Issue Report: Legalization of Marijuana

Should Marijuana be legalized?

The debate regarding the legalisation of drugs, particularly that of soft drugs like cannabis (or marijuana) is capable of being characterised as one which pits the concept of freedom of the individual against the protection of the State. Advocates of legalisation argue, amongst other things, that cannabis is not only less harmful than legal substances like alcohol and tobacco, but as a matter of fact has been proven to possess certain medicinal properties. In stark contrast, those opposed to legalisation argue that the legalisation of cannabis will act as a precursor to increased addiction to hard drugs, and will necessarily lead to an increase in the crime rate itself. In 1937, the Marijuana (Marihuana) Tax Act was introduced by Henry Anslinger and passed, levying taxes on anyone who was associated with cannabis, hemp, or marijuana. These types of association include possession, use, sale, and many other acts which would be considered illegal today. In addition to the taxes provisioned by the bill, penal codes for the procedural use and possession of marijuana were also outlined – violators could face five years in prison in up to a $2,000 fine. In 1951, an act that superseded the Marijuana Tax Act was passed criminalizing the possession and use of cannabis, hemp, and/or marijuana. In 1969, in the case of Leary v. United States, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was overturned on the grounds of the 5th Amendment because those seeking a tax stamp would have to incriminate themsleves. In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act listing cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Despite the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, many states and local cities began to decriminalize marijuana citing possession/use/sale/etc. as low priority offenses. Although many attempts have been made to reschedule cannabis off Schedule I, the Supreme Court ruled in a 2005 decision in the case of United States v. Raich, the federal government has jurisdiction over the legal status of marijuana. Nevertheless, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Washington, Nevada, Massachusetts, and D.C have legalized the drug, begging the question whether other states will follow suit, and whether they should follow suit.

Health: Is marijuana fairly harmless health-wise or even spiritually beneficial?

There is no evidence that marijuana decreases cognitive functions

A 15-year John Hopkins University study published in May 1999 found “no significant differences in cognitive decline between heavy users, light users, and non-users of cannabis.”

Marijuana is no more harmful than tobacco and alcohol

Although cannabis does indeed have some harmful effects, it is no more harmful than legal substances like alcohol and tobacco. As a matter of fact, research by the British Medical Association shows that nicotine is far more addictive than cannabis. Furthermore, the consumption of alcohol and the smoking of cigarettes cause more deaths per year than does the use of cannabis (e.g. through lung cancer, stomach ulcers, accidents caused by drunk driving etc.). The legalization of cannabis will remove an anomaly in the law whereby substances that are more dangerous than cannabis are legal whilst the possession and use of cannabis remains unlawful.

Marijuana can have a beneficial mind-altering effect if used right

Marijuana use can alter one’s perception of reality or consciousness. The alteration need not be thought of as spiritual or religious to be respected for what it is; a fresh look on a reality that we are programed as humans to perceive only in a particular manner. Marijuana can help humans perceive that complex reality from simply a different perspective, which can benefit our appreciation for that reality and our unique and limited perceptions of it. With this more intelligent approach to marijuana consumption, it is easy to argue that mental, perceptual, and societal benefits exist.

Weighing marijuana's "mind-expansion" against its costs is subjective.

Who can say that marijuana use is “worth it” or “not worth it”? Many individuals strongly believe that marijuana use has a “mind expanding” effect that makes the health costs worth it. Other disagree. But can the government or anyone conclude for us all that “it’s not worth it”? No. With so much subjectiveness involved, marijuana should not be illegal.

Legalization would change drug consumption from a criminal to a health issue

The biggest issue with marijuana relates to the health problems it creates, with lung problems, “addiction”, short-term memory loss, energy loss, and even the risk of schizophrenia. The social costs are little different than those with alcohol or cigarettes. Therefore, it should be treaty as a health issue, rather than a crime issue.

Marijuana is not toxic to humans

James Randerson, Science Correspondent. "Cannabis Chemical Curbs Psychotic Symptoms". Guardian Unlimited UK. April 30, 2007

“London — One of the active chemicals in cannabis inhibits psychotic symptoms in people with schizophrenia, according to a study which compared it with a leading anti-psychotic drug.”

