Drugs are major problem in our society today.
Although the Canadiangovernment has taken measures against drugs, in stiffening laws concerning thecultivation and trafficking of drugs and various media awareness programs, theproblem continues to get worse. The government is exercising many options tocontrol the problem or even solve the problem. It seems as if the “war on drugs” is afutile war or at least next to impossible to win. The government should consider usingdifferent options than ones they have used in the past. The legalization of softer drugslike marijuana should be considered as one option.
Some people may feel that thiswould lead to a sharp increase in its use, but it might be worthwhile because it wouldreduce the amounts of money spent on government enforcement of current laws, iftaxed, it could increase our country’s revenue. The government could then focus oncracking down on the harder drugs like crack and heroine.The government should also legalize marijuana because of its several medicinal andindustrial purposes. Legalizing hemp based products could create a whole newindustry. Fuels can be made by extracting oils from seeds and the hemp fiber could beused to make ropes, clothing, or paper of a higher quality because of the strength ofthe fibers.
1Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in Canada. Four million Canadians haveused marijuana, including 1.4 million teenagers.2 The large number of users canprobably be explained by the drugs relatively low cost and light criminal consequencesfor dealing it; when compared with other drugs. Since 1969 about half a millionpeople have been convicted for possession and use of the drug3. The Canadiangovernment spends $100 million a year enforcing drug laws.
4The criminalization of marijuana does not prevent people from using it, in fact it makesthe problem worse. People continue to consume marijuana, laws just make it harderand more expensive to acquire. Since the black market has no regulations theconsumers of drugs have to trust their dealers. What’s particularly dangerous aboutblack market drugs is that they can be mixed with other drugs or chemicals and can becontaminated with pesticides. When banning the use of marijuana the government alsobans drug paraphernalia that impedes the production and marketing of water pipes andother more advanced technology that could reduce the harmfulness of the marijuanasmoke.
5 Since the price of marijuana is higher than it would be if it were legalized it isless economical to eat, which is the best way to avoid the harmful smoke; this isbecause it takes two or three times more marijuana when eaten to produce the samehigh when smoked.6The use of marijuana has steadily declined since 1979, and an Addiction ResearchFoundation survey in 1987 showed that four of every one hundred Canadians betweenthe ages of 18 and 19 use marijuana on a daily basis.7The decline in the number of marijuana users since 1979 is probably a result ofnumerous drug awareness campaigns and the publication of other biased informationon the subject. It could also be that hippies are getting older and more responsible.
What is Marijuana?Marijuana refers to a mixture of leaves, stems and flowering tops of cannabis sativa8. It has hallucinogenic and pleasure-giving effects on the user when smoked or eaten. Tetrahydrocannabinal (THC) is the non-narcotic psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
9Marijuana use has been documented as far back as 3000 BC in Central Asia and China,where it was used as a folk medicine.10 By the 20th century the drug started to beused as a pleasure-inducing drug, and by the 1960s and 70s it was, after alcohol, thesecond most popular drug in North America.11Marijuana has never been proven to be physically addictive, but users develop apsychological dependency.
Users experience two phases of intoxication: initialstimulation, giddiness, and euphoria, followed by sedation and pleasant tranquillity.When marijuana is smoked the user feels the onset of the “high” within about sevenseconds and within about 30 minutes when eaten. The drug brings the user to arelaxed and peaceful state, and sometimes to a euphoric state of mind.
Hallucinationscan occur when taken in high doses. The effects last between two to four hours afteringested, and the user can be left in a relaxed state for several hours after ingestion.Short term memory is inhibited for the duration of the high, and users find it difficult toconcentrate on complicated logical concepts like mathematics.Marijuana is not physically addictive, and in fact many users experience a reversetolerance, this is where after long-term use smaller amounts of the drug eventuallyproduce the same high.
12 Some psychological dependence is possible. Studies havefound that the psychological dependency is less than sugar or chocolate, but is morehabit forming than anchovies.13(Family Council on Drug Awareness) No studies havefound conclusive evidence that marijuana causes any long-term physical orpsychological harm. Like smoking anything, however, long-term use can lead tohigher risks of lung cancer. The health risk of smoking the marijuana can be eliminatedby eating the plant, or can be reduced by smoking less of a more potent variety ofmarijuana. (Family Council of Drug Awareness)According to leading doctors, nearly all drugs are toxic and have potentially lethalaffects when taken in large amounts, but marijuana is not one of these drugs.
Whileover 100 thousand deaths annually are directly linked to acute alcohol poisoningno-one in the 4,000 years of marijuana’s documented use has ever died from a potoverdose14. Marijuana does have its negative affects, but they are quite pale incomparison to the social and health problems caused by alcohol. It therefore isillogical to prohibit the use of marijuana a drug has many more positive sides thanalcohol or tobacco.Marijuana is said to cause an “amotivational syndrome”.15 This is where the user issaid to withdraw themselves from society and lose their ambition. Scientific evidencesupporting this theory is lacking.
