.. il. Several pressing issues have arose throughout time, such as abortion and capitol punishment. The controversies have been addressed and decisions have been made. A new topic has emerged l states (1986, Congress), (Buchsbaum, 8). This crowds court rooms and jail cells, often times forcing judges to release violent offenders. In 1994 alone, 1.35 million people were incarcerated because of possession and use of marijuana (Buckley, 70).
Even though only an estimates ten million Americans use marijuana on a monthly basis, about seventy million have at some time tried it. The current laws would justify putting all seventy million citizens in jail (Buckley, 70). Several pressing issues have arose throughout time, such as abortion and capitol punishment. The controversies have been addressed and decisions have been made. A new topic has emerged and demands recognition.
It is the legalization of marijuana. Legalizing marijuana has become a widely discussed topic in the United States and the world for several reasons, including its role in industry and in recreation. Over the centuries, marijuana has been used to make such things as rope, sails, paper, cloth, oil, birdseed, and other various products. It was a major cash crop in the United States until 1937 when the Marijuana Tax Act was enacted by Congress. Harry Aslinger is responsible for leading the nation in an anti-marijuana movement. He initiated the uproar by publishing false stories of people in Mexico dying and going insane due to the use of hemp, or marijuana, products. Aslinger created a myth of the killer reefer and the assassin of youth, in which he depicted marijuana as the plant of evilness. The public naively presumed his stories were true, and avidly protested the growth of marijuana.
The government had no choice but to act on the issue, outlawing the production of marijuana in an effort to satisfy the public’s demand. Today, however, there is a growing number of marijuana activists. In 1994 alone, there was twenty-five million dollars worth of products created from hemp (Barry, 22). China, France, the United Kingdom, and Spain are large suppliers of hemp products which the United States imports. Such companies as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Adidas, and Disney offer hemp commodities to the public. Popular Mechanics has listed over 25,000 products which marijuana could be used to make.
Daily uses include: clothes, soaps, hair products, flour, candles, oil, paper, motor and fiberboard for building, hemp chips for horse bedding, textiles, and machine lubricants. The list is endless. If marijuana was used to make oil, it would reduce gasoline consumption by one half. Likewise, it would cut back deforestation by one half if the pulp was excreted to create paper. The United States Department of Agriculture has calculated that, over twenty years, one acre of hemp would yield as much pulp for paper as 4.1 acres of trees. (Barry, 22) Perhaps one of the best arguments for marijuana activists is that the marijuana plants are actually environmentally-friendly. The crop can be produces with little or no fertilizers or pesticides, which could help save the planet from chemical doom. (Barry, 23).
Cotton, presently one of the largest cash crops in the south, is a chemical dependent crop and requires large quantities of water, which, in most cases, must be supplied by artificial means. Not only would marijuana eliminate a large amount of chemicals that are being pumped into our environment daily, but it would also remove heavy metals from the soil and replenish the ozone. The legalization of industrial marijuana is under consideration in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Missouri, Washington, and Kentucky, which was the largest producer of hemp when outlawed by the Marijuana Prohibitive Act of 1937 (Elvin, 17). Struggling Vermont farmers are supporters of revitalizing this miracle plant, and rightfully so. A majority of the Vermont farmers presently produce milk, which has a gross income of three hundred million dollars annually.
Just and acre of hemp would have a nine hundred dollar commercial value. The legalization of industrial hemp would undoubtedly improve Vermont’s economy. (Elvin, 17) There are two major oppositions to industrial hemp legalization, the law enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The law enforcement argues that it would be difficult to differentiate between a farmer growing marijuana for industrial purposes and someone growing marijuana to be used and sold for illegal, recreational purposes. In truth, they are two separate plants with distinct differences.
The industrial plant is tall and stalky with few leaves, whereas the smokable plant is short and bushy with a plethora of leaves. The diversity is obvious, even to an untrained eye. The DEA detests industrial hemp for similar reasons. DEA spokesman, Dana Seely, stated that If you’re doing aerial surveillance there would be no way to tell. (Elvin, 17). Seely is referring to the visible difference between industrial and smokable forms of marijuana.
The genetic properties of the two plants is also entirely different. The amount of active tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, in an industrial plant is under .02 percent. The smokable plant contains anywhere between four and eleven percent active THC (Elvin, 17). The Economist illustrates the fact when printing that industrial hemp contains so little of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, that even the most determined pothead could smoke it all day to little effect. (28).
