Legalizing Marijuana

To the AIDS or cancer patient, it is the plant that fights nausea and appetite loss. To the nutritionist, its seed is

second only to the soybean in nutritional value, and is a source of cooking oil and vitamins. To the paper or cloth

manufacturer, it is the plant that provided much of our paper and clothing for hundreds of years and produces four

times more fiber per acre than trees. To the environmentalist, it is the plant that could greatly slow deforestation,

restore robbed nutrients by other crops, and help prevent erosion. And according to Lonnelle Aikman, "Preliminary

findings show the drug may prove effective against glaucoma and asthma, and control such side nausea in cancer

treatment" (158). Unfortunately, to most people in this country, it is a useless plant when it comes to economic or

medical value. Marijuana should be legalized in the United States. In technical terms, hemp, cannabis, or for the

average American, marijuana, it is used only for recre!

ational purposes. I think marijuana is a plant that could save the world. In this paper I hope to reverse prejudices,

relieve ignorance, and inform people of the known and potential therapeutic uses of this remarkable plant.

As of today the nation stands behind three basic ideas of what to do with marijuana; legalize marijuana, make it

legal only as a prescription drug, or keep it as it is, illegal. People who are pro-marijuana, argue that marijuana is

considerably less harmful than tobacco and alcohol, the most frequently used legal drugs. Furthermore marijuana

has never directly caused anyone's death. People who side with the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes

believe that the ends justify the means. But the people who want to keep it illegal think that the medical uses do not

outweigh the harmful side effects.

Before deciding whether marijuana should be legal or illegal, one needs to know some basic facts. Lester Grinspoon,

M.D. and James B. Bakalar note "most botanists agree that there are three species of marijuana; Cannabis sativa, the

most widespread of the three, is tall, gangly, and loosely branched, growing as high as twenty feet; Cannabis indica

is shorter, about three or four feet in height, pyramidal in shape and densely branched; Cannabis ruderalis is about

two feet high with few or no branches" (1). They also say that "Cannabis has become one of the most widespread

and diversified of plants. It grows as weed and cultivated plant all over the world in a variety of climates and soils"

(1). Marijuana was first cultivated in China around 4000 B.C. It was mainly used as a sedative and analgesic, but

today it is commonly used for the "high" or the euphoric feeling it causes. The most active ingredient in marijuana is

delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinal commonly referred to a!

s THC, which wasn't discovered until the 1960s.

Marijuana is illegal today because of the Marijuana Stamp Tax Act passed in 1937. This act prohibited the use, sale,

and growing of marijuana. It was made illegal because no one understood why smoking marijuana made people feel

the way they did, and because it was associated with Indians and other so called "immoral people." Today marijuana

is illegal because research has shown some intoxicating effects. Such as hallucination, anxiety, depression, extreme

variability of mood, paranoia and schizophrenia lasting up to six hours. Raphael Mechoulam says, "Although

cannabis causes initial restlessness, excitement, and sometimes boisterous, impulsive behavior, pacing and dancing,

the main picture is of reduced physical activity apart from speech" (316). Physical effects include reddening of the

eyes, dryness of the mouth and throat, a moderate increase in heart rate, tightness in the chest, drowsiness,

unsteadiness, and uncoordinated muscular contractions. Marijuana buffers !

the central nervous system, but is not known to produce a considerable amount of tar in the lungs. Although

marijuana has not been proven to be physically addictive, its use can be psychologically addictive. These are the

negative effects of marijuana, and the primary reasons why domestic people, doctors, and politicians want to keep

marijuana illegal.

Supporters of legalizing marijuana state that some legal drugs are just as bad. For example, alcohol has many of the

same side effects of marijuana. Alcohol buffers the central nervous system and is known to kill brain cells. A joint

of marijuana is known to produce more tar than a cigarette, but on the average marijuana users do