Four states boast legal marijuana for recreational use: Colorado and Washington, both of which legalized recreational marijuana in 201 2, and Alaska and Oregon had an approved cannabis ballot measure in the recent election, legalization to come into effect starting 2015. America seems to be taking a Step in the right direction in terms Of its policy towards marijuana, but this should merely be a starting point. The initial basis for the legalization is baseless, it is almost ridiculous that marijuana is still illegal. Marijuana should not be illegal, the most beneficial policy includes regulation similar to tobacco and alcohol.
Marijuana was not always illegal in the United States. Marijuana was initially used in America for hemp to make clothing, ropes, and sails in the seventeenth century. This was such a common practice, Virginians Assembly actually enacted a law requiring every farmer to grow hemp in 1619. This was the first American legislation regarding cannabis. At this time, hemp was also recognized as legal tender in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. Hemp was a valuable commodity, as it was a versatile product able to be used in several ways.
Domestic production of hemp thrived until after the Civil War, when it was replaced by other trials, domestic and imported, for many of its purposes. William Brooke Gaucheness’s, a British physician who spent a considerable amount of time in Indian’s Bengal province, published a forty page detailing the several medical uses of cannabis 1839. During his stay in India, he witnessed Indian doctors use different hemp extracts to successfully treat diseases and illnesses that were still left untreated in the western world. His study was a model of modern pharmaceutical research.
Gaucheness’s used self-made, but inspired by native recipes, tinctures during his clinical trials. He gained his information by conducting experiments on mice, cats, dogs, and rabbits, as well as himself and patients suffering from rheumatism, cholera, and tetanus. He gave a detailed case study describing positive reactions to can nab’s therapy. With this ground-breaking study sweeping the Western medical world, marijuana became a common ingredient in many medicinal products in the nineteenth century. It was even listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1850 until 1942.
Marijuana was aligned to be the next miracle drug. Soldiers returning home from the Civil War were being heavily prescribed opiates to relive their pain. This obviously fueled an epidemic of addiction, to the point that morphine addiction was known as ‘the soldiers illness. ” This encouraged the government to enact The Pure Food and Drug Actinic 1906. This legislature married opiates, alcohol, and marijuana together as one, requiring certain specific regulations regarding appropriate labels for any over the counter remedy containing alcohol, cocaine, morphine, opium, heroin, and cannabis.
These regulations eventually led to the decline of patent medication sales. This is important to the legal status of marijuana as it was the first restriction. Following the Mexican Revolution in 1910, Mexican immigrants crossed the border into the United States. These Mexican immigrants “cultivated cannabis as an intoxicant and for medicinal purposes” introducing Americans to marijuana as they had used the plant back home (Staples, 2014, p. 1). It did not take long for marijuana to be directly correlated with immigrants, and with that association, xenophobia ensued nationwide.
In fact, the term “marijuana” was coined as a means to deter Americans from smoking the Mexican “locoweed” by sounding similar to Mexican slang. In his 1994 article “Reefer Madness” Eric Closer explains he racially motivated history which fueled a change in cannabis’ legal status: The political upheaval in Mexico that culminated in the Revolution of 191 0 led to a wave of Mexican immigration to states throughout the American Southwest. The prejudices and fears that greeted these peasant immigrants also extended to their traditional means of intoxication: smoking marijuana.
Police officers in Texas claimed that marijuana incited violent crimes, aroused a “lust for blood,” and gave its users “superhuman strength. ” Rumors spread that Mexicans were distributing this “killer weed” to unsuspecting American schoolchildren. Sailors and West Indian immigrants brought the practice of smoking marijuana to port cities along the Gulf of Mexico. In New Orleans newspaper articles associated the drug with African-Americans, jazz musicians, prostitutes, and underworld whites. “The Marijuana Menace,” as sketched by anti-drug campaigners, was personified by inferior races and social deviants.
Fear and prejudice towards immigrants linked criminal behavior with the Mexicans and African-Americans that used marijuana. The first United States decree banning the possession and sale of marijuana was in II Paso in 1914. The asses continued with racially motivated fear mongering as the main attempt of discouraging marijuana use among Americans. Fear of immigrants, which dramatically increased by the incredible stress brought on by the Great Depression, prompted public officials throughout the United States to petition to the Treasury Department to outlaw marijuana nationally.
There was a plethora of research detailing marijuana as a dangerous drug that was a direct link to violence, crime, and other socially deviant behaviors, especially among the “racially inferior. ” By 1931, twenty nine states had outlawed marijuana, usually with little to no abate. The 1 9305 was also a time Of propaganda films. Perhaps the most infamous was a film entitled Reefer Madness produced by a French director, Louis Gainer, in 1936, but there were several anti-marijuana propaganda films circulating around this time: Assassin of Youth, Marijuana, and High on the Range.
