Since marijuana’s first recorded use dating back five thousand years ago, it has never gained much popularity until the last century with prohibition and antiwar movements. Now, more than ever, propositions to legalize the plant have risen and been subject to controversy and heated debate. Marijuana is the most widely used drug in the United States and considered to be the most harmful by the government with its anti-marijuana stance and laws aimed at curtailing its use. With marijuana use rapidly growing, the United States national debt has never been so high, and the search for seemingly ‘incurable’ diseases raging on, marijuana has the potential to solve many problems if it were to be legalized.
Marijuana has been part of American culture ever since Thomas Jefferson smuggled hemp seeds out of France because he considered hemp vital to America. According to a national household survey an estimated sixty million Americans use marijuana occasionally or regularly. More than 800,000 marijuana users are arrested each year. The main reason marijuana is currently outlawed is money. The government earns revenue from prosecuting users, jobs will be lost in “law-enforcement-judiciary-penal systems” and scientists will lose millions of dollars in grants aimed at searching for the negative effects of marijuana.
“Recently, many of these same researchers have changed their opinions as they see development opportunities and hard evidence supporting marijuana’s medical uses,” says Ed Rosenthal, author of dozen books ranging from cultivating to the social policy of Marijuana, adding, “Two other related and very influential groups are the liquor lobby and pharmaceutical companies…Marijuana legalization would cut deeply into their profits by making available a competing product that can be produced with ease by anyone with a plot of land… however the companies can not make any profit because the raw herb cannot be patented.” (Rosenthal, 2004, p.x)
Basic research will show that legalizing this plant can benefit our country whether you smoke it or not. A simple lesson in supply and demand will show that legalizing marijuana would create a significant drop in price due to the elimination of the risk factors of growing and also selling paraphernalia. When the alcohol prohibition ended, the price dropped to a third of its prohibition cost. A study done by the Task Force on Cannabis Regulation to the Center for the Study of Drug Policy-Regulation and Taxation of Cannabis Commerce reveals that legalization could open up a tax revenue stream for governments. Licensing, taxing, and fees could generate up to 7 billion dollars a year not including the taxes on sales of paraphernalia, recreational establishments and new industries according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office with state sales tax being the factor in determining basic revenue. (Drug Policy Task Force, 1996, para. VIII)
Marijuana prosecution and defense lawyers profit the most on marijuana laws; some earning as much as $5,000 for a simple possession bust and up to $20,000 for being busted with intent to distribute according to an interview with your average lawyer. If you are caught with any amount of marijuana in a plastic bag you could be labeled a distributor. According to one Wisconsin flower grower, “A few marijuana plants can double my income and increase my net several times. It would seem that allowing farmers to grow marijuana would not only help save many small farms but also provide many new jobs, since marijuana farming and preparation are very labor intensive.” Rosenthal adds, “A marijuana garden of one-hundred square feet can earn $30,000-$50,000 because a single 1,000-watt lamp garden can produce an average of 6 pounds of pot per year, which is worth $12,000-$16,000.”(Rosenthal, 2003, p.27) The United States could greatly benefit from the sales of hemp which it spends billions on importing; in fact, the United States is the number one importer of hemp products. In 2001, an estimated 7.7 billion dollars was spent by the Government enforcing marijuana laws; the cost to taxpayers for persons imprisoned for marijuana charges was $1.3 billion (Marijuana Policy Project, 2000). The Government also reserves the right to seize all property and your assets if you are busted for growing marijuana.
The Fourth Amendment gives people the right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”. Under marijuana laws and the relatively new Patriot Act, we are not safe against unreasonable search and seizure any more.
According to attorney Glen Bloire: “In addition to taking your cash and your car, the state and federal governments can take your home and real property. Under federal law, cultivation of marijuana is a felony punishable by more than one year in prison, so the federal government can seize your home and real property even if a single cannabis plant is found on the property. Even if the marijuana was solely for your own personal use and not for sale, it can form the basis for property forfeiture under federal law.”(Bloire, 1992, p.30)
Rosenthal lists a number of things the government may do to you if you are convicted of a marijuana crime
“Forfeiture of Assets: Eighty percent of the people whose assets are seized by the federal government under drug laws are never formally charged with a crime.
Suspension of Driver’s License: Many states now mandate a six-month driver’s license suspension if you are convicted of possession of any amount of marijuana. Loss of Custody: If you are convicted of some marijuana offenses, the state can force you to surrender custody of your children. Loss of livelihood: A number of states revoke professional licenses of convicted marijuana offenders. This affects doctors, lawyers, state licensed plumbers, beauticians, educators, etc. If you are in the military expect an automatic discharge. Revocation of Benefits: Student loans and public housing are two of the multitude of federal benefits that may be taken away from you if you are convicted of a marijuana crime. Over 43,000 of the student applicants for federal grants, work-study programs, or subsidized loans were rejected because of a prior conviction for drugs.” (Rosenthal, 2003, p11)
At the start of the war on drugs in 1981 the government created a budget of 1 billion dollars for the government crackdown on illegal substances and it has increased to 19 billion dollars under president George W. Bush. U.S. Drug Czar John P. Walters and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have been given the power to use military spy planes to wage war on American citizens in order to throw them in jail. According to the FBI, in 1994 there were 481,098 arrests for marijuana; in 2000 there were 734,500 arrests. Approximately 20 percent of the federal prison population was made up of marijuana offenders. The Federal Government will not speculate on the number of arrests made of persons under 21; however, in 1981, 49 percent of those arrested were under 21. (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2002)
On September 18, 1969, Judge Charles Halleck of the District Court of General Sessions had this to say about why he no longer sends youths to jail for marijuana crimes.