Marijuana is not addictive

There is no evidence that marijuana physically addictive. While it may be psychologically addictive, in the sense that people like it and want to do it again, this is little different than alcohol. But, certainly, cigarettes are more addictive than marijuana. And, since cigarettes are physically addictive and yet legal, should addictiveness really be a barometer for a substance’s illegality? No.

Marijuana can curb psychotic symptoms in people with schizophrenia

It is a myth that marijuana use can cause schizophrenia

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, associate professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and author of Marijuana Reconsidered: “Marijuana laws and their enforcement have become increasingly severe, buttressed by ‘new’ myths dressed in scientific costume such as the present notion, developed largely in England and Australia, that marijuana causes schizophrenia.”[1]

Marijuana has many CONFIRMED medicinal uses

It was widely used to treat glaucoma, give relief to chemotherapy recipients, and also as a TREATMENT for many psychological disorders (such as social anxiety disorder and anxiety disorder). Additionally, there is no contention, in any medical circle, that marijuana is an effective stress reliever, causing it to have IMMEASURABLE beneficial effects in the treatment of stress-related physical and psychological disorders… yet many state governments have banned even the medical use of marijuana solely because it potentially makes it more available to elicit users. There are several studies that not only discount marijuana as a cause of schizophrenia, but further suggest that it has sometimes profound beneficial effects on patients with A.D.D., Borderline Personality Disorder and (yes) schizophrenia.

Marijuana has been used in religious rites and rituals for thousands of years.

If venomous snakes in religious rites and rituals (often used on congregational children) cannot be banned in this country (which the Supreme Court decided is constitutionally protected), then what right does the government have to prohibit the use of an obviously less deadly practice such as the consumption of marijuana? It is for every person ALONE to decide what is spiritually beneficial to them. Our FIRST amendment guarantees it.

Marijuana is worse for individuals and society than alcohol

Both alcohol and marijuana impair judgement. But alcohol has lasting damage on the body and causes death when over consumed.Yet, the distinguishing feature of marijuana is that it has greater long-term effects on memory, cognition, and motivations. Marijuana is more the drug of “losers in life” than alcohol. If one primary objective in society is to produce as many succesfull winners, alcohol is less costly to this objective than marijuana. Also, much less is known about he health effects of marijuana than of alcohol; making caution toward legalizing marijuana more appropriate. It is, therefore, fitting that marijuana be illegal while alcohol be legal.

Marijuana is worse for individuals and society than tobacco.

Both cigarettes and marijuana do damage to the lungs. But, marijuana smoke is much more potent, and can do much more damage.Italic textfreedom of choice, I think its the smokers choice weather to hurt their body the government might as well control what we eat, being overweight can cause way more probelms. tobacco is not only addicting but has a lot of additives.Marijuana on the other hand IS NOT.Marijuana use reduces hormone levels and sperm count unlike cigarettes.Freedom of Choice. And, marijuana impairs judgement, does long term damage to the mind, and can cause psychosisNot a proven statement – just a theory, therefor It is not a fact, It Causes SHORT TERM memory loss. NOT long term.. Cigarettes have none of these mental costs.Addiction, a BIG mental cost. In addition, the health effects of tobacco are much better documented than those of marijuana. Therefore, it is appropriate that cigarettes be legal while marijuana be illegal.

Marijuana is addictive

There are many studies that demonstrate a “dependency” relationship evolving between individuals and marijuana.

Marijuana use increases the risk of psychosis

Cannabis and psychotic illness" Sane Australia. Retrieved 2.13.08:

“Does Cannabis cause psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia? Use of Cannabis can cause a condition called Drug-induced psychosis. This usually passes after a few days. However, if someone has a predisposition to a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia, these drugs may precipitate the first episode in what maybe an ongoing condition. There is increasing evidence that regular cannabis use precedes and causes higher rates of psychotic illness.”

Marijuana impairs brain functions.

Many researches conclude that marijuana impairs short-term memory, cognition, and motivations.

Marijuana smoke is highly damaging to the lungs

Marijuana smoke is more potent than cigarette smoke, with some researches concluding that the negative effect of one joint is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes.