The advantages of legalizing industrial marijuana are evident. The citizens of the United States and their government must decide if such advantages constitute legalizing, or if it would be more beneficial to observe the present laws. Either way, the issue must be faced, and all options weighed accordingly. Industrial marijuana is the possible primary cash crop, and demands acknowledgment. There is yet another expanding group of activists that deem that the recreational use of marijuana ought to be legal.
One of the largest organized activists groups in the United States is the Drug Policy Foundation (DPF). DPF was founded by Arnold Trebach. The staff of ten has worked to gain over 13,000 members. They recruit powerful members of society, such as lawyers and public officials. They raise and spend millions of dollars to boost their efforts. Presently, DPF is focusing on legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Other activists groups include Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics, Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (FEAR), National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and Cannabis Action Network. Cannabis Action Network is unique because it is a youth activist group. Members promote recreational usage of marijuana primarily on college campuses and at concerts (Cotts, 42). All advocates argue that marijuana is virtually harmless, and therefore, should be legal. Marijuana is not physically addictive.
However, it is thought to be extremely psychologically addictive. Marijuana is linked to lung cancer and short term memory loss, but activists argue that these problems are no worse than those of tobacco or alcohol. No one has ever actually died from an overdose or misuse of marijuana. Studies do show, however, that marijuana leads to the abuse of harder drugs, which in time, may kill a person. Marijuana’s popularity is thriving.
In 1994, marijuana expanded into a ten million dollar industry. It is prevalent in television shows, lyrics of songs, caps, T-shirts, earrings, and tattoos. Between the years of 1992 and 1994, twenty-six percent of seniors in high school had smoked marijuana at some time, and the number of students who considered marijuana to be harmful decreased by ten percent. Presently, ten states have decriminalized being in possession of marijuana, which makes the crime equal to a parking violation (Buchsbaum, 8). The number of citizens that feel marijuana should be legal for medicinal reasons is also on the rise.
An estimated seventy-five percent of Americans feel that marijuana should be available for doctors to prescribe. In December of 1993, Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders was quoted as saying that legalization was worth studying. (Buchsbaum, 8). Most recent changes are occurring in California. Activists have successfully convinced the government to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. In other words, doctors may now prescribe marijuana for such illnesses as AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and several other diseases.
Recreational use of marijuana is legal in the Netherlands, Columbia, Switzerland, and Australia, as well as, parts of, Germany, Austria, and Britain. The Netherlands legalized marijuana in the mid-1980s in an attempt to drive a wedge between the hard-drug and soft-drug communities, between casual users and big-time dealers. (Morais, 115). The country’s officials argued that it wasn’t the psychoactive properties of hashish, ..but contact with the criminal subculture that leads to serious antisocial behavior. (Morais, 115).
Immediately proceeding legalization, coffee shops emerged throughout the Netherlands. The coffee shops sell various foods made with marijuana and the plant in smokable form. There are approximately 450 coffee shops in Amsterdam, distributing about 150,000 dollars worth of marijuana annually. Siberia sells 1,000 dollars worth daily. Tourists purchase an estimated 180 million dollars each year, which accounts for twenty-five percent of the country’s income from tourism.
The legalizing of marijuana has boosted the Netherlands economy. There are more jobs in farming due to the sudden high demand. The accumulated number of business owners have sky-rocketed. This is primarily a byproduct of the public demand for coffee shops. Furthermore, the government profits from legalization. The government now has the ability to tax marijuana.
Before, all the proceeds went to drug lords and petty drug pushers. The government has also gained more control over the trafficking of marijuana. They control the supply, which in turn means they control inflation of the price and availability. (Morais, 118) The coffee shops contribute to the medical field as well. Store owners work with area doctors to prescribe various forms of marijuana to patients.
Also, each coffee shop helps to donate a total of twenty kilos of marijuana to the Berlin Institute for AIDS Research annually (Morais, 118). Some critics feel that the coffee shops are trading stations for a number of hard-drugs that remain illegal. That simply is not true. Coffee shops are placed under strict regulations. The shops are instantly closed if there is even suspicion of hard-drug dealing, such as heroin or cocaine.
With so much to lose, coffee shops owners have hired bouncers to eject anyone using or selling hard drugs. In other words, the Dutch cops now have the soft-drug communities helping them contain and discipline the hard-drug users. (Morais, 120). Bernhard Scholton, the Amsterdam police’s foreign affairs spokesman, said, It’s better to have all this in the open so we can keep and eye on it. (Morais, 120).
