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Essay/Term paper: Legalization of marijana: for

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Alcohol and Drugs

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Legalization of Marijana: For

It's time we put to rest the myth that smoking marijuana is a fringe or
deviant activity, engaged in only by those on the margins of American society.
In reality, marijuana smoking is extremely common, and marijuana is the
recreational drug of choice for millions of mainstream, middle class Americans.
According to the most recent NIDA data1, between 65 and 71 million Americans
have smoked marijuana at some time in their lives, and 10 million are current
smokers (have smoked as at least once in the last month). In fact, NIDA
(National Institute on Drug Abuse) found that 61% of all current illicit drug
users report that marijuana is the only drug they have used; this figure rises
to 80% if hashish (a marijuana derivative) is included. A recent national survey
of voters found that 34% -- one third of the voting adults in the country --
acknowledged having smoked marijuana at some point in their lives(NIDA,1). Many
successful business and professional leaders, including many state and federal
elected officials from both political parties, admit they have smoked marijuana.
We should begin to reflect that reality in our state and federal legislation,
and stop acting as if otherwise law-abiding marijuana smokers are part of the
crime problem. They are not, and it is absurd to continue to spend law
enforcement resources arresting them.

Marijuana smokers in this country are no different from their non-
smoking peers, except for their marijuana use. Like most Americans, they are
responsible citizens who work hard, raise families, contribute to their
communities, and want a safe, crime-free neighborhood in which to live. Because
of our marijuana laws, these citizens face criminal arrest and imprisonment
solely because they choose to smoke a marijuana cigarette when they relax,
instead of drinking alcohol. They simply prefer marijuana over alcohol as their
recreational drug of choice. This is a misapplication of the criminal sanction
which undermines respect for the law in general and extends government into
areas of our private life that are inappropriate.

The NORML (National Orginization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws)
Board of Directors recently issued the following statement entitled Principles
of Responsible Cannabis Use, which defines the conduct which is believe that any
responsible marijuana smoker should follow.

"I. ADULTS ONLY Cannabis consumption is for adults only. It is irresponsible to
provide cannabis to children.

Many things and activities are suitable for young people, but others absolutely
are not. Children do not drive cars, enter into contracts, or marry, and they
must not use drugs. As it is unrealistic to demand lifetime abstinence from
cars, contracts and marriage, however, it is unrealistic to expect lifetime
abstinence from all intoxicants, including alcohol. Rather, our expectation
and hope for young people is that they grow up to be responsible adults. Our
obligation to them is to demonstrate what that means.

II. NO DRIVING The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor
vehicle or other dangerous machinery impaired by cannabis, nor (like other
responsible citizens) impaired by any other substance or condition, including
some medicines and fatigue.

Although cannabis is said by most experts to be safer than alcohol and many
prescription drugs with motorists, responsible cannabis consumers never operate
motor vehicles in an impaired condition. Public safety demands not only that
impaired drivers be taken off the road, but that objective measures of
impairment be developed and used, rather than chemical testing.

III. SET AND SETTING The responsible cannabis user will carefully consider
his/her set and setting, regulating use accordingly.

"Set" refers to the consumer's values, attitudes, experience and personality,
and "setting" means the consumer's physical and social circumstances. The
responsible cannabis consumer will be vigilant as to conditions -- time, place,
mood, etc. --and does not hesitate to say "no" when those conditions are not
conducive to a safe, pleasant and/or productive experience.

IV. RESIST ABUSE Use of cannabis, to the extent that it impairs health, personal
development or achievement, is abuse, to be resisted by responsible cannabis

Abuse means harm. Some cannabis
use is harmful; most is not. That which is harmful should be discouraged; that
which is not need not be.

Wars have been waged in the name of eradicating "drug abuse", but instead of
focusing on abuse, enforcement measures have been diluted by targeting all drug
use, whether abusive or not. If marijuana abuse is to be targeted, it is
essential that clear standards be developed to identify it.

V. RESPECT RIGHTS OF OTHERS The responsible cannabis user does not violate the
rights of others, observes accepted standards of courtesy and public propriety,
and respects the preferences of those who wish to avoid cannabis entirely.

No one may violate the rights of others, and no substance use excuses any such
violation. Regardless of the legal status of cannabis, responsible users will
adhere to emerging tobacco smoking protocols in public and private places."

