While marijuana opponents state that marijuana is harmful and addictive as well as causes severe health problems leading to lung cancer and respiratory complications, its proponents state that it is not so addictive than tobacco and alcohol. Moreover, there are no documented cases that it causes lung cancer. They indicate that after the passage of medical marijuana laws, its use among adolescents even decreased. The current tendency shows that it is not going to be long to legalize marijuana on a national level.
This paper will undertake to conduct a research regarding the pros and cons of this controversial issue and will show where the author stands in this debate.
Keywords: marijuana, harmful, medical use, national level.
Legalization of Marijuana
As there are many disputes nowadays regarding the use of marijuana, it is important to have an unbiased study of this issue in order to examine it in depth and come up with personal understanding of how this situation should be resolved. While performing the study, it is important to follow such qualities as integrity, honesty, justice, and consistency.
In order to start delving into this complex issue, it is significant to know about the original use of marijuana, its designation in the “market”, and the conditions of its use nowadays. Marijuana is often given various names: grass, weed, pot, or MJ. It is a derivative of the hemp plant, which is also called Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is a greenish-gray mixture of the plant’s dried and shredded flowers, seeds, stems, and leaves (Marijuana Abuse). This mixture is used in hand-rolled cigarettes often called “joints”, users of marijuana also use it for making tea or even mix it into foods.
Marijuana has been used as a substance to achieve euphoria since ancient times. It came to Europe at least as early as 500 A.D. In 1545, it was brought to the New World by the Spanish. The English settlers introduced it in Jamestown in 1611, and it quickly became a major commercial crop (History of Marijuana). Some medicines of that period contained marijuana. In the period from 1850 to 1942, marijuana was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia and was prescribed for such conditions as rheumatism, nausea, and labor pains. In the 1930s, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics (presently the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs) conducted a campaign portraying marijuana as a strong, addicting substance capable of leading its users into narcotics addiction. The Controlled Substances Act that was passed in 1970 placed marijuana among LSD and heroin as a Schedule I drug, which means that it has no accepted medical use and possesses relatively high abuse potential.
The action mechanism of marijuana is the following. Its main active ingredient is THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which is responsible for the majority of its effects. When a person inhales marijuana smoke, he/she almost immediately feels its effects. THC quickly passes the lungs and penetrates into the bloodstream; blood, in its turn, delivers it to the brain as well as other organs. Smoking marijuana produces effects that last from one to three hours. When a person smokes this substance, more THC gets into the blood, and the effects appear faster than in cases of consuming it in beverages or food (Marijuana Abuse).
The proponents of legalization of marijuana insist that medicinal marijuana and medical cannabis are forms of medicine recommended by physicians and used for various purposes such as treating insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, nausea, lack of appetite, and weight loss. Its effects are also positive for the treatment of painful conditions, migraines, and related cases. Medical cannabis has also been found helpful to relieve certain symptoms of spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis because of its muscle-relaxant, and antispasmodic properties (“Medical Marijuana”).
The proponoents also argue that most people use marijuana occasionally and that increasing treatment admissions do not testify about growing rates of clinical dependence (10 Facts About Marijuana). Most marijuana users have never consumed other illegal drug. Today, marijuana being the most popular illicit drug in the U. S., is not a gateway drug and does not cause people to use hard drugs such as heroin, LSD, and cocaine. It has not been proved that marijuana causes mental illness. Some effects of marijuana use include feelings of paranoia, anxiety, and panic. Experiences like that can be intimidating, but their effects are not long-lasting. At the same time, marijuana proponents argue that there is no connectionbetween certain psychiatric ailments and marijuana use, and people simply turn to it for alleviating the symptoms of distress.
At the same time, there are some serious facts against the consumption of marijuana. Its opponents insist that teenagers who smoke it are more prone to develop mental illness. Some recent studies state that marijuana users are at least six times more likely to develop schizophrenia than non-users. Smoking marijuana is more harmful to the person’s lungs than cigarettes. According to the British Lung Foundation, three “joints” a day can cause the same damage to lungs as a pack of twenty cigarettes (Coleman). Marijuana smokers tend to inhale four times more deeply than tobacco smokers, which leads to higher risks of respiratory diseases such as bronchitis. Marijuana is as much addictive as any other drug. Animal experiments have now shown that the use of marijuana produces a surge of chemicals in the “pleasure center”, which leads to claims that it can be more addictive than was thought previously. Marijuana influences concentration and memory of its users. A study conducted by John Hopkins University discovered the following: those who use up to 12 marijuana joints a day showed worse mental agility while performing tests than those users who smoked once or twice a day. The researchers came to the conclusion that marijuana users suffer changes similar to those after a brain injury.
The statistics shows that use of marijuana in the U.S. is increasing. It is becoming the drug of choice among young American adults. According to the survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 22.6 million Americans aged 12 and older or 8.9% of the U.S.A. population used illegal drugs in 2010 as compared to 8.7% in 2009 and 8% in 2008. Marijuana use seems to be on the rise, showing that 17.4 million Americans, which make 6.9% of the population, stated that they used marijuana in 2010. In 2007, the numbers were 14.4 million or 5.8% of the population (Marijuana Use Rising in U.S.).
The above information is undoubtedly related to fact that more and more states in the U.S. pass medical marijuana laws that decriminalize the use of marijuana for personal and medicinal consumption. Since 1970, when Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act prohibiting marijuana, Washington DC have legalized medical marijuana, and fifteen more states have passed decriminalization laws. Since the Supreme Court case of Gonzalez v. Raich in 2005, seven states have passed medical marijuana laws, and more states have been considering doing the same. As more other states are seeking to liberalize their marijuana policies and decriminalize its use, there is a tendency to make marijuana legalized on a national level (Schlesinger, 2012).
All that leads to a serious dilemma. On the one hand, there is a small number of people who use marijuana-based medication to alleviate certain medical problems. However, looking at the history of marijuana use and other factors and also seeing that there is an increase in its non-medical use due to its liberalization, it is urgent to come to some tangible solution of the situation. Also, considering some serious consequences of marijuana use, it is important to reach some kind of legal compromise in this issue. Keeping in mind that the vast majority of marijuana users are young people and that they do not use it for medical reasons, it is necessary to tighten control over the circulation of cannabis and allow its use only under strict medical supervision.
When looking at this problem from the point of view of such core values as justice and consistency, it is obvious that the issue of legalization of marijuana use is a far-fetched pretext; it is more of political nature, used to gain some political capital and is also created for commercial purposes since selling marijuana-based products will open a vast market.