Marijuana and Its Legalization
Marijuana (Cannabis sativa), often referred to informally as weed or grass among others, is one of the most widely used—and abused—illegal drugs in the United States and worldwide. Despite its illegal status in most countries around the globe, black market on the production and sale of marijuana continues to flourish. The use, and abuse, of marijuana and its legalization has long been a controversy among legislators, drug suppliers, users, and common people. The heated debate regarding the many-fangled issues regarding this has been a confused potpourri of mangled facts, hearsays, propaganda, fallacies and illogic.
It has been, and perhaps always will be, a touchy topic. This paper would aim to provide a comprehensive analysis of pertinent information and arguments, which if not able to provide a satisfactorily empirical conclusion may at least lay foundation for personal judgment that would hopefully be based on more stable grounds, within the bounds of acceptable logic and objective data. Facts on Marijuana Amidst the controversies, and largely causing them, empirical data which is required for a logical argument is surprisingly hard to come by.
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Such data that supposedly aids informed judgment are released by two primary sources: the government and the advocates of marijuana legalization. Since these two factions are deliberately in opposition, the facts they release are often times colored by their personal stand on the issue. As such, those on the con side of marijuana legalization, i. e. the government, highlights and at times exaggerates the dangers of the use of marijuana, whereas those on the pro side underplays these dangers and assures the masses of its safety.
Both sides utilize copious amounts of fallacious propaganda, clouding up the arena of empirical and objective thinking. In minimizing—if not completely obliterating—such biases, certain hard facts could be arrived at. Properties of Cannabis In scientific parlance, cannabis is the general term referring to any number of methods of preparation for the utilization of the Cannabis plant (C. sativa), and colloquially known as marijuana. Cannabis is a psychoactive drug, i. e. ne known and utilized for its effect on the brain and its functions. Active ingredient of cannabis. C. sativa is known to contain the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This chemical has been shown to have partial agonistic (i. e. activating) effect on cannabinoid receptors B1 (CB1) found in the brain and spinal cord, as well as on the cannabinoid receptors B2 (CB2) on the immune system. Cannabinoid binding to these receptors (primarily CB1) causes mild to moderate analgesic effects, and are thus used pharmacologically.
Since CB1 are found more densely in certain areas of the brain affecting “pleasure, memory, thinking, concentrating, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement” (National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], 2010), it is in these areas that the mild effects of THC are manifested. These include a distorted or heightened time-space and sensory perception, mild analgesia, and euphoria. THC is considered the active ingredient of cannabis—thus the potency of cannabis samples is assessed in terms of percent concentration of THC.
However, often times a larger chemical component of cannabis is cannabidiol, which may act as antagonist to the effects of THC. Methods of preparation and usage. Unprocessed marijuana is “a dry, shredded green and brown mix of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves”; processed forms include hashish, the resin form, and hash oil derived from this resin. (NIDA, 2010) The most common route of intake of the drug is via inhalation of smoke. This is administered using, mainly, “joints,” cigarettes containing dried marijuana.
Pipes, certain forms of steam inhalation similar to hookahs, and tea preparations also exist. (NIDA, 2010) Effects of Cannabis Given the above mentioned chemical properties of marijuana, the effects of the use of this drug has been studied—however limited, as would be discussed in depth later on; a lot of gray areas could still be identified. Nevertheless certain recognized pathophysiological results could be defined. Neurological and mental effects of THC. As was discussed, the active ingredient of cannabis produces certain mild analgesic and sensory-altering effects.
Research reported by NIDA concludes moderately long-term psychological effects of chronic use, as well as a correlation with certain mental conditions as schizophrenia, although no direct cause-and-effect relationship has been defined (2010). Physiological effects. NIDA also reports studies concluding certain physiological effects of marijuana smoking (2010). Dysregulated growth of respiratory epithelial lining has been associated with smoking marijuana—although perhaps not with marijuana as a drug per se, judging by similar known effects of tobacco smoking.
Oncological effects are also suggested—but not conclusively reported: no correlation has been seen between marijuana use and lung cancer, despite findings of dysregulated cell growth which may be cancerous. (NIDA, 2010) Palpitations and arrhythmia has also been identified as an effect of smoking marijuana, albeit for a short period only: heart rate increases 20-100% within three hours of smoking. Also, an hour immediately after smoking, risk for cardiac arrest appeared to have an approximately four-fold increase. (NIDA, 2010) Effects of drug (ab)use. No scientific study claims physiologically addictive properties of the drug.
