Free Legalization Of Marijuana In The USA Argumentative Essay Sample
Marijuana tops the list of the most widely used illicit drugs in America. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 14.6 million or 75% of current illicit drug users are smoking marijuana. The agency’s 2003 report shows that out of the 7.1 million Americans who suffer from illegal drug dependence or abuse, 60 percent abuse or are dependent on marijuana. The alarming news is that “of all youth age 12-17 in drug treatment in 2000, nearly 62 percent had a primary marijuana diagnosis. Approximately half were referred to treatment through the criminal justice system and half through other sources, including self-referral.” (ONDCP p.1) While smoking marijuana is the main culprit for negative behavioral consequences, some people and policy makers believe that marijuana should be legalized. The state of Oregon, for instance, was the first to decriminalize cannabis which declares that the possession of marijuana that is an ounce or less is a civil offense that is punishable by $100 fine. Alaska followed the measure in 1975 by removing the state penalties for possession of not more than 4 ounces and private cultivation of marijuana. By the end of the decade, 11 states had decriminalized marijuana possession, a policy endorsed by President Carter, the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, and the National Council of Churches.” (Sulum p.20) Since then, the rest of the states have lessened the penalty and punishment for simple possession of marijuana. The federal governments of the states have altered the offense from an act of felony to misdemeanor. John Ross states that “the march toward marijuana legalization is accelerating faster than many of the most optimistic drug reformers previously thought possible.” (Ross p.32) He explains that after Californian voters have rejected the state’s proposal to remove the prohibitions on recreational marijuana, this illicit drug is now available as an over the counter item in Washington and Colorado. This is because of the current tolerance of US Department of Justice on almost every prohibited transactions of the federal government. Ross cites that 14 American states are on the process of considering full legalization during the year 2014. Additionally, 17 states consider to fully legalize medical marijuana while 8 states are now considering to decriminalize simple possession and replace criminal punishments with mere civil fines. But these measures receive a number of oppositions. The anti-legalization groups says that legalizing smoked marijuana would “ impose heavy additional costs on the health care system, schools, and workplace, severely impair the ability of millions of young Americans to develop their talents, and in the long term overburden the criminal justice system.” (Kleber and Califano)
The measure to grant full legalization to marijuana is based on two principles. First, it has significant medicinal benefits. Second, smoking marijuana is harmless. Third, marijuana is not toxic and it is not as addictive as alcohol or tobacco. Erin Hildebrandt shares her personal story regarding the usefulness of marijuana in treating morning sickness. She claims that the weed is a surprising solution for her severe morning sickness during pregnancy. In her testimonial, she confesses that “Ten weeks after my first dose, I had gained 17 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight. I gave beautiful and joyous birth to a 9-pound, 2-ounce baby boy in the bed in which he'd been conceived. I know that using marijuana saved us both from many of the terrible dangers associated with malnutrition in pregnancy.” (Hildebrandt p. 55)
The advocacies that push for the full legalization of medical marijuana were fueled by the rise of recreational marijuana use during the 1960s. “Marijuana had long been known to promote appetite, and a few studies in the first half of the twentieth century showed that it aided in alleviating nausea.” (Fine p.53) Several patients like Erin Hildebrandt who are undergoing chemotherapy claims that smoking marijuana does not only offer relief for the theraphy’s side effects like morning sickness and vomiting. They further claim that it is more effective than other legal medications and it also enhances their appetite and help them cope with their anxiety problems. David Fine, in his article “Grassroots Medicine” states that “For many, the relief from smoking pot was so strikingly better than from the use of Compazine, the anti-nauseant of choice, that word quickly spread among patients and doctors and then on to legislators.” (Fine p.54)
