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Marijuana legalization is a controversial issue. There are two opposite public opinions fighting each other. First convinced that marijuana is a drug and it should be outlawed. Others persuade legalization. This paper analyses what are pros and cons of marijuana legalization. The paper also examines the social perception of the drug legalization perspective.
Outline Introduction Discussion History of marijuana legalization movement Factors why marijuana should not be legalized Public opinion Pro marijuana legalization Possible social impacts of marijuana legalization Conclusion Legalization of Marijuana Over the last 30 years, many people in different countries became supporters of marijuana legalization. Idea of marijuana legalization was opposed by conservative information against marijuana legalization, which was based on beliefs of people on what a bad decision to legalize this drug would be because of negative consequences it will cause. In the beginning of century, marijuana was considered evil drug, which was dangerous. Today not so many people share such a belief. Many people suggest the marijuana is not harmful at all and is even useful according to latest researches; however, marijuana remains illegal. There is enough evidence gathered that marijuana is less dangerous than other legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.
Nevertheless, since marijuana is not legalized, it is possible to assume that information proving the danger of marihuana is more privileged over the knowledge on marijuana being safe and useful, at least in our country. Around 1972, the Dutch government made a new policy which regulates sales of small amounts of marijuana. This policy seems to be successful according to statistics. The Dutch have less drug use and abuse than the United States. Some people believe that marijuana should never be legalized, because it increases homicide rate, however real homicide rate for the Dutch is eighteen per one hundred thousand, which is one quarter the United States rate (Reinarman 103).
There was no evidence found that marijuana causes murder (Reinarman 102 - 108). There has been a growing, although still small, agitation for the legalization of marijuana in the United States. Back in 1960 s, in California, a district attorneys ruling has allowed interested parties to attempt to get the necessary signatures to put the question on the ballot in the next election. The sponsors do not expect to win, but they are jubilant at the opportunity to air the subject. The most vocal partisan of the pleasures of marijuana is the LEMAR Society (for LEgalize MARijuana) which pickets, distributes literature, and publishes a variety of documents. This organization claims, as do many others, that marijuana is not addicting or harmful, that the adverse effects are exaggerated, and that the drug is safer than either alcohol or nicotine.
It is true that legalization of marijuana would end the moderately lucrative illicit traffic in this drug, but there are cogent reasons against it. First, habitual and heavy marijuana use is not as benign as those who would have us legalize the drug suggest. Adverse manifestations include striking anxiety, hysteria, and even acute psychotic episodes. Instead of becoming euphoric, the person may become paranoid.
Chronic use apparently increases mental instability. In India and North Africa, heavy chronic use of certain forms of marijuana has been clearly associated with insanity. Second, the combination of heightened sensibility, the feeling of omnipotence, and the occasional feeling of persecution engendered by smoking marijuana may lead to acts of aggression. The aggressive potential is reflected in the term assassin, which is derived from a group of killers under the leadership of a man named Hassan (around A. D. 1300) who used Cannabis preparations before doing acts of violence. In the United States the possibility of marijuana leading to violence and criminality is at the present time a theoretical rather than a substantiated objection.
But in certain areas of Latin America, India, and Africa, where many use inordinately large amounts of marijuana, such a correlation does exist. Third, marijuana is a hallucinogen. Although it is mild, it can produce the same effects as the very strong hallucinogens such as LSD. If we legalize marijuana, are we not taking the first steps to legitimize the widespread and uncontrolled use of more potent hallucinogens with all their immense potential dangers? With legalization, inevitably there would develop in this country a substantial number of chronic, excessive users, thus encouraging the likelihood of chronic psychosis and criminality.
Fourth, despite claims that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, any individual under the influence of marijuana is dangerous to his fellow man if he gets behind the wheel of a car. The feeling of power, the distortions of perception, time, and space make the marijuana user accident-prone. The automobile accident rate in the United States from alcohol abuse is high enough without the added danger of large numbers of persons driving under the influence of marijuana. While legislators, clinicians, and drug educators struggled with the methaqualone problem, marijuana use grew apace. From 1960 through the end of the decade the number of Americans who had used marijuana at least once had increased from a few hundred thousand to an estimated 8 million. By the early 1970 s marijuana use had increased geometrically throughout all strata of society.
