June 8th, 2009 – Marijuana, known to many as a miracle drug, and condemned by others as a drug from hell, has been judged without sufficient reasoning for far too long. As a result of the ‘war on drugs,’ man has lost sight of the potential profit carried by one of the most natural medicines and sources of strong fiber on the planet. cannabisThere are many reasons why marijuana should be re-legalized, but most important are the injustices of its criminalization, the adverse affects of a failing war on drugs, and its potential as a medicinal/therapeutic aid.

But first it would be best to explain what exactly the ‘drug’ marijuana is. The Columbian Encyclopedia defines marijuana as, “The drug obtained from the flowering tops, stems, and leaves of the hemp plant, cannabis sativa or C. indica…[it] is one of the most commonly used drugs in the world, following only caffeine, nicotine, and alcoholic beverages in popularity. ” Marijuana can be smoked (as in a pipe or a bong/water pipe) or consumed in common foods once its psychoactive ingredients have been extrapolated from the plant matter itself. Now-a-days, marijuana’s most psychoactive ingredient, THC can even be taken via pills and sprays developed by pharmaceutical companies to aid mostly in pain relief. Marijuana allows one to feel a euphoric effect that may last between an hour (for chronic smokers) and three or four hours. During this time, users admit feeling a sense of well being and may experience difficulty with motor skills and/or symptoms such as paranoia or anxiety.

So what does history have to say about marijuana as a source of fiber, medicine, and intoxication? Well it is believed that marijuana was first used recreationally as an intoxicant during rituals, originating in China and spreading out to India and eventually all of Asia and the world (Mack and Joy). Medical records dating back to 2737 B.C. have been recovered from China. They speak of marijuana’s first recorded uses as a medicine (The Columbian Encyclopedia). Since this time, Marijuana’s use has spread to all corners of the globe, and is embraced by many a nation as God’s special gift to man-kind.

As this paper is in regards to marijuana’s decriminalization in the United States, its role in US history must be covered as well. Marijuana was prescribed during a relatively early time in US history as a reliever of pain, nausea, and rheumatism (The Columbian encyclopedia). It was encouraged, and in some states required for farmers to produce hemp at the insistence of early governments and there was a time when one could even take care of their taxes by paying in hemp, as it proved to be such a valuable resource and supply of fiber (which could be sewn into cloth). Though problems arose in the early 30s when Mexican immigrants looking for work found sanctuary in America, and brought with them undesirable habits, such as the recreational smoking of marijuana. This rise in the ‘abuse’ of marijuana as well as abuse of drugs such as opium which had been more commonplace during early history, led to the founding of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) in the late 1930s.

As the FBN worked to close down on the importation of marijuana from Mexico, it simply fled in from one nation after another, until finally US citizens were forced to go behind the back of their government (to the best of their ability anyway) and grow the plant themselves. One would have expected the vast majority of American citizens to stand up to their government and fight for their right to decide what is right and wrong – but many were afraid of the immigrants who were misunderstood and seemed to be the cause of all the marijuana abuse, which was new to Americans.

Others simply wished to believe that their government would have no reason to lie to them, and so believed the absurd propaganda (left) that was being published during this time (Marihuana Propaganda). When people began to realize that their government had been feeding them lies they were outraged and marijuana use started up again, coincidentally kicking off the ‘war on drugs.’ The entire battle against marijuana was and still is clearly based on politics and not on any significant research concerning the plant. This is by no means a way in which to make something illegal – especially to such a drastic extent.

“The war on drugs is an expensive battle, as a great deal of resources go into catching those who buy or sell drugs on the black market, prosecuting them in court, and housing them in jail/[prison]. These costs seem extremely exorbitant when dealing with the drug marijuana, as it is widely used, and is likely no more harmful than legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol” (Moffatt). As Moffatt explains, marijuana has been proven to be a relatively harmless drug – and is simply not worth the time and money, which are put into stopping not only its smuggling across borders and the prosecution of dope peddlers, but is definitely not worth the resources wasted on every day citizens for possession of the drug. In 2007 47.4% of the 1,841,182 people arrested for drug abuse violations were penalized for only marijuana related crimes.

