accounted for more than 80% of all DuPont's railroad car
loadings for the 50 years the Marijuana Tax Act was passed. It should also be
said that two years before the prohibitive hemp tax in 1937, DuPont developed
nylon which was a substitute for hemp rope. The year after the tax was passed
DuPont came out with rayon, which would have been unable to compete with the
strength of hemp fiber or its economical process of manufacturing. "DuPont's
point man was none other than Harry Anslinger...who was appointed to the FBN by
Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who was also chairman of the Mellon Bank,
DuPont's chief financial backer. Anslinger's relationship to Mellon wasn't just
political, he was also married to Mellon's niece" (Hartsell).
The reasoning behind DuPont, Anslinger, and Hearst was not for any moral
or health related issues. They fought to prevent the growth of this new
industry so they wouldn't lose money. In fact, the American Medical Association
tried to argue for the medical benefits of hemp. Marijuana is actually less
dangerous than alcohol, cigarettes, and even most over-the-counter medicines or
prescriptions. According to Francis J. Young, the DEA's administrative judge,
"nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal affects, but marijuana is
not such a substance...Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest
therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational
analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical
care" (DEA Docket No. 86-22, 57). It doesn't make sense then, for marijuana to
be illegal in the United States when alcohol poisoning is a major cause of
death in this country and approximately 400,000 premature deaths are attributed
to cigarettes annually. Dr. Roger Pertwee, Secretary of the International
Cannabis Research Society states that as a recreational drug, "Marijuana
compares favorably to nicotine, alcohol, and even caffeine." Under extreme
amounts of alcohol a person will experience an "inability to stand or walk
without help, stupor and near unconsciousness, lack of comprehension of what is
seen or heard, shock, and breathing and heartbeat may stop." Even though these
effects occur only under an extreme amount of alcohol consumption, (.2-.5 BAL)
the fact is smoking extreme amounts of marijuana will do nothing more than put
you to sleep, while drinking excessive amounts of alcohol will kill you.
The most profound activist for marijuana's use as a medicine is Dr.
Lester Grinspoon, author of Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine. According to
Grinspoon, "The only well confirmed negative effect of marijuana is caused by
the smoke, which contains three times more tars and five times more carbon
monoxide than tobacco. But even the heaviest marijuana smokers rarely use as
much as an average tobacco smoker. And, of course, many prefer to eat it." His
book includes personal accounts of how prescribed marijuana alleviated epilepsy,
weight loss of AIDs, nausea of chemotherapy, menstrual pains, and the severe
effects of Multiple Sclerosis. The illness with the most documentation and
harmony among doctors which marijuana has successfully treated is MS. Grinspoon
believes for MS sufferers, "Cannabis is the drug of necessity." One patient of
his, 51 year old Elizabeth MacRory, says "It has completely changed my life...It
has helped with muscle spasms, allowed me to sleep properly, and helped control
my bladder." Marijuana also proved to be effective in the treatment of glaucoma
because its use lowers pressure on the eye.
"In a recent survey at a leading teaching hospital, 'over 60 per cent of
medical students were found to be marijuana users.' In the same survey, only 30
per cent admitted to smoking cigarettes" (Guardian). Brian Hilliard, editor of
Police Review, says "Legalizing cannabis wouldn't do any harm to anybody. We
should be concentrating on the serious business of heroin and amphetamines."
"In the UK in 1991, 42,209 people were convicted of marijuana charges, clogging
courts and overcrowding prisons...and almost 90 per cent of drug offenses
involve cannabis...The British government spends 500 million pounds a year on
"overall responses to drugs" but receives no tax revenue from the estimated 1.8
billion pound illicit drug market" (Guardian). Figures like this can be seen in
the United States as well. The US spends billions of dollars annually on the
war on drugs. If the government were to legalize marijuana, it could reasonably
place high taxes on it because people are used to buying marijuana at extremely
high prices created by the risks of selling marijuana illegally. It could be
sold at a convenient store just like a pack of cigarettes for less than someone
would pay now, but still yield a high profit because of easy growing
An entire industry could be created out of hemp based products. The
oils extracted from seeds could be used for fuels and the hemp fiber, a fiber so
valued for its strength that it is used to judge the quality of other fibers,
could be manufactured into ropes, clothing, or paper. Most importantly, the
money the government would make from taxes and the money which would be saved by
not trying to prevent its use could be used for more important things, such as
serious drugs or the national debt.
The recreational use of marijuana would not stimulate crime like some
would argue. The crime rate in Amsterdam, where marijuana is legal, is lower
than many major US cities. Mario Lap, a key drug policy advisor in the
Netherlands national government says "We've had a realistic drug policy for 30
years in the Netherlands, and we know what works. We distinguish between soft
and hard drugs, between traffickers and users. We try not to make people into
criminals" (Houston Chronicle).
We can expect strong opposition from companies like DuPont and paper
manufacturers but the selfishness of these corporations should not prevent its
use in our society like it did in the 1930's. Regardless of what these
organizations will say about marijuana, the fact is it has the potential to
become one of the most useful substances in the entire world. If we took action
and our government legalized it today, we would immediately see benefits from
this decision. People suffering from illnesses ranging from manic depression to
Multiple Sclerosis would be able to experience relief. The government could
make billions of dollars off of the taxes it could impose on its sale, and its
implementation into the industrial world would create thousands of new jobs for
the economy. Also, because of its role in paper making, the rain forests of
South America could be saved from their current fate of extinction. No recorded
deaths have ever occurred as a result of marijuana use, it is not physically
addictive like alcohol or tobacco, and most doctors will agree it is safer to
use. Marijuana being illegal has no validity at all. Due to all the positive
aspects of marijuana it should be legalized in the United States.


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