Scientists cannot conclude that these symptoms arecaused by the use of marijuana or present in the user before they use marijuana. Thesesymptoms are present in people who do not use marijuana. Many troubled people seekescape through the use of marijuana, and frequent use of marijuana may become onemore in a serious of counterproductive behaviors of troubled individuals.Marijuana use is not limited to people of any identifiable group, social class or level ofeducation; a cross-section of marijuana users is as diverse as the rest of the population. The general assumption that marijuana users are lazy and lack ambition is just a myth. In a survey of a leading teaching hospital (no name given) it was discovered that over60 percent of medical students were found to be marijuana user.
1642,209 people were convicted of marijuana charges in the U.K. in 1991 and close to90 percent of all drug offenses involved cannabis.17 All this does is crowd the courtsand the jails, and costs tax payers millions. If the government would legalize marijuanathey could go after the more serious drugs like heroin and crack.
The U.S.government spends over a billion dollars on its “war on drugs,” when it could bemaking at least that much from legalizing and taxing it.18 The average price ofmarijuana is about $10 per gram.
These prices of marijuana are extremely inflatedbecause of the risks of growing and selling it. Marijuana has very easy growingconditions and can be produced at far less cost than it is currently being sold for. Because of this the government could reasonably place high taxes on marijuana andstill yield high profit.
Marijuana could be bought at convenient stores like tobacco istoday, provide an temporary escape from the pains of everyday life, and bring inbillions of dollars that the government could put to good use.The recreational use of marijuana does not create higher crime rates like mostgovernment policy makers seem to believe. The crime rates in Amsterdam (wheremarijuana is legal) are much lower than other cities in Europe and most major NorthAmerican cities.19 In fact the possession and trafficking of marijuana is the only crimemost users of marijuana commit where marijuana is illegal.
The so called “War on Drugs is a complete failure. Prisons are filled with drugcriminals costing the government millions, while drug use continues to rise. Legalizingand taxing marijuana and focusing their efforts against is a logical route for drug policymakers to take. The government could make money while putting the black market indisarray. The government could concentrate on the control of the drugs that are aserious threat to society.
Marijuana as MedicineMarijuana can be used for several medicinal purposes. Marijuana is effective fortreating AIDS-related wasting and the nausea from cancer chemotherapy.20 Otherprescribed drugs are used but are often expensive and don’t always work. The drugsalso have harmful side effects. Many of them cause hives, impotence, difficulty inbreathing, tremors and rigidity and leukopenia.
21 Marijuana isn’t free of risks – itcontains a number of toxins – but is far less toxic than many prescription drugs. Unlikemany other drugs marijuana has no recorded cases of death from overdose. Since it istaken one puff at a time users can feel the effects as they go and regulate their intakeaccording to their need.
Many chronic pain sufferers report that marijuana works better than other prescribeddrug for their pain. The fact that marijuana can be taken a puff at a time with almostimmediate effects is also a big advantage to chronic pain sufferers or people withspastic disorders like multiple sclerosis. While other prescription drugs canincapacitate a patient for the whole day, marijuana allows patients to administer thedesired amount.Marijuana can be used to treat glaucoma. Glaucoma is a disease that increases thepressure within the eye and eventually can lead to blindness. Marijuana can reduce thepressure within the eye.22 The downside however, is that is may also reduce bloodflow to the optic nerve, which can exacerbate the loss of vision.
The reduced bloodflow to the optic nerve is less serious to the side-effects of other leading conventionaltreatments. Beta-blocker eye drops, a more conventional treatment for glaucoma, cancause sluggishness and sometimes activates asthma attacks.23There are still too many skeptics who doubt marijuana’s ability as a medicine. A studywas devised in 1996 to change the minds of such skeptics. It was devised by the SanFrancisco General Hospital and it would have tested the benefits of smoking marijuanaand would eventually lead to the legalization of marijuana. The study was endorsed bythe FDA (The Food and Drug Administration), but the federal government wouldn’tprovide the marijuana for the study.24 It seems as if the government was afraid thatthey were wrong about marijuana.
The Industrial Uses of HempIndustrial hemp looks a lot like its cousin, Cannabis sativa, but you can’t get highsmoking it. Industrial hemp lacks the psychoactive ingredient, THC, that is found inCannabis sativa.25 Industrial hemp is tall, lanky and is prized for its fibrous stalk and itoil-rich seeds.
The cultivation of industrial hemp in North America is illegal because governments areafraid that people would grow their marijuana alongside their industrial hemp; whichwould make it harder to spot. The importation of finished hemp products is still legalin North America and the demand for them is rising at enormous rates. Famousfashion designers like Calvin Klein are now using hemp in their clothing lines. Adidasreported sales of over 30,000 pairs for a line of shoes made partly from hemp lastyears.
