Marijuana is the flower of the cannabis plant, and if smoked, gives the smoker an euphoric high, but really has much more to offer than just the high. Using marijuana and the growing of hemp are presently illegal in the United States, with the exception of medicinal uses in some states. The legalization of marijuana has many advantages including for simple personal enjoyment, the usage of hemp and its by-products, and medicinal purposes.
Why should marijuana be illegal when people just use it to help themselves enjoy their lives more? Tobacco and alcohol are both used, and abused for the same reasons, but with many more negative side effects than pot. “Government’s surveys indicate more than 70 million Americans have smoked marijuana at some point in their lives, and that 18-20 million have smoked during the last year” (Rose, 1). Marijuana has no solid negative effects, and “the U.S National Institute of Drug Abuse’s bureau of mortality statistics report that per year there are zero deaths caused by marijuana. In comparison tobacco causes 400,000 deaths, where alcohol causes 100,000” (Rose, 1). People generally believe that marijuana is addicting, but “marijuana is not a narcotic and is not a mentally or physically addicting drug. One can use mild cannabis preparations such as marijuana in small amounts for years without physical or mental deterioration” (Adams 1). People who smoke marijuana feel relaxed and sociable, tend to laugh a great deal, and lose the sense of time. Those under the influence of marijuana also do show loss of coordination and have an impaired ability to perform skilled acts. As long as people don’t drive, or operate heavy machinery, these effects although maybe not positive, are certainly not negative. It should be up to the individual if they want to enjoy marijuana. America is supposed to be a free country, where everyone has basic human rights, including privacy. What happened to the Declaration of Independence speaking of every citizen’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” If the United States is to be persuasive in promoting freedom in other parts of the world, it must respect the privacy of it’s own citizens.
Why is a plant that was proclaimed by Popular Mechanics magazine to have the potential to be manufactured into more than 25,000 different environmentally friendly products being systematically withheld from U.S. farmers? (Popular Mechanics Magazine, 238-239). The reason is simply because hemp has a small tie to the feared marijuana, but in essence is completely different containing virtually no THC (the active ingredient of marijuana.) Hemp is possibly one of the strongest crops in nature, depending on the part of the plant it can be used for clothing, textiles, paint, plastics, cosmetics, insulation and even animal feed. It can also be used to make paper, where one acre will equal the amount of four acres of trees. “In addition, hemp has an average growing cycle of only 100 days and leaves the soil virtually weed-free for the next planting” (NORML, 1). Also there is the hemp seed, which some refer to as nature’s perfect food. The oil from hemp seeds has the highest percentage of essential fatty acids and the lower percentage of saturated fats than any food, and also is second only to soy in protein content. Steps are being made to at least legalize the use of hemp, for there are really no disadvantages in growing it. “In 1996, politicians in four states introduced legislation allowing for domestic hemp cultivation and by legislative session’s end, both Hawaii and Vermont had passed measures promoting industrial hemp research.” (NORML, 1).
Marijuana is now legal for medicinal purposes due to Proposition 215 in California, and Proposition 200 in Arizona. Also, the House has introduced bill 912, “The medical use of marijuana act.” People with specified physical pains such as headaches, arthritis, and others can now legally use marijuana. If someone is really upset or depressed, marijuana could help him or her calm down and get into a better mood so they can enjoy the rest of their day. Marijuana could be used to cure manic-depressives and would have fewer side effects than current medication used. “Clinical and anecdotal evidence also points to the effectiveness of marijuana as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of a variety of spastic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, epilepsy, and quadriplegia” (NORML, 1).
The areas of cancer and AIDS studies have also been greatly benefited from the introduction of marijuana as a treatment. AIDS patients have been proven to receive benefits from smoking marijuana, “most recently, a federally commissioned report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) determined that, ‘Marijuana’s active components are potentially effective in treating pain, nausea, the anorexia of AIDS wasting, and other symptoms'” (NORML, 1). It has also been proven that the introduction of marijuana to an HIV patient has no effect on accelerating the virus to clinical AIDS. The NAS has also completed studies with cancer determining “short term marijuana use appears to be suitable in treating conditions like chemotherapy-induced nausea for patients who do not respond well to other medications” (NORML, 1).
One negative view of marijuana is that even though it is not addicting, it may be habituating. The individual may become psychologically rather than physically dependant on the drug. Heavy marijuana smokers might feel the need to be high before they do anything, including work, school, or play because it makes things easier to tolerate and more enjoyable. These symptoms are very much alike with the habits that can develop with the abuse of alcohol and tobacco. So needless to say without the abuse of pot, there really is no reason to keep it from ones life.
A major complication of marijuana use is the tendency on the part of some users to progress to more dangerous drugs. Marijuana is often called the “gateway drug.” After prolonged use of the drug, the individual might feel the need for different or more intense drugs. They drug of choice after marijuana can depend on finances and area, for example, “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” (Adams 2).
One final negative aspect of legalizing marijuana is that many people claim there will be an increase in the amount of people who use and try it. That is simply not true. There is some evidence suggesting that drug use under a relaxed system might not increase at all, for example, “Many states have removed the penalties for marijuana possession that were on the books in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The change occurred during a reform movement that swept the nation in the mid 1970’s. 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” (Adams 2).
With all these benefits, why is marijuana still illegal. The positive effects of legalization clearly outweigh the negative effects. Think of how many things would benefit if marijuana was legal: the economy, trees, unemployment, the national debt, and people who need that extra help to relax and have a good time. We should take advantage of what the plant has to offer, and stop trying to prevent a couple of kids getting high.