“If I send a [long-haired marijuana offender] to jail even for 30 days he is going to be the victim of the most brutal type of homosexual, unnatural, perverted assaults and attacks you can imagine, and anybody who tells you it doesn’t happen in the jail day in and day out is simply not telling you the truth…How can I send that kid to jail? I can’t do it. So I put him on probation or I suspend the sentence and everybody says the judge doesn’t care.” (Brecher, 1972, p, 471)
Marijuana laws are so absurd that the Government is sentencing those who are authorized by their state to grow medicinal marijuana. Roy Sharpnack was a medicinal marijuana user who was sentenced to five years in jail for cultivating marijuana crops though he obtained the correct paperwork by the state of California where medicinal marijuana is legal; however, the government still considers it illegal and reserves the right to arrest you. Donnie Clark, who served several years in jail for cultivating marijuana was retried by the government several years after serving his sentence under suspicion to grow one-million plants and was convicted to life in prison; after serving ten years in federal prison, Clark was pardoned by President Clinton before leaving office.
No argument for the legalization of marijuana is stronger than the medical benefits it provides.
“Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality…Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man,” says DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young
Marijuana is useful in treating the following conditions:
AIDS and Cancer: Marijuana reduces the nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite caused by both the ailment itself and as a side effect of treatment. Asthma: Several studies have shown that THC acts as a broncodilator and reverses bronchial constriction. Arthritis: In addition to its effectiveness in controlling the pain associated with arthritis, new evidence shows that marijuana is an autoimmune modulator. Depression and Other Mood Disorders: Marijuana has been shown to help dysphoria gently and naturally. Epilepsy: Marijuana is used as an adjunctive medicine to prevent epileptic seizures. Glaucoma: Marijuana can reduce intraocular pressure, alleviating pain and slowing the progress of the condition. Multiple Sclerosis: Marijuana limits the muscle pain and spasticity caused by the disease. Migraine Headaches: Marijuana not only relives pain, but also inhibits the release of serotonin during attacks. Paraplegia and Quadriplegia: Many paraplegic and quadriplegics have discovered that cannabis suppresses their muscle twitches and tremors. Pruritis: Marijuana can be used orally and topically and may be more effective than corticosteroids and antihistamines. Insomnia: Research shows pot can help people sleep without the side effects or tolerance problems of other hypnotics.
(Rosenthal, 2003, p.50)
According to the DEA Federal Drug Scheduling Guidelines, there are five schedules (categories) rating a controlled substance according to its potential for abuse, medical use, and likelihood of dependence. Schedule 1 contains Marijuana, PCP, LSD, and Heroin; Schedule 5 contains Robitussin. Schedule 1 drugs are substances with a high potential for abuse and have no currently accepted medical application in the U.S. while Schedule 2 drugs contain drugs such as Cocaine and Morphine and can be prescribed for medical use (DEA, 2004). Dr. Tod Mikuriya, a medical coordinator of the California Cannabis Centers, had this to say about his medical marijuana research:
“I was hired by the government to provide scientific evidence that marijuana was harmful. As I studied the subject, I began to realize that marijuana was once widely used as a safe and effective medicine. But the government had a different agenda, and I had to resign…There are over twenty active forms of THC and sixty different cannabinoids which are active in marijuana. Marinol (the medicinal version of marijuana) contains only one form of THC. It’s an expensive prescription drug, at $10 or more per capsule. When used as recommended it costs $80 a day, or up to $1,000 a week Marinol has many shortcomings.” (Rosenthal, 2003, p.55)
It contains pure THC: therefore, it is too powerful for some patients. Patients suffering from nausea find it difficult swallowing pills because it can provoke them to vomit. Marijuana may also be the key to fighting disease; Udo Erasmus, author of Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, says that hemp seed oil has perfectly balanced essential fatty acid oil which can be used to cure degenerative diseases such as diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, skin afflictions and so on.
Marijuana admissions of people seeking treatment for marijuana abuse made up 14 percent of all admissions for drug or alcohol treatment in 2003. The number of admissions for marijuana treatment reached a total of 223,600 in 1999 lists the DEA. Parental groups are quick to cite these numbers leaving out the fact that the “victims” admitted were given one choice: jail or drug counseling. Speaking from experience, you can be arrested for having a small amount, jailed, fined, and then told to have it wiped from your permanent record by taking a drug rehab class — where four out of the five days the subject of discussion is alcohol abuse. In the class you will learn that each year tobacco kills 430,700, alcohol kills 110,000, aspirin kills 7,600, adverse reactions to prescription drugs kill 32,000 and marijuana kills 0. In the class it is even discussed that being under the influence of marijuana while driving is in no way compared to being under the influence of alcohol. Here is what the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has to say about marijuana’s effect on driving performance in the Netherlands:
“Marijuana intoxication in drivers is in no way unusual compared to many medicinal drugs. Marijuana does have some effect on driving ability but is not profoundly impairing. Unlike alcohol which encourages risky driving, marijuana appears to produce greater caution, apparently because the users are more aware of their mental state and able to compensate for it.” (Robbe & O’Hanlon, 1993)
Scientists agree that marijuana’s ability to play a significant role in the medical field is more evident now than ever. The use of marijuana is not harmful as the government wants you to believe but nevertheless the government sponsors scare tactics on TV using commercials such as the ones you see linking marijuana to terrorism — are they calling the estimated 20 million pot smokers in America terrorists? The total amount of money spent by Americans on marijuana shows how big an industry it is and how much revenue can be raked in. It causes no long-term health issues and can improve the quality of life of millions of people suffering with disease. Until it is legalized, innocent people will continue to be harassed, arrested, and even thrown in jail because the government has no respect for the privacy of the citizens of this country.