26 Stores specializing in hemp products are become more and more common inNorth America. The worldwide trade of hemp products around the world wasestimated at $100 million dollars in 1996.27 Market analysts say that if the industrycontinues to grow at its current rate, the above figure could double or even triplewithin the next three years.The growth in the sales of hemp products is probably a sign of the eco-friendly times. The plant can produce as much as four times as much pulp per acre than trees and cangrow with the broadest geographical range.28 It can be grown without pesticides anddoes not need to be irrigated like cotton does. Hemp can also be used to produce asubstitute for diesel fuel.
Hemp products are not cheap though. Hemp shirts may sell for around $60(American) and jeans may cost around $80 American. The high costs a consequenceof the shortage of hemp. Only about a dozen countries can grow hemp legally. Theseinclude Russia and several Eastern European nations.29 Hemp clothing manufacturesend up having to go great lengths to find hemp suppliers.
So if Marijuana isn’t Dangerous Why Isn’t Legal?The biggest reason why marijuana is an illegal drug is that most of what we knowabout it is false information. According to Jack Herer and other marijuana experts thecriminanization of hemp was part of a conspiracy involving DuPont, Harry J. Ansinger,then commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and other influential industrialleader like William Randolph Hearst and Andrew Mellon.
30 According to Herer theMarijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937, just as the decoricator machine was invented. With the decoricator machine, hemp would have been able to take over competingindustries quite rapidly. It would have strangled competing industries because 10,000acres of land devoted to hemp would produce as much paper as 40,000 acres of theaverage forest.31 William Hearst’s interest in preventing the industry from growingcould be easily explained because he owned enormous timber acreage; land best suitedfor conventional pulp.
The new competition created by hemp would have cost himmillions and would lower the value of his land. It has even been suggested that Hearstpopularized the term marijuana to create fear in the public.DuPont involvement in the criminalization of marijuana is also quite easy to explain. At around 1937 DuPont was patenting a new sulfuric acid process for producingwood-pulp paper.
32 The companies own records state that wood-pulp productsaccounted for more than 80% of all DuPont’s railway car loadings.33 Harry Anslingerwould be the man that DuPont used to help in his anti-hemp campaign. HarryAnslinger was appointed to the FBN by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who wasat the time chairman of the Mellon Bank, which was also DuPont’s chief financialbacker.34 The DuPont-Mellon relationship went further than business, DuPont wasalso married to Mellon’s niece.
35 Herer’s conspiracy theory may be hard for some toswallow, but DuPont, Anslinger, Hearst, and Mellon all would be severely affectedfinancially if Hemp hadn’t been criminalized.The motivation for DuPont, Anslinger, and Hearst was not related to any moral orhealth related issues. They fought to destroy an industry before that growing industrycrushed them. The American Medical Association at the time tried to argue that therewere significant medical benefits of hemp.
36 They lost out and all hemp relatedproducts were banned.Ever since marijuana was banned in 1937 biased research has been conducted andreleased in media awareness programs. No other example best represents this than aPartnership for a Drug-Free America television ad.
In the television ad they firstshowed a normal human brainwave and second a flat brainwave from a 14-year-old onmarijuana. Several researchers were disgusted by the ad and called-up TV networks tocomplain about the commercial. As a result of this the Partnership had to pull it fromthe air. The commercial was revealed to be completely bogus, it was in fact the exactopposite of the truth.
Marijuana actually increases alpha wave activity in the brain. Alpha waves are often associated with human creativity.37In other cases drug awareness groups and the government draw conclusions frominsubstantial evidence and use them in their anti-marijuana campaigns.
Most of thescary statistics and studies that the government uses in their anti-marijuana campaignsare based on the research of Dr. Gabriel Nahas. In one of his experiments hesuffocated monkeys with marijuana for five minutes at a time. He repeated over aperiod of six months and concluded that marijuana caused brain damage. Beingsuffocated with any kind of smoke would cause brain damage.38ConclusionIf marijuana were legalized it could free up the clogged court system, saving time andmoney. It would allow the police to focus on more serious drugs.
If it were legalizedit could be taxed and the government could generate billions. The government wouldalso generate money by taxing the manufactures and retailers of marijuana. Hempbased products are already hot property in North America; even though they areexpensive.
If industrial hemp were legalized for cultivation in North America theindustry would no doubt experience rapid growth and create many much needed jobs.It is illogical to ban marijuana and industrial hemp because they have so many positiveuses. There aren’t many other plants that serve so many uses. Industrial hemp hasseveral industrial purposes, marijuana can be used as medicine, and can also provide atemporary escape from the agonizing mechanical routine of life.
It has its downsidesthough; it’s mildly habit forming, it has carcinogenic ingredients and it can be a roadhazard. Tobacco and alcohol, both which are legal, are much more addictive and havemore long-term consequences on your body than marijuana does; it should also benoted that they have little medicinal or industrial purposes. Marijuana is a trulyextraordinary plant which probably has many more uses yet to explore; it shouldn’ttake much longer for policy makers to see that this plant is god’s greatest gift to man.