Despite the many claims that marijuana has the therapeutic properties to relieve patients who are suffering from serious health conditions, such claims are not supported by legitimate studies. There are no credible records or data that would prove that the therapeutic claims of marijuana are factual declarations. Even the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)- the primary agency that regulates drugs for safe medication, denies that marijuana can treat morning sickness or any other health condition. The FDA announces that "there is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful," and "that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use." (The DEA Position on Marijuana)
The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1960 categorized marijuana as Schedule I- a harmful drug without medical value. However, some people who believe in the medical value of marijuana reasons out that it should be legalized because it offers relief to patients who are under severe health conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, intense morning sickness and multiple sclerosis. But the nationally recognized cancer specialist, David Ettinger, says that this claim is false. According to the cancer expert, “There is no indication that marijuana is effective in treating nausea and vomiting resulting from radiation treatment or other causes. No legitimate studies have been conducted which make such conclusions." (Fine p.54) The Office of National Drug Control Policy sheds light on the currently circulating myth that marijuana is a modern medicine. The medical community explains that marijuana has a chemical compound called THC that can treat particular illnesses. ONDCP further elaborates that synthetic THC is the active ingredient of Marinol- an FDA approved medication for cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. Marinol is also used as an appetite enhancer for individuals who have AIDS. “However, marijuana as a smoked product has never proven to be medically beneficial and, in fact, is much more likely to harm one's health;marijuana smoke is a crude THC delivery system that also sends many harmful substances into the body.” (The Office of National Drug Control Policy) Legitimate studies reveal that while marijuana have a chemical compound that has therapeutic properties, smoked marijuana does not have the same property. The Institute of Medicine conducted a research that examined the natural compounds found in smoked marijuana. The results reveal that smoked marijuana is a health hazard and it is not a medicine for any illness.
IOM reports that cannabinoid compounds found in marijuana have the potential for medicinal use. The report lists that these compounds can potentially relieve pain, morning sickness, loss of appetite and vomiting. Cannabinoids has the potential to combat the side effects of chemotherapy. Furthermore, the IOM report cites that probably, cannabinoid compounds can modulate pain, control movement and stimulate memory. But these are only probabilities that are still not clear. ”In addressing the possible effects of smoked marijuana on pain, the NIH report explained that no clinical trials involving patients with "naturally occurring pain" have ever been conducted but that two credible studies of cancer pain indicated analgesic benefit.” (McDonough p.55) The NIH also explored the possible usefulness of smoked marijuana in treating chemotherapy-related nausea. The study compares the different delivery system of THC- oral administration though Dronabinol, and smoked cannabis. Out of the 20 cancer patients, nine did not choose any of the two options. Seven opted for oral administration and four chose smoked marijuana. The report concludes that the scientific questions regarding the efficacy of smoking marijuana in treating vomiting and morning sickness of cancer patients remain unanswered.
The study also explored the possible benefit of smoked marijuana in treating cases of glaucoma. Glaucoma is caused by intraocular pressure that damages the optic nerve. The NIH research found out that smoked cannabis can actually reduce the intraocular pressure. But the report did not find any scientific proof that smoking marijuana can reduce this pressure into the needed level that would be adequate in preventing the damage of the optic nerve. This failure only shows that the medicinal benefits of marijuana needs validation through more extensive and multi-faceted research.