Given such pervasive use of marijuana and arrests that were affecting the careers and lives of so many otherwise law-abiding citizens, legislation was introduced that reduced the penalties for the simple possession of the drug-first at the federal level and later by the states. Then there was the issue of decriminalization -- the removal of criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. However, the movement suddenly stalled for a variety of reasons after the mid- 1970 s. Perhaps the younger generation had begun to realize that although marijuana was not the devil drug, assassin of youth, or the weed of madness, as it had been called earlier, it was not a totally innocuous substance either. Perhaps the change occurred because of the greater concern with health and physical fitness that became so much a part of American culture during the 1980 s or as an outgrowth of the antismoking messages that appeared daily in the media. Whatever the reason, it was clear that youthful attitudes had changed.
Over the period from 1975 through 1988, moreover, the proportion of seniors in American high schools who believed the regular use of marijuana to be harmful increased from 39 percent to almost 80 percent. The public opinion argument points to the fact that despite what the pro-legalization constituency suggests, the American people are opposed to their ideas. Consider the data. First, in the Gallup surveys conducted from 1969 through 1985, people were asked: Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal or not?
The 1985 response reflected 23 percent in favor, 73 percent opposed, and 4 percent with no opinion. Second, surveys of college freshmen conducted each year by the American Council on Education have found that the overwhelming majority of students are opposed to the legalization of marijuana, including some 81 percent of the class of 1991. Third, the findings of a Washington Post poll conducted during June of 1988 indicated that 90 percent of those surveyed opposed the legalization of drugs. Fourth, an ABC News poll conducted at the height of the legalization debate in 1988 found that 90 percent of the American population favored keeping drugs illegal. (Washington Post) Claiming that decriminalizing drugs will reduce the number of crimes proves our shortsightedness. According to the experience of California where marijuana was decriminalized in 1976, within the first six months arrests for driving under the influence of drugs rose 46 percent for adults and 71. 4 percent for juveniles. Decriminalizing marijuana in Alaska and Oregon in the 1970 s resulted in the doubling of use.
Those who suggest that drug legalization will eliminate the black market, should keep in mind that legalization will only deteriorate the situation and will foster the development of the black market of those drugs that will not be legalized. The experience of other countries is often cited as successful, but most European countries admitted that after legalization the number of drug addicts has increased drastically. In Netherlands where marijuana is legalized and the police seldom arrest cocaine and heroin users officials blame the significant rise in crime on the liberal drug policy. The citys 7, 000 addicts are blamed for 80 percent of all property crime and according to the statistics Amsterdam's rate of burglary is now twice that of Newark, New Jersey. (Reinarman) Drug problems have forced the city to increase the size of the police force and the city fathers are now rethinking the drug policy.
The allegation that drugs can be helpful in treatment of many diseases was discredited by numerous scientific researches. Philip Lee, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced in July 1994, The scientific evidence does not support using marijuana to treat glaucoma or nausea caused by AIDS or cancer treatment. The DEA reports that marijuana is not accepted as medicine by a single American health association. (Maginnis) Dr. Mark Gold, a recognized expert on cocaine, states, Whereas one out of ten alcohol users become alcoholics, one out of four users of cocaine become addicted. If, for example, cocaine becomes legalized and use rose from 6 million to 60 million, this would mean we would have 15 million addicts in need of treatment, without prospects for a complete cure, constantly relapsing. (Maginnis) These numerous facts prove the necessity of keeping drugs forbidden.
The majority of our population that cares for the future of our nation understands this and supports the laws preventing drug legalization. Despite the fact that a unanimous decision can not be taken yet, the mere presence of this deep argument testifies that our people are not indifferent to the problems of vital importance. That means that public awareness has improved of late and it happened due to easy access to various sources of information that help people deeply understand the core of the problem and on the basis of their knowledge frame their own opinion. Today the issue of legalization of marijuana is gaining more and more public interest.