It is Time To Stop Arresting Marijuana Smokers. The "war on drugs" is
not really about drugs; if it were, tobacco and alcohol would be primary targets.
They are the most commonly used and abused drugs in America and unquestionably
they cause far more harm to the user and to society than does marijuana. Instead,
the war on drugs has become a war on marijuana smokers, and in any war there are
casualties. According to the latest FBI statistics, in 1994 nearly one-half
million (482,000) Americans were arrested on marijuana charges. That is the
largest number of marijuana arrests ever made in this country in any single year,
and reflects a 67% increase over 1991 (288,000). Eighty four percent (84%) of
those arrests were for possession, not sale(NORML,2). Those were real people who
were paying taxes, supporting their families, and working hard to make a better
life for their children; suddenly they are arrested and jailed and treated as
criminals, solely because of the recreational drug they had chosen to use. This
is a travesty of justice that causes enormous pain, suffering and financial
hardship for millions of American families. It also engenders disrespect for the
law and for the criminal justice system overall Responsible marijuana smokers
present no threat or danger to America, and there is no reason to treat them as
criminals. As a society we need to find ways to discourage personal conduct of
all kinds that is abusive or harmful to others. Responsible marijuana smokers
are not the problem and it's time to stop arresting them.

The most comprehensive modern study of marijuana policy was the report
of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, Marijuana, A Signal of
Misunderstanding. Established by Congress, the Marijuana Commission found that
moderate marijuana smoking presents no significant risk to the user or to
society, and recommended that the country "decriminalize" minor marijuana
offenses; i.e., that penalties be removed for personal use and possession.
Following that report, eleven American states adopted modified versions of
decriminalization, led by Oregon in 1973. Each of these states retained a modest
civil fine for minor marijuana offenses, but eliminated arrest and jail,
substituting a citation, similar to a traffic ticket. The advantage of this
approach to the marijuana smoker is obvious: the individual is spared the
indignity of an arrest and the threat of jail, and avoids a criminal record. But
this approach also benefits law enforcement by freeing up police to focus on
serious crime.

Nearly one-third of Americans live in states which have now had a 15-20
year real-world experience with marijuana decriminalization, and the experience
has been overwhelmingly favorable. Contrary to the fears expressed by some,
marijuana usage rates (both the percentage reporting having ever used marijuana,
and the frequency of use by those who do smoke) are the same in states that have
decriminalized and in states where marijuana smokers are still arrested. Nor has
there been any change in attitudes toward marijuana use among young people in
those states. In short, the evidence indicates that we can stop arresting
marijuana smokers without harmful consequences.

It is Time For Peace, Not War. As a nation, we've talked too long and
too loud in the language of war. It's time that we begin to talk of peace. It's
time to seek a policy that minimizes the harm associated with marijuana smoking
and marijuana prohibition -- a policy that distinguishes between use and abuse,
and reflects the importance we have always attached in this country to the right
of the individual to be free from the overreaching power of government. Most of
us would agree the government has no business knowing what books we read, the
subject of our telephone coversations, or how we conduct ourselves in the
privacy of our bedroom. Similarly, whether we smoke marijuana or drink alcohol
to relax is simply not an appropriate area of concern for the government.

Americans are right to be concerned about adolescent drug use of all
kinds. We all want our children to grow up safe, healthy and drug free. The
recent data showing an increase in marijuana smoking among adolescents is strong
testimony to the failure and ineffectiveness of our current drug education
programs -- including most prominently the DARE program. NORML has expressed
that they would be pleased to work with others to develop more effective
programs to discourage adolescent marijuana smoking, and to instill in children
an understanding that neither marijuana smoking, tobacco smoking or alcohol
drinking is appropriate behavior for minors. NORML's involvement in such a
campaign might enhance the campaign's credibility with young people.

By stubbornly defining all marijuana smoking as criminal, including that
which involves adults smoking in the privacy of their home, we are wasting
police and prosecutorial resources, clogging courts, filling costly and scarce
jail and prison space, and needlessly wrecking the lives and careers of
genuinely good citizens. It's time we ended marijuana prohibition and stopped
arresting and jailing hundreds of thousands of average Americans whose only
"crime" is that they smoke marijuana. This is a tragic and senseless war against
our own citizens; it must be ended.

