The Story of Marijuana

In this paper we are going to study the issues related to legalization of marijuana and alcohol, the possible pro and contra arguments, the most widely used explanations of the government and possible outcomes of the polices.

To be clear from the very beginning, we should explain, that marijuana is a drug, received from the flowering tops, stems and leaves of the hemp plants. This drug is one of the most spread ones in the whole world, which is less popular only as nicotine and alcohol. Young people often abuse it due to its relatively small price and availability. Alcohol is also a drug, but a legal one at the moment. It is also often abused by teens as well as adults, who use it as a depressant, which depresses the activity of human brains, causing the feeling of relax and happy mood. Both marijuana and alcohol, although considered by most researchers to be light drugs, still are able to do a lot of harm to young and adult people, ruin their health and lives.

Marijuana has a long history, it has been used since ancient times in order to help to achieve the euphoria states.  It was used in Chinese medical tradition and was mentioned about 2737 BC. It was used as medicine and also in production of clothes. From China people brought marijuana to India about 1000 BC and it quickly became the part of Hindu culture and the part of their religious practices. Hindus from high cast (Brahmins) were not allowed to use alcohol but they could use Bhang ”“ a mixture of uncultivated marijuana. Bhang was also used for religious ceremonies. In India marijuana was called the “giver of life” underlining its ability to affect the human consciousness. From India marijuana was brought to Asia, to the Middle East and later to Africa. In the Middle East it was a permitted alternative to the followers of Mohammed, as the consumption of alcohol was prohibited to them. In Africa it widespread slowly and was used for medicine and cannabis-alcohol mixture and to encourage the warriors before the battle, to rouse their spirits and to make them fearless. Finally about 500 AD it reached Europe, but it didn’t get such a wide popularization as in the East and was a source of inspiration for small privileged groups of artists. The scientists still doubt as for the way it got to America. The hemp was grown on the continent for centuries, but wasn’t used as medicine until the end of the eighteenth century. In North America it was grown for fiber and was one of the most important agricultural products. The use of cannabis (another name for marijuana) as a drug started at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Marijuana was listed as a medicine between 1850 and 1942 and was prescribed for rheumatism, nausea, labor pains to relive the pain. The persecution of marijuana started in 1930s by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics by calling it a dangerous drug and prohibition of its use for medical purposes. The investigations of the Bureau of Narcotics defined marijuana as a powerful drug consumption, which led to strong drug addiction. In 1970 by the Controlled Substances Act marijuana was called the Schedule I drug, which put it in the same position as heroine, opium and LSD. Before 1975 most of the marijuana plants brought to the US were grown in Mexico but after this year the Mexican government joined the program, which was supposed to stop growing it and the already existing plants were sprayed by herbicides. Finally Colombia became the main supplier of marijuana.

During the years 1981-93 Bush and Reagan took the policy of prohibition of drugs, including marijuana. The government leads the “drugs war” trying to exclude the use of drugs from all spheres of life, including medicine. After the beginning of 90s the special attention was paid to the prohibition of growing of marijuana plants, and the big marijuana plantations were demolished by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The actions of the government caused the change of an accent to the indoor growing of marijuana. The government keeps two-way policy. It claims about the effort to reduce the use of marijuana by population and the prohibition of growing and selling and buying it. The federal government took active effort to influence the situation with the help of fines, penalties and other preventive means for the marijuana use.  Millions of dollars are spend every year on struggle with drug use, the costs increase with every year, but the statistics proves the futility of the effort. It was estimated by the National Narcotics Intelligence Consumers Committee (NNICC), that the amount of marijuana produced, has a tendency to increase in the same volume, as the amount of marijuana consumed.  The prices for marijuana rose during last years, which indicated the growth of popularity of this drug.

In 1972, an American presidential commission concluded that marijuana “does not warrant” the harmful consequences of “criminal stigma and threat of incarceration.” In 1978, President Carter told Congress that “penalties against the use of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of a drug itself; and where they are they should be changed. Nowhere this is clearer than in the laws against the possession of marijuana” (Blum, 113).

The question about marijuana legalization was on the peak on popularity during the last 20 years and different political powers tried to speculate on it. Scientific institution takes different researches in order to prove or disapprove the idea of legalization.

The Netherlands were the pioneer in the legalization movement and the number of countries have followed this example and now thank to them we have the patters of possible development of the situation in the case of the legalization of marijuana. At the moment debates take place in Canada around the decriminalization of marijuana. Canada was among the first countries, which legalized marijuana for medical use, and now the question is about legalizing it in general is considered. Decriminalization is a middle step, when no record is made for the use of drugs, and people don’t take criminal responsibility, but still have social responsibilities for the use and keeping of drugs. The group called itself “Yes on 2” has forwarded the program for a November ballot measure to legalize and regulate marijuana in Alaska. The attempt taken in the year 2000 was unsuccessful and this time the group counts on another strategy.