All of these propaganda films shared a similar warning: marijuana is about to infiltrate the neighborhood and transform the most clean-cut individual into a drug abusing, sexually deviant, violent, murderous degenerate. The Marijuana Tax Act effectively criminality marijuana in 1 937 y restricting possession to individuals who had paid an excise tax for medical and industrial uses. This was the first federal law regulating the sale and possession of marijuana.
This Act was eventually repealed by Congress, following the 1969 Supreme Court case Leary v United States, on the grounds that the Marijuana Tax Act was unconstitutional, then passed the Controlled Substance Act. This Act, signed into law in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, created restrictions and regulations for manufacturing, importing, using, and distributing certain drugs. This remains America’s current drug policy, which vides drugs into five schedules, each category with varying constraints and punishments.
The New York Academy of Medicine issued a report in 1 944 stating that marijuana did not induce violence, insanity or sex crimes, nor did it lead to addiction nor other drug use. The New York Academy of Medicine also insisted that marijuana was not a judicial or criminal issue, it was a health issue. This information contradicted everything that was told to the public about marijuana and its usage. Regardless of this knowledgeable evidence, the Bogs Act and Narcotics Control Act set mandatory sentences for drug elated offenses.
At this time, the 1 9505, a first offense of marijuana possession upheld a minimum sentence of 2-10 years and a fine of up to $20000. These minimums were later repealed in 1970 when they were proven to have done nothing in determent away from use of marijuana. The counter-culture of the 1 sass, which had a more relaxed view regarding social taboos, began and marijuana was being habitually used amongst many Americans, including the white upper middle class. This is the first time drug policy towards marijuana began to involve consideration of treatment as well as criminal penalties.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORMAL) was founded in 1970. NORMAL is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing the public knowledge in order for the complete eradication of criminal offenses involving marijuana, and evolve to a system of legalization, taxation, regulation, and education. This policy seems like the most logical solution to the self-made marijuana problem. In June 1 971 , President Richard Nixon declares a ‘Agar on drugs,” dramatically increasing size and presence of drug control agencies. He also passed mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants.
This proclaims marijuana to be a Schedule drug the most restrictive schedule. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, a Schedule I drug requires the drug or substance to: (1) have a high potential for abuse, (2) there is no currently accepted medical treatment in the country, (3) have a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Other drugs under Schedule drugs include heroin, LSI, mescaline, MADAM, CHUB, ecstasy, psilocybin, methadone, chat, and bath salts. Marijuana seems to be a bit out of place on that list.
The Rockefeller Laws in 1 973 in New York ruled that the penalty for selling two ounces or more, or possessing four ounces or more, of heroin, morphine, “raw or prepared opium,” cocaine, or cannabis was a minimum of fifteen years to life, and a maximum or twenty five years to life in prison. The law was partially repealed, for the portion regarding marijuana, in 1979 by Democratic Governor Hugh Carrey. New Work’s Rockefeller Laws served as the toughest laws regarding drug policy nationwide, provoking other states to enact similar laws soon after.
Reagan re-imposes mandatory minimums, as well as increased sentences, in 1986 with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. This was later amended to a “three strikes and you’re out” policy, making life sentences a requirement for repeat drug offenders, death penalty for kingpins. California becomes the first state to take any step towards legalization in 1996 with Proposition 215 allowing the sale and medical use of marijuana to patients afflicted with AIDS, cancer, and other terminal diseases. This created tension between the federal and state governments as the proposition was still conflicting with federal laws.
Eventually several states followed suit, proposing legalization for medical marijuana. Marijuana is now gal in more twenty three states, and our country’s capital, Washington D. C. At least for medical use. Four of those states have opened the door to national legalization by making recreational use of marijuana legal: Colorado and Washington, both in 201 2, and Oregon and Alaska, in 2014. In the recent election, Washington DC was overwhelmingly in favor of legalization, however, this decision is conditional on Congressional review. Recent news reports indicate that Congress will not pass the measure.
Tensions between the states governments and the federal government are still present regarding their conflicting policies regarding marijuana. Congress has recently signed a bill though, banning federal interference that would consequentially prevent states that allow medical or recreational marijuana use to execute their own State laws. The war on drugs increased the arrests for drugs and anything drug related nationwide. The amount of arrests for drug related crime in this country is ridiculous, and it is increasing exponentially. In New York City alone, under 800 arrests were made in 1991, compared to over 59,000 in 2010.
When we look at the national averages, the same story is told: in fact, “in 2011, there were more arrests for marijuana session than for all violent crimes put together” (Wigwam, 2014, peg. 2). This costs our country over $3. 6 billion annually, arguably for little to no success. The harsh laws have done nothing to mitigate the usage in America, which is at about 30 million. This big chunk of cash could be put towards better use, for instance the vast array violent crimes throughout the country that go unsolved because of lack of funds.