Marijuana use impairs hormone production.

It is frequently cited that marijuana use leads to reductions in sperm levels. This reduction in hormone levels is a major cost of marijuana use.

Marijuana use impairs the immune system.

Marijuana use impairs motor skills.

Marijuana use has been to various birth challenges

That marijuana is herbal does not mean it is safe

Some argue that marijuana is “OK” because it’s “natural”, “herbal”, or “comes from the earth”. But, on these criteria, poisons would be considered “OK” to consume.

Marijuana use can lead to cancer

Just like with cigarettes, the intake of carcinogens in marijuana risks causing cancer.

Marijuana use causes apoptosis or programmed cell death

Unlike alcohol and tobacco, cannabis has a hallucinatory effect on the mind. This is inherently dangerous in itself. Furthermore, just like other drugs, there are many individuals addicted to cannabis who will resort to crime in order to fund their addiction.[citation needed] The legalization of cannabis will lead to the drug becoming more readily available, which in turn will mean that many more people will gain access to it. This will subsequently lead to an increase in the crime rate. Initial statistics from the Netherlands shows that the decriminalization and eventual legalization of cannabis did led to an increase in crime in Dutch society[citation needed].

Uncertainty of marijuana's health effects makes illegality prudent.

There certainly remains uncertainty and debate about marijuana’s health effects. This makes it prudent to error on the side of caution and maintain illegality in states where this is the status quo. What if, for example, a state decided to legalize marijuana, to only discover five years later that marijuana has a dramatically more negative impact on human cognition than previously thought, or that it substantially increased the risks of psychosis? This would be politically and socially damaging. More scientific conclusions should be reached before decisive action is taken in any direction, as clearly the 60 years or so accumulated research to date, which is more than any pharmacutical drug testing standards employ, is insufficient.

Individual liberty: Should individuals be at liberty to use marijuana?

Individuals should be free to harm themselves.

If an individual wants to harm themselves, they should be free to do so.

People should be free to use marijuana as long as it harms no one else

People should be at liberty to treat their bodies how they want to. Indeed, people are allowed to eat and drink to their detriment and even death, so why shouldn’t they be able to harm themselves with marijuana use? This is, of course, assuming that their use does not harm anyone else. This means, as with substances such as alcohol or cigarrettes, that regulations be put in place to ensure that one individual’s consumption of marijuana does not violate the liberties of another citizen. If this is achievable with alcohol and cigarettes, it seems achievable with marijuana.

The choice to use marijuana should be based on individual experience

Marijuana induces different experiences in different individuals; some of these experiences are great, some are terrible and harmful. Individuals should be free to choose to use marijuana or not, depending on their relative experience.

If marijuana is harmful, isn't this sufficient punishment for users

If marijuana is harmful, shouldn’t individuals be at liberty to experience the punishment of a poor choice, and shouldn’t this mean that marijuana use entails its own punishments that requires no imposed government punishment.

Marijuana's social costs should not be arbitrarily discriminated against.

Marijuana may indeed have indirect social costs, such as increased healthcare costs, increased risks on the road, and others. But, illegalizing marijuana on this basis risks being seen as arbitrary discrimination against marijuana. Wouldn’t you also have to illegalize alcohol, tobacco, and fast food on a similar basis. Certainly, the social costs and risks of these substances can be argued as equivalent to the risks of marijuana consumption. Illegalizing marijuana on the basis of its social costs, therefore, opens the law to accusations of being arbitrary, discriminatory, and of double standards. This is not good for the law and the integrity of the social contract.

Marijuana is only unhealthy or risky when abused.

The problem with illegalizing marijuana is that it lumps the most moderate of uses of marijuana in with the worst of abuses. Just like with alcohol, there are scales of use that fall within responsible to irresponsible to abusive categories. The responsible use of marijuana might involve the recreational use of the drug a couple of times a year and in very small doses, such as, a single toke. Does it make sense for such innocuous levels of consumption to be illegal? No. And, yet, in states where marijuana is illegal, such levels of consumption are illegal. Instead of this system, marijuana should be legally regulated like alcohol on the basis of abuse in circumstances where it has the potential to threaten other citizens, such as before driving or operating machinery.