Not a single health organization or medical community in America agree that marijuana is a modern medicine. One of the many agencies that rejects the medicinal benefits of smoked marijuana is the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies. The agency emphasizes that there are no legitimate and sufficient researches that can validate the medicinal usefulness of smoking marijuana. “In the opinion of the committee, there appears to be no generally accepted scientific basis for use of this therapy. It has never been tested in a properly controlled trial.” (Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization) Although there are some compounds in marijuana that have therapeutic potential, scientific studies show that smoking cannabis in its “crude” form is not a proper delivery system. Current studies have only identified one compound in marijuana that has potential medical use. However, extensive researches are still required in order to explore how THC and other compounds present in marijuana affect the body. But, scientists and medical experts suggest that these researches should not aim to study smoked marijuana. “Rather, they support development of a smoke-free, rapid-onset delivery system for compounds found in the plant.” (McDonough p.52)
Aside from the claimed medicinal benefits of marijuana, the supporters of its complete legalization argues that marijuana is harmless. But this claim is a dangerous misconception. Medical records suggest that smoking marijuana has negative side effects, especially for those people who lighted up at a very early age. Among the known consequences of smoking marijuana are cognitive impairment, mental health problems, negative behavioral changes, and problems on safety. The frequency of smoking and age are two of the main factors that determine the short-term term and long term effects of smoked marijuana. A recent study of the McLean Hospital in Massachusetts shows that smoking marijuana can distort concentration and thinking. ”The study found that college students who used marijuana regularly had impaired skills related to attention, memory, and learning 24 hours after they last used the drug.” (Office of National Drug Control Policy) Another research of the University of Iowa’s College of Medicine reports that people who frequently smoke marijuana for long periods (more than 7 times a week) are suffering from cognitive impairment and are showing slow mathematical skills. This findings proves that smoking marijuana is harmful, especially for the young individuals. Like other illicit drugs, smoking marijuana can also alter the brain and affect the user’s feeling of pleasure, intervene with his/ her memory, disrupt his thought, and distort his concentration, perception (both sensory and time), and affect his reflexes and movement coordination. Users who started smoking marijuana at an early age are also prone to anxiety, depression, panic attacks and other mental health challenges. “One study linked social withdrawal, anxiety, depression, attention problems, and thoughts of suicide in adolescents with past-year marijuana use.” (ONDCP) Other credible studies reveal that children between the age of 12-17 who are smoking cannabis are three times more prone to suicidal tendencies.
Pro-legalization groups further cites that marijuana is not addictive and can be sued for safe recreational purposes. However, several of recent studies suggest that marijuana functions like cocaine and heroin that triggers dependence. Heavy marijuana users experience withdrawal symptoms after not smoking weed for a considerably long period. The use of marijuana meets the DSM-IV(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criteria for drug dependence that was established by the American Psychiatric Association. The manual states that symptoms of substance dependence involves tolerance. Tolerance is the state of craving for more in order to feel the same pleasant effects. “According to the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 4.3 million Americans were classified with dependence on or abuse of marijuana. That figure represents 1.8 percent of the total U.S. population and 60.3 percent of those classified as individuals who abuse or are dependent on illicit drugs.” (ONDCP) The arguments of people who approve and push for the legalization of smoked marijuana are purely based on myths, speculations and misconceptions. They still lack solid evidence and scientific proof. Smoking marijuana (whether it be for medicinal or recreational purposes) should remain as illegal and criminal offense because it does not only hurt the user; it also harms families and communities. Kleber and Califano are right when they said that “ Legalization is a policy of despair, one that would write off millions of our citizens and lead to a terrible game of Russian roulette, particularly for children.” (Kleber and Califano) The country needs to fund prevention programs, instead of wasting billions of dollars in court hearings.
"What Americans Need to Know About Marijuana." What Americans Need to Know About Marijuana. Oct. 2003: 1-18.
Fine, David M. "Grassroots Medicine." American Prospect. Sept./Oct. 1997: 51-56.
Fisher, Marc. "Marijuana's Rising Acceptance Comes After Many Failures. Is It Now" Washington Post. 25 Feb. 2014: n.p.
"The DEA Position on Marijuana." The DEA Position on Marijuana. May 2006: n.p.
Sullum, Jacob. "Selling Pot: The Pitfalls of Marijuana Reform." Reason. June 1993: 20-28.
Ross, John K. "The State of Marijuana Legalization." Reason. May 2014: 32-43.
"Marijuana Myths & Facts." Marijuana Myths & Facts. 2004: 1-44.
"Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization." SPEAKING OUT AGAINST DRUG LEGALIZATION. 1995: 1-42.
Ross, John K. "The State of Marijuana Legalization." Reason. May 2014: 32-43
Kleber, Herbert, and Joseph A. Califano Jr. "Legalization: Panacea or Pandora's Box?." World & I. Jan. 2006: n.p.
Hildebrandt, Erin. "Medical Marijuana." Mothering. May/June 2004: 52-61.
Tandy, Karen P. "Marijuana: The Myths Are Killing Us." DEA News Release. 26 Apr. 2005: n.p.
McDonough, James R. "Marijuana on the Ballot." Policy Review. April/May 2000: 51-61.
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