Of those arrests, 775,137 were for possession alone, as compared to roughly 650,000 arrests for possession in 2000 (Drug-War-Facts.org). Obviously the war on drugs is not helping to reduce the number of marijuana users, so then why is marijuana being fought so hard. It is no more dangerous than tobacco or alcohol – both legal and lethal drugs, yet it is persecuted relentlessly by people who could be spending their time stopping real crimes like assault and theft. Not only has recreational marijuana use remained consistent, but it is only becoming easier and easier to come by at any age, and therefore its use as well as arrest rates for possession/dealing are on the rise, and have been since the 80s.

“’After 20 years of relentless federal drug war activity, while the price of world-class marijuana has gone from $60 an ounce to $450, the price of quality cocaine has plummeted from $125 a gram to $30, and a 30%-pure heroin has dropped from $125 a gram to about $100.’High Times” (Hoge-ball). This should not be happening and clearly shows there are bigger fish to fry than pursuing marijuana users. If marijuana were legalized, millions of dollars and resources could be saved for more threatening matters.

Marijuana also offers many medicinal benefits, as it can be used to reduce nausea, help with fasting associated with aids, act as a mild pain reducer, and possibly inhibit the growth of cancer cells (Article Base). If the government would simply allow those who need marijuana to use it, much suffering could be eliminated, no matter how terrible their condition may be. Though marijuana has many other practical applications, it is a widely pursued choice of medicine for it is far cheaper and less toxic than most pharmaceutical alternatives. Also, most say that marijuana allows them the relief they need without causing haphazard and damaging side effects (liver failure, etc.) For centuries marijuana has been the chosen medicine of nation upon nation. Would it have been able to spread from one community to another so rapidly had it not been deemed a miracle-drug, and for good reason (Mack and Joy)?
“’Despite [marijuana’s] long history of use and the extraordinarily high number of social smokers, there are simply no credible reports to suggest that consuming marijuana has caused a single death .‘ DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young’” (Hoge-ball).

This information is tremendously important in explaining why the battle against grass is so insane. People aren’t fighting for the prohibition of deadly toxins such as, acetaminophen (Tylenol), tobacco, and alcohol. Yet they allow the government to shut down the use of marijuana. Perhaps if the average citizen understood all the potential carried by a simple plant, they wouldn’t be so quick to judge it. Also important is the fact that marijuana affects everyone differently, just as all drugs do, and the opinion of a few biased politicians who had bad encounters with the drug shouldn’t be enough to rob Americans of this gift, and it should not be enough to override historical evidence of marijuana’s therapeutic capabilities.

So what does this all add up to? The US government, our great and liberating democracy, is criminalizing the use of the most commonly used natural ‘drug’ on the planet. This may be due to ignorance, but I suspect it’s the fact that the government knows that if marijuana were legal, it could not be controlled, and therefore could not be taxed. The governments just trying to hold off on legalization long enough that they can figure out how to keep the drug from being grown in everyone’s closet, as it would bring in no revenue to make up for all the money lost chasing it down.
Far too many resources are being flushed down the drain, so a failing war on drugs can continue to enslave millions of Americans for doing something that the constitution says we have the right to do. Though penalties concerning marijuana possession are decreasing in severity, many agree they should not exist at all. Why should the government decide what Americans choose to do in the privacy of their own home, if it is not causing them extreme bodily harm or interfering with the lives of others?

Politicians are often greedy and over opinionated and are not going to be the first to admit their private marijuana use – as they are condemning millions of others for doing the same thing. But why? There is no logical explanation for the criminalization of pot – and it is time Americans realized this and did something about it, before the government tries to cut us off from another natural ingredient of life. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “In any civilized society, It is every citizens responsibility to obey just laws. But at the same time it is every citizen’s responsibility to disobey unjust laws”.