Apart of unsteady arguments for legalization of marijuana, there is a long list of the arguments for its legal prohibition. We are going to name the most important ones:

-                drug is called so because it leads to addition and causes the harmful effect on the health

-                the population, and especially the younger generation is not informed about all the effects, the drugs have upon physical and psychical health. Sometimes teenagers use drugs being absolutely sure they use a harmless pills good for health;

-                the tendency to call a marijuana a “light drug” causes more addictions, than as in the case with “hard” drugs, as people forget caution and feel safe using it.   In 1999, according to reports 225,000 Americans entered substance abuse treatment primarily for marijuana dependence, second only to heroin.

-   a lot of anti-tobacco companies are hold lately, which declare about the danger of consuming tobacco and the danger of lung cancer actually the same can be applied to the marijuana smokers. “Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day.” Marijuana contains more than 400 chemicals, including the most harmful substances found in tobacco smoke. For example, smoking one marijuana cigarette deposits about four times more tar into the lungs than a filtered tobacco cigarette” (Wodak, &  Reinarman, 189).

-                there are negative effects, produced by the consumption of marijuana both long term and short term. These effects include the deterioration of the memory, motor skills and reactions. Some of the long time effects include the lowering of the muscle strength, increased heart rate, and anxiety. Used by teenagers, it can impact their mental development.

-                marijuana itself isn’t a proved medicine. Only one component contained in marijuana called marinol is used for medical purposes. And even if to regard it as a useful for health – smoking isn’t the best way to deliver it to organism and can cause even more harm than benefit.

To this section we can conclude, that although there are a lot of theoretical arguments, approving legalization of marijuana, this is practically absolutely irrational and might bring enough problems for young people, do considerable harm to people’s health and have negative impact on the criminal situation.

Alcohol in its turn, although not legally prohibited can also lead to miserable consequences. We are used nowadays, that people drink alcohol during holidays, some other important occasions. But here we are not going to discuss a glass of wine in the family circle or a bottle of bear during watching a baseball game with friends. We are going to research the cases, when people start to drink too much alcohol and become dependant on it. At the very beginning things seem not so serious, alcohol is seen just as means of relaxation. But sooner or later a person realizes, that he can not stop abusing alcohol as any other drug. Regular and severe abuse of alcohol might have terrible consequences, the price, which such people have to pay is often good work, family, health. They spoil relations with their family members and their friends, because under the influence of alcohol they are no able to control what they are saying or even doing. They are able to hurt other people as well as themselves. There are a lot of horrible cases with car accidents, when a drunk person or others around him are seriously injured or even die. Alcohol itself is often called a poison, because if a person can not control the amount of alcohol he is drinking, he is likely to overdose and finally die because of alcohol poisoning. Unfortunately, such situations happen, when alcohol is abused by young people, who are not completely aware of the possible consequences of alcohol abuse, and are not able to control their consumption of it.

Death is certainly the worst outcome of alcoholism, however if a person remains alive and abuses alcohol, he is often suffering from other serious health problems, like for example damaged pancreas, heart, and brain.

People, who cross the border of alcoholisms are mostly not able to overcome this problem alone, they need help from their relatives, friends, they need treatment at specialized clinics.

Nowadays, when alcohol is legal and can be bought in any supermarket, fortunately there are still some restrictions to it. For example young people under 21 are not allowed to buy alcohol. This is done because teenagers are not always able to make right choices as for drug and alcohol abuse and as researches prove, the earlier a person started to drink, the more is the chance for him to become an alcoholic in the nearest future.

Also due to high rates of car accidents, driving after drinking alcohol is not allowed. This is correct, because only high penalties or even the threat of loosing driving license are very often strong arguments for a drunk person to take a taxi instead of driving himself.

They say, that complete ban for alcohol will not bring the desired results, instead will help some businessmen make additional money, selling alcohol unofficially with increased prices. Even if it is true, there are still a lot of other not so radical steps to be done in order to reduce the number of people abusing alcohol. First of all there should be strict corporate policies at all companies, forbidding alcohol even for holidays’ occasions. There is need for social campaigns against alcohol abuse, which will provide help to people, who became already addicted and keep the others informed of all the possible consequences this type of drug might have.

Overall, we can conclude, that marijuana and alcohol, although quasi or completely legal, have very strong destructive force and can be a serious danger for the society as well as for each of its members. There are a lot of arguments, that marijuana should be legalized, like for example the application of it in medicine, the fact, that it can not do such harm as other drugs do, legalization of it would help to decrease abuse of alcohol and other drugs an so on. In reality, this is a very dangerous drug and should be treated in the corresponding way. The policy of the government of closing eyes to the distribution of marijuana in the black market and initiating debates for its legalization, because is it not so harmful, only worsens the situation. Teenagers like the idea, that marijuana is good for their health more, than prohibition of the drug and become drug addicted. Situation with alcohol is not much better, although it is officially recognized, that alcohol also belongs to dangerous drugs, it is sold absolutely free on every corner and there are constant advertisements on the television, promoting alcohol drinks. There is a strong need of better organization and control of all these problems from the side of the government in order for this problem not to lead to real disaster for the society.

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