The state of things is very critical in the USA. The cases of possession or consumption of marijuana and their law prosecution grow each year. According to the statistics put out by The Marijuana Policy Project, since 1965 there have been more than 11 million marijuana arrests in America, in 1997 the number of arrests was the largest in the U. S.
history more than 695, 000. Thus the restrictions of the criminal law have failed to prove their effective's in marijuana issues. Evidently marijuana laws need a serious reform which will take into consideration many details concerning growing, sale, trade, possession and consumption of marijuana in medical cases, for the purposes of tax paying, elimination of black market etc. However, there is one huge obstacle on the way to legalize marijuana.
Marijuana is a drug and its legal permit might encourage a stronger wave of drug addiction all over the country. Though the last argument is difficult to oppose as it has so to say a human factor and implies ethics, morality in whole, the matter of legalization of marijuana should be debated and, of course, it should consider both pro and contra arguments. It is important that todays medical observations and studies have proved that health hazard of marijuana was exaggerated. In comparison with alcohol and tobacco, marijuana does not cause strong addiction, cancer, heart problems, birth defects, emphysema, liver damage, etc. It also does not result in such problems as genetic damage, brain damage, or damage the immune system. Marijuana does not lead to the addiction to harder drugs.
There is no statistics about annual number of deaths caused by marijuana, while every year 400 000 of people die because of tobacco and 100 000 of the deaths happen in the result of consumption of alcohol. All these estimations evidence that marijuana is no longer harmful than alcohol or tobacco. Equally important are the arguments concerning medical purposes of marijuana prescriptions. Marijuana will aid in certain medical cases in order to provide human functioning in the society. The point is that for example, physicians recommend marijuana in cases of glaucoma, to combat AIDS wasting syndrome, and as an anti-nausea agent in the treatment of some cancers, AIDS and Multiple Sclerosis. The validity of this argument is ensured by House Bill 912 which was introduced by Rep.
Barney Frank, in 1999, and which allows states to determine for themselves if marijuana should be legal for medicinal use. In addition if marijuana becomes a legalized drug it will increase the income to the national debt. The government can tax the sale of marijuana. In this way the problem of black market will be diminished and the matters of sale, trade, possession and consumption of marijuana will go under the control of the public. (Glasser) There is enough evidence that marijuana is being safe, which supports idea that it should be legalized. Knowledge on this issue caused society to make marijuana legal in Netherlands, which shows that this type of knowledge was privileged, while in the United States the belief based on existing knowledge that marijuana should not be legalized dominates. However, it is not hard to notice that idea of legalizing marijuana in America is supported by many citizens, because information on the benefits of this is available, end such information can cause changes in opinions that exist in society.
On the whole, in this essay I attempted to debate the issue of legalization of marijuana in the U. S. As it was noticed above, the reform of marijuana laws should consider both consider pro and contra arguments to comprehend the problem better and thus to find out a more effective solution. Marijuana should be legalized to permit the wider practice of its usage for medical purposes, and to increase national income.
But still, marijuana remains a drug and in this assay I tried to prove that marijuana addiction is not a bigger hazard than that of legalized tobacco and alcohol. Bibliography: Glasser, Ira. Marijuana Laws Should Be Relaxed. Drug Legalization. Ed. Scott Barbour.
Current Controversies. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Incorporated, 2000. Maginnis, Robert L. Legalization of Drugs: The Myths And The Facts. Family Research Council. < web > Reinarman, Craig. The Dutch Example Shows That Liberal Drug Laws Can Be Beneficial.
Drug Legalization. Ed. Scott Barbour. Current Controversies. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Incorporated, 2000. U.
S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Drug Legalization: Myths and Misconceptions. Seattle: U. S. Department of Justice. 1994. < web Washington Post, 26 June 1988.
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