However, the tendency to psychological dependence of drug users on smoking marijuana is irrefutable. An online article states: [M]any pot-smokers use the plant as self-medication, in the sense that they use it as a security blanket when their life is not going well; those same people are also likely to roll a joint to celebrate the fact that ‘today is good. ’ Got a cold, coming down with flu? A smoke will help. So, perhaps weed isn’t addictive in the true sense of the word, marijuana is a lifestyle choice and it becomes a habit that can be difficult to break. (“Marijuana Addiction,” n. . ) Also, social effects could be identified. The behavioral effects of marijuana, temporarily or otherwise, may yield to certain impairments, as in “several important measures of life achievement, including physical and mental health, cognitive abilities, social life, and career status. ” (NIDA, 2010) Moreover, the negative effects of marijuana can manifest in “persons besides the user, in [terms of] the rise of health care costs, violence associated with the use of drugs, neglect of children by drug-addicted parents, and other third party effects. ” (“Marijuana Pros and Cons,” n. . ) Effects of withdrawal. NIDA reports these effects hence: Long-term marijuana abusers trying to quit report withdrawal symptoms including: irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which can make it difficult to remain abstinent. These symptoms begin within about 1 day following abstinence, peak at 2-3 days, and subside within 1 or 2 weeks following drug cessation. (2010) Despite the direness of this report, the symptoms evidenced could be largely if not wholly attributed to the effects of psychological, not physiological, addiction.
This observation is strongly supported by conspicuous lack of evidence on physiological addictive properties of cannabis. Arguments on Cannabis Legalization Given the extensively broad nature of this controversial issue, and the protracted span of time it has been discussed, it would be impossible to narrate and scrutinize it in its entirety. However, a concise yet comprehensive summary must be presented in order to achieve the objectives of this paper. Major points of debate have been raised by both sides of the argument. Here are some, to wit: Personal freedom vs.
Goal of state. This is a foremost argument of those for the legalization of marijuana. People call upon their individual right for free will. Moreover, some insists upon their right to self-determination, especially in terms of moral beliefs; this is in response to certain arguments favoring marijuana prohibition which calls upon Judeo-Christian beliefs of the immorality of intoxication. However, it is upon the interests of any state to uphold what would be the better for its constituents; this includes non-support of harmful products. The harmfulness of marijuana is another heated topic, as below. ) Some critics say though that politicians use this campaign against marijuana as propaganda to uphold an image of righteousness, thus serving their own purposes, and not the state’s. The futility of prohibition. The ineffectuality of the law banning marijuana production and sale has been cited as grounds in favor of its legalization. It is a point of fact that despite the prohibition, production and sale still persists. Moreover, it is undertaken in the illegal market, entailing various other problems.
Firstly, illegal drugs are more attainable for children than tobacco and alcohol. This is attributed to the fact that legalized products which may be harmful can be regulated. Illegal trade however knows no boundaries in sale and picks no customer. (“The Pros and Cons of Legalizing Marijuana,” n. d. ) Also, illegal sale causes more crimes; since the products are illegal, they are sold more expensively, and since buyers would want to buy despite the price, some may resort to crimes in order to obtain money for purchase of the illegal drugs.
Moreover, the overall law enforcement activities costs the government expenditures which, some argue, would better serve the state if allocated and channeled to some other pursuits. (“The Pros and Cons of Legalizing Marijuana,” n. d. ) Lastly, prohibition does not demotivate users—as well as prospective future users—from purchasing and utilizing an illegal drug; on the contrary, some may be more tempted to do so, with the mentality that prohibited stuff are more enjoyable, etc. Decriminalization and regulation.
As already argued, legalization would entail regulation, so as to protect children more effectively, taking the lead of other products that are legal but regulated, such as tobacco and alcohol. As entails with what was also stated above, legalization would collapse the illegal drug industry, thereby in turn lowering the crime rates related to illegal drug suppliers and users. However, it may be argued that legalization would only increase the popularity of marijuana. Furthermore, it would give an impression of social acceptability—people, especially the youth, would think that a legal product could not be too bad since the overnment somehow allows its sale. Compounding effects on society. The use of marijuana—and the legalization of the same—could be objected to by its propensity towards “snow-balling,” i. e. the act’s instigation of further acts until the collective mass of populace committing it continually swells. This is supported by the argument that people who routinely utilize cannabis are not in a proper state of mind, and are thus incapable of making an informed decision to stop their use or abuse of the drug.