Use of Marijuana (illegally) is a choice.

Many people seem to be under the impression that the use of illegal drugs is something that may be forced on someone. However, unless coerced by force, this is normally not the case. Because laws are a part of our everyday lives, we are taught what things are legal and illegal by law, through life experience. By definition, illegal drugs are not legal to use. Since marijuana is illegal, then use, cultivation, sale and distribution is illegal as well. One doesn’t have to be aware of the moral or health related issues that go along with something to know that it’s illegal. Therefore, if someone wishes to commit an illegal act, then the punishment for getting caught is the punishment of the illegal act violating the law.

Historic leaders would oppose social engineering on Marijuana-use

Thomas Jefferson: “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” Another example is Thomas Paine, who said: “It is the duty of every patriot to protect his country from its government.”

Judgement and common sense cannot be legislated.

No matter what research you read of who’s stories you listen to, the fact remains that the bad or good aspects of marijuana use are above all else subjective, and in essence an oppinion. It is simply a judgement call. Each side has it’s oppinion on the benefits and/or negative ramifications of marijuana use. With marijuana use there are the same pitfalls as any other life activity… bad judgement yeilds bad results… but our ability to choose for ourselves MUST be preserved. There are MUCH more severe social ramifications from a government that is allowed to illegalize ANYTHING solely on the basis of maybes. They cannot illegalize fast food even though it is WIDELY accepted that it is bad for you. They cannot illegalize swimming because you MAY be attacked by a shark. They may not illegalize ANYTHING on the notion that it MAY cause harm. If that were allowed, then any opinion may be made law.

The State is justified in protecting individuals from themselves

Even if marijuana’s effects were isolated to the individual, there is room for the state to protect individuals from harming themselves. This is why it is illegal, in some places, not wear a seat belt. If marijuana’s effects are seen as clearly harmful, the state can justly protect its citizens from it.

Some are "pressured" into marijuana consumption without a "choice".

The notion that individuals should be free to make the choice to consume marijuana is predicated on the notion that they are fully informed of the costs and are in a position of detached judgement. The problem with this assumption is that many individuals grow up in, for instance, ghettos where marijuana is widespread, social pressure to consume is high, and few information is available regarding the costs. In addition, an individual may be illiterate or lack sufficient recourse to uncovering the costs. Is it fair to that individual to expect that they can make a sound judgement? No. The guidance of marijuana’s “illegal” status is an important barrier and red flag to such individuals.

Marijuana use directly threatens other's liberties.

Various risks to other citizens are greatly enhanced by marijuana use. Because marijuana impairs judgement and motor skills in various ways, people on a high who attempt to drive or operate heavy machinery risk other people’s lives or health. Impaired judgement from marijuana use also has the potential to lead to violent encounters.

Legalization of marijuana would make roads more dangerous.

Some train and plane tragedies were connected with marijuana use.

Legalization of marijuana would increase work-place accidents

Police are unable to detect Marijuana highs and public risk

Instances of brutal violence and murder are tied to marijuana use

Instances of brutal violence and murder have been cited as caused, to some extent, by marijuana use and impaired judgement.

Legalization marijuana is tantamount to legalizing speeding

Marijuana's harm to individuals spill over onto communities and society

To argue that individual consumption of marijuana entails only individual consequences is to argue that individuals exist in something of a vacuum. The reality is that citizens within society are highly interconnected and interdependent. If marijuana use leads to the degradation of an individual in various ways, this creates stresses on other individuals who depend on that individual. For example, an individual may be unable to function properly in their job due to their marijuana use, and this may damage the business they are involved with. This damage, in extreme circumstances, could lead to layoffs of other workers or possibly even the disintegration of a business. Another frequent example is the degradation of a family due to marijuana use, and the subsequent degradation of a church and community. To significant degrees, these social damages can be seen as violations of the liberties of other individuals to the extent that liberties can be defined as the opportunity for individuals to seek fulfillment and happiness.

Marijuana's public health costs violate tax-payer liberties.

Marijuana is not a threat to society only because it is illegal

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse:

“Drugs are not a threat to American society because they are illegal; they are illegal because they are a threat to American society.”

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