Our president Bill Clinton and both Al Gore and George W. Bush have smoked pot at least once. I’m sure people in the U.S. know someone personally who has ingested marijuana, if they have not smoked it. Next to alcohol and nicotine, marijuana is the most popular drug in America, with approximately 10 million regular smokers. Besides the recreational uses of this illicit drug, it has been proven to effectively treat medical ailments for patients such as AIDS and cancer sufferers. So why is this plant labeled as a schedule I drug by the DEA? That would have to mean it has no medicinal effectiveness, but states such as Washington, Nevada, Maine, Arizona and California have all voted marijuana legal for medical patients with certain illnesses to consume. Why doesn’t the government stop contradicting themselves and making a mockery of our judicial system? The federal government should legalize marijuana.
The marijuana plant comes in many different forms and names. It’s sometimes referred to as grass, hemp, pot, ganja, and cannabis sativa. The active ingredient, what produces the high, in marijuana is THC (tetrahydrocannabinal). As of now, marijuana is considered a schedule I drug by the federal government. Having marijuana categorized with such drugs as PCP, LSD, and heroin is just plain ridiculous.
To be a schedule I drug, a drug has to posses three qualities. The first is that the drug has to have a high potential for abuse, which I believe marijuana does not. Essentially all drugs are used in an “addictive fashion”. However, for any drug to be identified as highly addictive, there should be evidence that substantial numbers of users repeatedly fail in their attempts to discontinue use and develop use-patterns that interfere with other life activities. National epidemiological surveys show that large a majority of people who have had experience with marijuana do not become regular users. In 1999, among Americans age 12 and over, about 35% had used marijuana sometime in their life, but only 8.9% had used it in the past year, and only 5.1% in the past month (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Drug Abuse Survey G.6). These findings obviously reflect that marijuana is not “highly addictive”.
The second trait of a schedule I drug is that it has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. This classification stands in sharp contradiction to the medical reality. During the 20th century, cannabis has been discovered to be an effective treatment for many ailments. For example, based on major research, Dr. Van Sim concluded that “marijuana… is probably the most potent anti-epileptic known to medicine today.” More powerful than standard epileptic drugs, cannabis totally eliminated epileptic seizures in children not responding to legal drug therapies. But of course our benevolent Drug Czars remind us, healing the sick and aiding those who suffer “could send the wrong message to children.” Let the children suffer and seizure in silence, just don’t kill our prison proliferating pot prohibition program.
Dr. Robert Hepler, neuro-opthalmologist with the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, published a major study (Journal of the American Medical Association 217) in 1971 demonstrating that cannabis lowers intraocular pressure in the eyes. Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness, is a condition in which intraocular pressures build up causing optical damage. Cannabis has been proven to reduce these pressures far better than legal drugs, allowing glaucoma patients to keep their vision so long as they use cannabis regularly.
Research at the Harvard Medical School (New England Journal of Medicine 795-7) demonstrated conclusively that cannabis is the most effective anti-emetic, or anti-nausea, agent available. It has been used in this regard to eliminate the violent nausea and vomiting experienced by cancer patents undergoing chemotherapy. This has been accepted as common knowledge to doctors and patients of cancer. Cancer ward workers have been known to turn a blind-eye on cannabis smoking in the hospital.
I have had first hand experience with a cancer patient that marijuana has had an astonishing effect for. Her name is Melissa. She was a very pretty and popular girl before her cells were attacked by cancer. After the chemotherapy, at age 16, Melissa had lost every strand of hair and all her features looked swollen and over exaggerated. Several times a day she would turn very pale and come near collapsing because of nausea from chemotherapy. She would immediately partake of the herb and recover from her nausea almost instantly. She insisted that without the marijuana, she would vomit. Melissa also mentioned to me that doctors would subtly recommend cannabis to her and other cancer patients. Should Melissa and other victims of cancer be hauled off to jail for relieving these violent attacks of nausea by the best means available? Are these criminals in your eyes? The law says they are.
The DEA and other agencies funded studies at the Medical College of Virginia to look for evidence that cannabis causes health problems. Instead of finding problems, the researchers made a breakthrough when they discovered, in 1975, that cannabis showed powerful anti-tumor activity against both benign and malignant tumors. The DEA and NIH quickly defunded the studies and prohibited any future cannabis/tumor research.
In 1988 the DEA's own conservative judge, Francis Young, after hearing medical testimony for 15 days and reviewing hundreds of DEA and NIDA documents that argued against medical cannabis, concluded that: "In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used…"
Perhaps the most common myth about smoking marijuana is that it kills brain-cells. When in fact, it has the exact opposite effect on cells. THC is a neuroprotective antioxidant that extends brain-cell life span (A. J. Hampson 1). See, I bet you would have never thought. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. There has been an enormous amount of negative propaganda spread around through the years, and that’s exactly what it is, propaganda.
Nevertheless, even in light of the overwhelming body of evidence proving beyond a doubt that cannabis is medically safe and effective, the DEA refuses to change their stance that it has medical benefits. Why is the government ignoring the facts? Maybe it’s because the DEA found out during the Iran Contra, how much money they could make doing illegal drug sales themselves. Hmm… I wonder.
Organizations that have endorsed medical access to marijuana include: The American Cancer Society; American Medical Association; the Institute of Medicine; the American Bar Association, American Public Health Association; National Association of Attorneys General; and the National Academy of Sciences.
