Decriminalize Marijuana for the Good of America


Currently, drugs remain high on the lists of concerns of Americans and
are considered one of the major problems facing our country today. We see
stories on the news about people being killed on the street every day over drugs.
To many people drugs are only an inner-city problem, but in reality they affect
all of us - users and non-users. I believe that the negative affects we
associate with drugs would be greatly reduced if the United States adopted a
policy towards the total decriminalization of marijuana. The current drug
policy of our government is obviously failing. Drug laws have created
corruption, violence, increased street crime, and disrespect for the criminal
justice system. Current drug legislation has failed to reduce demand. It\'s
just too hard to monitor illegal substances when a significant portion of the
population is committed to using drugs. (Inciardi and McBride 260)
Marijuana comes from the hemp plant, which can readily be grown on
fields across the nation and was cultivated heavily in colonial period. After
130 years of being legal, the potential problems of marijuana were brought into
the public eye by Harry J. Anslingler, the commissioner of the Federal Bureau of
Narcotics and author of Marijuana: Assassin of Youth (Goldman 88). In his book,
Anslinger portrayed images of Mexican and Negro criminals, as well as young boys,
who became killers while under the influence of marijuana. With the added
public pressure, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the
Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This law made the use and dale of marijuana federal
offenses. At this point marijuana was removed from the public eye, and heavy
users included poor Negroes, migrant Mexicans, and Jazz Musicians (Himmelstein
3).
Marijuana reappeared in the mid 1960\'s with the emergence of the
"Hippie." Widespread objection to the use of marijuana remained because of the
set of valued and lifestyles associated with it, but use appeared in colleges
and among middle-class youths in the suburbs (Himmelstein 103). Marijuana
became a symbol of a counter-culture, and youthful rebellion. As a consequence,
marijuana use rose for the next ten years. Marijuana was becoming more accepted
across the nation. As the users of Marijuana changed, the attitudes about the
danger of Marijuana broke down. In 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse
Prevention and Control Act reduced the classification of simple possession and
non-profit distribution from felonies to misdemeanors (Himmelstein 104). This
was a good start.
However, President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1973 and
over the next 20 years, each succeeding president continued to escalate the drug
war. This policy has obviously done nothing to stop the recreational use of
drugs in this country, on the contrary it is causing great harm. It\'s time to
try something new.
When most people imagine the legalization of marijuana, they fear a
marijuana free-for-all with everybody constantly getting high. Legalization
would be a burdensome task for the U.S. Government. In fact, the legal process
would include a law passed by Congress allowing the government to control the
content, quality, and distribution of marijuana. The laws would be similar to
the current laws regulating alcohol, including laws governing age, limits for
driving, and distribution ("Bring" 13). A thorough investigation of the costs
and benefits of legalization must be examined before any policy is implemented ,
but I believe it will show that the benefits far outweigh the detriments.
The three general areas where people are opposed to legalization of
marijuana center their arguments on: health care, increased crime, and social
aspects. Marijuana is more dangerous than cigarette smoking. Two Marijuana
joints create more airway impairment than do an entire pack of cigarette (Miner
44). One joint contains three times more tar than do cigarettes and is
considered four times more dangerous (Courtwright 54). It dramatically
increases the pulse rate and blood pressure during use. If marijuana is
legalized, many project that lung cancer will increase as the amount of
marijuana use increases (Miner 44). These are all valid arguments, but
cigarette smoking is legal, a booming business, and causes the same exact
problems.
There are a number of myths associated with the use of marijuana and its
effects on your body which people who are opposed to its decriminalization
repeatedly cite. One of these in that Marijuana causes brain damage. This
claim is based on a study of the rehus monkey by Dr. Robert Heath in the late
1970\'s. Heath\'s work was criticized for its insufficient sample size (only four
monkeys), its failure to control experimental bias, and the misidentification of
normal monkey brain structure as "damaged" (Hager 1). Actual studies of human
populations of