A path of racism that initiated the laws being put forth in the first place, continues even today. While blacks and whites use marijuana around the same, blacks are 3. 7 times, on average, ore likely to be arrested. These arrests, although they are now the equivalent of a traffic violation, can have major impact on the person’s life. Even without a conviction, these charges can accumulate into a criminal history that can affect punishment for any future offense, landing people in prison, essentially, for smoking marijuana.
With twenty three states legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, and four making it completely legal for recreational use, the clutch on marijuana laws seems to be getting loosened, however slow the process may be. Marijuana regularly seems to be in its own étagère when speaking about drugs and addiction. Although it is a Schedule drug, ‘the clear consensus of science is that marijuana is far less harmful to human health than most other banned drugs and is less dangerous than the highly addictive but perfectly legal substances known as alcohol and tobacco” (Beefy, 2014, peg. ). While it is not completely harmless, Beefy argues that if as a country we can regulate substances that have greater risks, then why do we not do so with marijuana? Addiction with marijuana is also not like any other substance. With substances like alcohol, cocaine, or heroin, there are Lear withdrawal symptoms which cause the user excruciating pain with the absence of their drug of choice. Marijuana users who choose to stop experience comparatively trivial withdrawal symptoms: sleeplessness, anxiety, and irritability to name few. Seems trivial when looked at side by side.
There is also very little connection with marijuana smoking and adverse health effects, as cited by a study done by the World Health Organization (Beefy, 2014, peg. 2). Backer’s article Becoming a Marijuana User amplifies the fact that marijuana is dissimilar to other narcotics in the fact that it isn’t share the same addictive properties. “This may considered presumptuous evidence that there is no true addiction in the medical sense associated with the use Of marijuana” (Becker, 1953, peg. 133). This article highlights the highs and lows of the drug.
Paranoia, fear, and anxiety are the common negative side effects associated with a novice smoker. This was noted by many accounts in Backer’s article from first time smokers. However, the idea of the novice is challenged by the seasoned smoker, who only longs for the experience the novice has. They, opposite of the novice, represent why people smoke marijuana: the relaxation, the worry-free attitude, bliss. Becker also goes on to say that smoking marijuana for pleasure is only possible if you truly understand it, and getting to that point is ones individual choice.
The United States is, no doubt, moving in the right direction on behalf of the reformation of marijuana laws. In a message to Congress in 1977, President Jimmy Carter explained that “Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in riveter for personal use. ” It seems as though America is finally listening to these words. The initiation of the laws in the first place were based on skewed, if not completely fraudulent, data in an effort to steer the general public away from smoking marijuana.
Marijuana should be legalized, taxed, and regulated, similarly to the way alcohol and tobacco are treated: age limitations, no driving under the influence, no public intoxication. States currently with legalized recreational marijuana abide by all these stipulations, though each state has their own adapted set of laws. Marijuana is debatable sees dangerous, and scientifically proven to be less addictive, than both alcohol and tobacco, among other substances. According to a 1 999 study “32 percent of tobacco users become dependent, as do 23 percent of heroin users, 17 percent of cocaine users, and 15 percent of alcohol users.
But only 9 percent of marijuana users develop a dependence” (Beefy, 2014, p. 3-4). The simple idea that this is a known fact, yet marijuana remains illegal while other more dangerous substances are readily, and legally, available to the public is mind-blowing. Marijuana also has the potential to be America’s new cash crop. According to Huffing Post (2014), in the first week of its legalized recreational use of marijuana, sales from 37 of the newly opened marijuana dispensaries soared past $5 million.
The state has “projected nearly $600 million in combined wholesale and retail marijuana sales annually” and “expects to collect nearly $70 million in tax revenue from pot sales this year. ” Sales alone seem like reason enough for legalization; the national revenue would be astronomical. The laws surrounding recreational use in Colorado do include restrictions: users must be at least twenty one years of age; residents may purchase up to en ounce per transaction, a quarter ounce for tourists; one ounce is the maximum amount allowed to travel with; public use remains prohibited, as does driving under the influence of marijuana.
This model seems like a very realistic and appropriate response to marijuana that should be appropriated at a national level. If this recent influx Of marijuana legalization continues steadily, perhaps the united States actually will enact these ideals soon enough. With all the evidence aforementioned, it is clear that legalization is the only reasonable option for America. This upswing of reformation guarding marijuana legalization in the United States could not come at a better time either. Currently, a majority of the United States is in favor of marijuana legalization, a national first, according to CBS News (2014).
It is an age where the policy on marijuana is constantly under review. Since each state is responsible for its own laws and legislations regarding marijuana use and distribution, it is likely that more states follow their predecessors and legalize marijuana within the next decade. As far as on a national level, it is doubtful that compete legalization will be passed any time too soon. Perhaps f enough states legalize, and capitalize on profits, the federal government will be coerced to succumb to, finally, legalizing marijuana. Aldrich, Michael R. (2006, Spring).