Surrounding countries feel that the Netherlands have become too relaxed with the present drug policy. Nevertheless, statistically, the Netherlands tower over all neighboring countries. In 1994, police seized 524,000 pounds of illegal marijuana trafficking. That is four times what France obtained, yet still, France is threatening to close its borders. The Netherlands shut down twenty-seven highly organized drug rings, netted 18,000 pounds of cocaine, 541 pounds of amphetamines, and 437 pounds of heroin (Morais, 119).
Hard-drug use has descended as well. The Netherlands have 1.6 addicts per 1,000 people. In comparison, France has 2.5, Italy has three, and Switzerland has 5.3. The Netherlands government accredits marijuana for the low rate of hard-drug addicts. Again, this is due to the fact that the mild drug, marijuana, users are aiding the police in shutting down illegal drug activities.
It simply is no longer welcome in their society. (Morais, 115) As far as marijuana use, the Netherlands statistically exceeds the United States. According to estimates by the United Nations International Drug Control Program, over seven percent of the United States population abuses cannabis. It was found that some ten million Americans smoke marijuana on a monthly. In the Netherlands, marijuana abuse is just four percent (Morais, 115). On May 5, 1994, Columbia legalized the possession of small quantities of cocaine and other drugs, including marijuana.
The war on drugs in Columbia, sponsored primarily by the United States, actually did more harm than good. There was a sharp rise in human rights abuses, government corruption, and crime. Trying to reduce the drug supply hurt the people of Columbia. For example, a fifty percent crop reduction would only cause a five percent inflation of the drug’s price. However, the farmers would be in despair, which would escalate violence and social dislocation.
(858). Columbia’s attorney General Gustan de Griff addressed the United States in saying, Couldn’t it be that there are people in the United States Senate who would like to see.. [the] struggle continued in Columbia, a safe distance away from the United States, rather than consider alternatives that distribute the burdens of the drug war more equally? (858). The United States spends between fourteen and twenty billion dollars a year on their own War on Drugs. About two-thirds of that money is used to stop the supply, which essentially means to more funds for a larger law enforcement force.
Sadly enough, less than one-third is used to stop the demand, which constitutes education and treatment. If marijuana was legalized, money would be spent to stop the demand. Drug treatment facilities would emerge across throughout the country. Overall, treatment would prove to be seven times more cost efficient than the constant increase of the law enforcement. Take tobacco use for example, which has been continuously dropping. It is not dropping because tobacco was outlawed, but because the public is more educated on the risk involved.
The Unites States jails and judicial systems are highly overcrowded. In fact, fifty percent of trial time and fifty percent of jail spaced is used by drug offenders. Presently, the possession of marijuana has a mandatory jail sentence in severaf legalizing marijuana. It could put criminals out of business. There would be no need for pushers to be invading the playgrounds, or drug lords controlling the communities.
Legalization could help to end drug wars. There would be more room in jails for violent criminals, which would create a safer, harmonious environment. The government would be in control of the price, purity, distribution, and access. Addiction would be treated as a health problem, not a crime. If the government kept prices low, addicts would not have to steal to support their habit.
The government would be able to tax marijuana which would be extremely profitable. There is also legitimate reasons not to legalize. In the Netherlands, teenage use of marijuana has increased 250% while it has decreased two-thirds in the United States (Califano, 7). In theory, health and welfare costs would rise due to the growing number of addicts. The government has been unable to control underage use of cigarettes and alcohol. If marijuana was legalized, it would be nearly impossible to ensure any set age limit would be respected.
The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has found that adolescents who smoke marijuana are eighty-five times more likely to use cocaine, and are more prone to violent behavior and suicide (Forbes, 26). There are also physical dangers to consider. One joint does the equivalent damage to the lungs as four cigarettes. If marijuana was legalized, a rise in the number of lung cancer patients should be expected to rise. Marijuana weakens the immune system. It reduces the IQ’s of babies born to inhaling mothers.
Marijuana distorts perception, impairs memory, and reduces concentration. It is known to be psychologically addictive (Forbes, 26). Legalizing marijuana would reverse much of the work to lower drug use. In 1990, Alaska recriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana by a 55% vote (47). From 1979 to 1994, drug use has dropped from 24.8 million people to thirteen million people (Califano, 8).
It is time that this nation faces the issue of legalizing marijuana, and determine what would enhance the lives of American citizens. Both the use of marijuana for industrial and recreational purposes has evolved into a moral question. One must look inside himself or herself to arrive at a personally satisfying answer. In the end, righteousness will prevail. Legal Issues Essays.