The third quality that marijuana is said to possess, as a schedule I, is also the most ludicrous. The DEA states, “There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.” This one is a joke. Persons under the effects of marijuana are most often calm, sluggish, and responsive to commands. What’s so unsafe about a passive, giggling person that’s preoccupied with getting something to eat? An individual high on cannabis not a danger to themselves or others. There is sense and there is nonsense. The claim that marijuana is unsafe under medical supervision is nonsense.
Another benefit of legalizing marijuana would be the industrial hemp profits. There are a wide variety of products that can be derived from hemp. Several other prosperous countries grow industrial hemp today. Nations such as France, Switzerland, England and Canada, just to name a few. The cultivation of hemp will also put the U.S. in the lucrative market of products derived from this versatile plant. Through the legalization of marijuana, there would be a, much needed, influx of new jobs in America. Processing plants would need to be started, built, and managed. This would create new entrepreneurs; plus give jobs to contractors, engineers, and other skilled laborers. Aspiring entrepreneurs could also start marijuana/hemp specialty shops, and hemp bars would surly be started. The possibilities are endless and very profitable.
Commercial hemp has countless uses. It’s a great herb for cooking and nutritional value. Some uses for marijuana as being edible are tea, salad, cooking oil, and as a flavorful, intoxicating enhancer for any food you would like to put it in. In fact, hemp seed is far more nutritious than even soybean It contains more essentially fatty acids than any other source, is second only to soybeans in complete proteins (but is more digestible by humans), is high in B-vitamins, and is 35% dietary fiber (Sonia Nazario A1).
The stalk of the hemp plant has two parts, called the bast and the hurd. The fiber (bast) of the hemp plant can be woven into almost any kind of cloth. It is very durable. In fact, the first Levi's blue jeans were made out of hemp for just this reason. Even today, you can see the picture on the label of Levi’s shows two horses unable to pull apart this strong material. Compared to all the other natural fibers available, hemp is more suitable for a large number of applications.
Hemp fiber is longer, stronger, and more absorbent and has better insulation than cotton fiber. The cloth that hemp makes may be a little less soft than cotton, (though there are also special kinds of hemp, or ways to grow or treat hemp, that can produce a soft cloth) but it is much stronger and longer lasting. Plus it does not stretch out. Environmentally, hemp is a better crop to grow than cotton; especially the way cotton is grown nowadays. Hemp grows well without herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides. Almost half of the agricultural chemicals used on U.S. crops are applied to cotton (John Horgan 24-5).This potential cash crop can be used to every application that cotton is used for and more.
In our national efforts to conserve trees that are hundreds of years old, this multi-purpose plant is an excellent alternative material. Hemp produces more pulp per acre than timber on a sustainable basis (one acre of hemp equals an entire four acres of forest), and can be used for every quality of paper (USDA 1). Hemp paper manufacturing can reduce waste-water contamination and it’s low lignin content reduces the need for acids used in pulping, and its creamy color lends itself to environmentally friendly bleaching instead of harsh chlorine compounds. Less bleaching results in less dioxin and fewer chemical by-products. It can also be recycled more times. In addition, hemp fiberboard produced by Washington State University was found to be twice as strong as wood-based fiberboard. Another benefit is hemp fiber paper resists decomposition, and does not yellow with age when an acid-free process is used.
Industrial hemp is also an alternative energy source. According to the Department of Energy and Dr. Brooks Kelly, hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialized growing and processing procedures of all hemp products. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gasoline. Development of biofuels could significantly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power. Eco-friendly hemp can replace most toxic petro-chemical products. Additional research is being done to use hemp in manufacturing biodegradable plastic products: plant-based cellophane, recycled plastic mixed with hemp for injection-molded products, and resins made from the oil, to name just a very few examples.
As you can see, the plant that marijuana is derived from has an abundance of positive uses. It not only is a better crop than some that are being implemented today, but it is also more environmentally friendly. It’s a wonder why the DEA decided to throw the baby out with the bath water when they banned the whole plant species along with the drug.
The paramount reason that marijuana should be legalized is for recreational use. This part of the issue of legalization is the primary goal of most pro-marijuana activists. Why should you and the rest of America care about this issue? First and foremost, because it is wrong in principle for the government to criminalize such personal behavior. A government that cannot make it a crime for an individual to drink a martini should, for the same reasons, not be permitted to make it a crime to smoke marijuana. John Stuart Mill said it perfectly back in 1857 in his famous essay, On Liberty: "Over himself," he wrote, "over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign." And Americans certainly behave as if they believe that. As I stated earlier, marijuana is the third most popular drug in America after alcohol and nicotine with approximately 10 million regular smokers. During this recent voting season, Mendocino County, California has shown it’s stance on marijuana by making it !
legal, under Measure G, to grow up to 25 plants of cannabis sativa for medical or recreational purposes.
The criminal prohibition of marijuana thus represents an extraordinary degree of government intrusion into the private, personal lives of those adults who choose to use it. Moreover, marijuana users are not the only victims of such a policy because a government that crosses easily over into this zone of personal behavior will cross over into others. The right to personal autonomy, what Mill called individual sovereignty, in matters of religion, political opinion, sexuality, reproductive decisions, and other private, consensual activities is at risk so long as the state thinks it can legitimately punish people for choosing a marijuana joint over a martini.