The last point is that marijuana should immediately be made available
by prescription to the tens of thousands of seriously ill Americans who need
marijuana to alleviate pain and suffering. Of all the negative consequences of
marijuana prohibition, none is as tragic as the denial of medicinal marijuana to
those who need it.

The question of permitting medical marijuana must be separated from the
question of decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana for recreation use. These
are separate issues and they must be judged on their own merits. The country has
reached a consensus on the former, even as we remain divided on the latter.

On the question of whether seriously ill patients should have legal
access to marijuana to relieve pain and suffering, 85%6 of the American public
already support this change. Many of them (22%) have had a family member or
friend sick with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma or some other
potentially devastating disease, who has had to risk arrest and jail to obtain
marijuana to alleviate the side effects of cancer chemotherapy, overcome the
AIDS wasting syndrome, or treat other life threatening or serious illnesses.
Basic compassion and common sense demand that we allow these citizens to use
whatever medication is most effective, subject to the supervision of a physician.

Although more research is needed, it is clear from available studies and
rapidly accumulating anecdotal evidence that marijuana is a valuable therapeutic
in the treatment of a number of serious ailments and that it is both less toxic
and costly than the conventional medicines for which it may be substituted. In
many cases it is more effective than the commercially available drugs it
replaces. Groups such as the American Public Health Association and the
Federation of American Scientists9 have recently endorsed the medical use of

Marijuana is an effective means of overcoming the nausea and vomiting
associated with cancer chemotherapy, and the nausea and appetite loss in the
wasting syndrome of AIDS. It is useful for various spastic conditions including
multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, and quadriplegia. It also lowers intraocular
pressure in people who suffer from open-angle glaucoma. For some people with
epilepsy it is the only anticonvulsant that works. For centuries, it has been
used as an analgesic and is considered by many to be the best approach to
migraine. It is also useful to some patients for the symptomatic treatment of
depression, menstrual cramps, asthma and pruritus.

Many seriously ill patients in this country are already using marijuana
to reduce their pain and suffering, even though it means they and their families
must risk arrest. Informal buyers' clubs, which supply marijuana to the
seriously ill, have been formed in many cities. Some of these clubs are small
and clandestine; a few, such as the one in San Francisco, operate openly and
serve several thousand clients on a regular basis. Despite these heroic efforts,
the underground emergency distribution system reaches only a small proportion of
the tens of thousands of patients who could benefit from legal marijuana.

Also, in the papers last year was the story of an elderly mother who was
arrested for grownig marijuana for her ailing son. The old woman said' "If Jesus
were her, he would help me plant." (Elders, 4)

NORML first raised this issue in 1972 in an administrative petition
asking that marijuana be moved from schedule I to schedule II of the federal
Controlled Substances Act, so that it could be prescribed as a medicine. After
16 years of legal battles and appeals, in 1988, the DEA's own administrative law
judge, Judge Francis Young, found that "marijuana has been accepted as capable
of relieving distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with
safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and
capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits
of this substance in light of the evidence in this record. "Judge Young
(5)recommended "that the Administrator transfer marijuana from Schedule I to
Schedule II, to make it available as a legal medicine". The DEA Administrator
overruled Judge Young, and the Court of Appeals allowed that decision to stand,
denying medical marijuana to seriously ill patients. Congress must act to
correct this injustice.

Works Cited

{1} National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Household Survey on Drug Abuse:
Population Estimates - 1994 (Department of Health and Human Services, Public
Health Service, Bethesda, MD, 1995).

(2) National Organization for thte Reformation of Marijuana Laws. Internet,

{3} National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, Marijuana, A Signal of
Misunderstanding (New York: The New American Library, Inc., 1972).

{4} Elders, Pete. Seeds of discorn. People weekly, 1995. Austin, Texas

{5} In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition, Docket 86-22, Opinion,
Recommended Ruling, Finding of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Decision of
Administrative Law Judge, September 6, 1988 (Drug Enforcement Agency, Washington,
DC, 1988).

{6} ACLU National Survey of Voters' Opinions on the Use and Legalization of
Marijuana for Medical Purposes (March 31-April 5, 1995).


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