Also implicated in this argument is the gateway theory, stating that utilization and abuse of soft drugs such as marijuana leads to the utilization and abuse of hard drugs, e. g. cocaine, heroin, etc. As a whole, the impact on society also grows; cases of marijuana-related third party effects such as parental irresponsibility (the neglect by marijuana-using parents of their children), increased health care costs, drug-induced violence etc increase. Confusion of empirical data.
This one argument could be seen as the most grievous one, being the root cause of the insolvability of this long and laborious discussion. The unfortunate lack of a clear statement of facts, one not clouded by biases for or against cannabis legalization, is a fact that should be lamented upon by all people involved, and one that should be remedied immediately. The prohibition of the drug is also a big factor on the lack of extensive research. It is true that numerous studies are continually cited by factions of both sides, but almost all of these are, of course, government-funded.
This being the case, only those results consistent to the drug’s harmful image necessary to support its ban are supported by the government. This does not mean to imply that the results of these studies are inaccurate; it only entails that not the entire picture is explored. Or if some other area—one non-supportive of the desired bad image of cannabis—is studied, it would not be as widely broadcast and claimed. As it is, there is a lot of confusion as to the effects of marijuana, its addictiveness—or non-addictiveness—and other properties. Conclusions and Recommendations
On marijuana. One highly vital fact about cannabis that must be highlighted and reiterated is that it is not physiologically addictive, but it is dangerously easy to be an object of one’s psychological dependence. As such, prohibition or no, legalization or otherwise, caution and prudence must be maintained when dealing with this drug, especially for parents in their guidance of their children. Also, the hazards to health [which smoking marijuana presents] must be made clear, but without the hyperbolic proportions of most government-related propaganda on its prohibition.
Again, no direct link is found between marijuana use and lung cancer, but it is proven that marijuana—or at least smoking it—does cause damage to the lungs. Meanwhile, though carcinogenic properties of marijuana may be proven, especially in future studies, it does not necessarily mean that any given dose of it would in all instances cause cancer. Again, caution and prudence is important—as well as moderation. On propaganda. It would also be wise to encourage the general populace to keep a clear eye and an open mind in processing facts and data—especially when coming form such widely-used media as the Internet.
The deliberate manipulation of data, the propagandistic tweaking of facts, must be condemned, not only in scientific circles but most importantly also in the layman. Even the use of certain wordings must be noticed; intellectual vigilance must be upheld for one to arrive at the best judgment and decision. This holds particularly true with the government people, who must always bear in mind the true purpose of their work, which is to serve the State and make sure that no harm—such as one that is caused by miseducation and propaganda—befalls its constituents. On prohibition.
If this paper shall be sought for a stand on the issue itself, then it will be this: that there should be no ban on marijuana… or instead ban it, along with alcohol and tobacco. Proof—those unadulterated by bias shown by factions both for and against legalization of marijuana—shows that it is dangerous to the health, but not any different from alcohol and tobacco. In fairness to those arguing against it, the prohibition of marijuana has almost more setbacks than good results. One would see that the disadvantages could outweigh the advantages of the drug ban.
On the other hand, it is important to always maintain that marijuana is not “just weed”—it is a perilous drug that must be utilized only with utmost consideration and control. To summate, one thing is certain: there is a need for a change of laws, and of the information management regarding cannabis. In the end, should the government opt for decriminalization and regulation, imposing luxury tax, or the whatever, what must be prioritized is clarification of facts. Without this, no good could progress; but with this alone, perhaps the general people would be wise enough to keep their own counsel, even without legal guidance.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Health. (2010). NIDA InfoFacts: Marijuana. Retrieved from http://www.nida.nih.gov/Infofacts/marijuana.html Marijuana Addiction. In LegalizationOfMarijuana.com. Retrieved from http://legalizationofmarijuana.com/marijuana-addiction.html Marijuana Pros and Cons. In LegalizationOfMarijuana.com. Retrieved from http://legalizationofmarijuana.com/pros-and-cons-of-marijuana.html Pros and Cons of Marijuana Legalization. In LegalizationOfMarijuana.com. Retrieved from http://legalizationofmarijuana.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-marijuana-2-html