Saturday, November 17, 2012

Should Marijuana be legalized in the USA?

“It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizens from falling intoerror; it is the function of the citizens to keep the Government from fallinginto error”.

The citizens may have relished the constitution’s amendment throughout the course of history, yet the state seems to forget the very element of the basis it frames to run the affairs. The citizens have tried again and again to unfold the blind that seems to be wrought around the eyes of the state runners but all to dismay. All the rules are to be followed by the citizens, yet if they try to keep the government from falling into error, they are revoked and ignored. What basis does this formulate for the all ‘liberal’ and all ‘democratic’ United States of America? The citizens have tried and failed, but the burning issue still remains undecided; “Should Marijuana be legalized in the USA?” Despite the words of the great George Washington, “Make the mostof the Hemp Seed and sow it everywhere," the sowing, use and possession remains subjected to arrest and federal punishment . In spite of the shocking latest results of the Gallup polling, where 55% of the population voted in favor of legalizing Marijuana, the democracy seems to have failed and so does the claim of the constitution’s amendment.

Marijuana, weed, pot and grass are all the names given to a recreational drug used throughout the world today. The drug is extracted from the ‘Cannabis Sativa’ plant which grows in almost all the inhibited parts of the world. The use of Marijuana has prevailed over countless centuries; records dating back almost 2737 B.C show its use as a Medicine in China. It gradually mobilized to all parts of the world, and later became incorporated as a ‘mild’ and ‘entertaining’ drug in the different cultures. The drug became an integral part of the America’s ‘hippie’ culture and ‘beat generation’ in the 1900s. However, a campaign conducted in the 1930s by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics sought to portray Marijuana as a powerful, addicting substance that would lead users into narcotics addiction by using terms such as, ‘Marijuana: The assassin of youth’and ‘Marijuana: The devil's weed with roots in hell’ . As a result it became outlawed in 1937 Marijuana Act which led to an uproar amongst the users. The Act is still followed in the USA without much alteration and the protests by the citizens have continued to grow. The celebration of the ‘4:20 day’ every year by millions of people denotes the fervor among the population for legalization of Marijuana. Despite the illegalization, it is estimated that around 16.7 million Americans aged 12 or older use Marijuana at least once in a month according to the NationalSurvey on Drug Use and Health . Although, many people argue that Marijuana’s use is hazardous to health and highly addictive, however it should be legalized because it can lead to enormous tax revenue generation, growth of various industries and a reduction in the crime rate.

Many people fallaciously argue that the use of Marijuana can be harmful to health and lead to diseases such as lung cancer and brain impairment. The proponents of keeping Marijuana illegal base their arguments on the opinions of the medical researchers who backed the illegalizing of Marijuana in 1937. They argue that Marijuana stimulates the cannabinoid receptors in the brain and such artificial stimulant may cause damage to the brain in the long run. The opposition also believes that like cigarettes, Marijuana can also damage the lining of the lungs leading to lung cancer. However, it needs to be realized that the technology and awareness of the medical science lacked the precision and validity which it has achieved now. The world of science keeps changing with each advancement in technology rendering the previous ‘facts’ erroneous. Such has been the case with the examination of Marijuana’s effects on the human body. Latest researches by the different medical boards across the USA have revealed striking results which debunk the common misconceptions held about Marijuana. Earlier this month, the National Cancer Institute bowed to a burgeoning legion of studies suggesting that one of the chemical compounds in cannabis slows oreven stops the uncontrolled cell growth . In one study, tumors in lab mice shrank once they were exposed to the compound CBD found in Marijuana smoke. The National Cancer Institute updated its Web site accordingly, including a reference to a ‘possible direct antitumor effect’ from Marijuana . In addition to this, Harvard University released a study on April 17, 2007 which too showed that the active ingredient in Marijuana, THC, cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread . Furthermore, it has also been found that Marijuana can also prevent the growth of tumors in brain and breasts considerably. The therapeutic properties are also important when it comes to relieving cancerpatients of the nausea and pains that are caused by Chemotherapy. Even the Federal Drug Association (FDA) has approved the use of the main ingredient of Marijuana (THC) for the treatment of nausea and neuropathic pains. Moving on, the argument of the brain damage can also be debunked by the study conducted by University of Saskatchewan which suggests that Marijuana can in fact stimulate the growth of brain cells rather than damaging them. This study also revealed that Marijuana can stimulate the cell growth in brain regions concerning anxiety and depression and can lead to developments of cures for such illnesses. Therefore, the expression ‘pot-head’ may not hold as much significance as it had gained after the misconceptions became associated with Marijuana. Furthermore, a research byScripps Research Institute also showed that Marijuana can in fact stop the Alzheimer disease (a neurological disorder causing loss of memory and thinking ability) by obstructing the regions that cause the disease. It has also been associated with the treatment of Glaucoma by the Californian Medical board and several other researches also show that it does not have any effect on the body even by long term use. The illegalization on basis of medical discrepancies is completely fallacious and holds no truth in the modern world. James Burl in his book, The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics wrote, "There are no long lasting ill-effects from the acute use of Marijuana and no fatalities have ever been recorded ....’’ . Hence Marijuana does not damage the body or harm lungs and brain; instead it stops the growth of cancer and improves the condition of brain cells along with treating glaucoma and its related illnesses.

In addition to the previous point, the opposition also argues that Marijuana is highly addictive and can lead to physical dependency amongst its users. They base their argument on the large number of regular users which are present in the USA today; if the users regularly buy Marijuana so it means that it is addictive. The opposition maybe right to some extent, however the addiction which is being referred to needs to be analyzed in terms of its effect on the users. In fact ‘addiction’ may not even be a suitable word to be used with Marijuana use. It does not lead to craving for further intake and neither does it cause any physical addiction or dependence. ‘The Science of Marijuana’, written by Leslie L. Iverson, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Cambridge gives detailed analyses of the surveys and experiments conducted on the addiction levels of Marijuana. According to the statistics, only 9% of the regular users develop some kind of addiction on Marijuana. On the other hand, around 39% of smokers and 25% of the alcoholics develop serious addiction and it gets very difficult for them to stop smoking cigarettes or consuming alcohol (Iversen). They may suffer from physical withdrawal symptoms and may require medical help to get out of the symptoms which may include nausea, sleeplessness, hunger deprivation and anxiety. However, researchers have found no physical withdrawal symptoms if a regular Marijuana smoker stops smoking. This is because the addiction is not as severe as it is in the case of smokers and alcoholics. Moreover, the mild addiction is just like how someone gets into a habit of drinking a soft drink like Coca Cola or Pepsi daily. It is not even logical to refer to such a ‘habit’ as addiction or physical dependency. Furthermore, around 91% of regular Marijuana smokers are reported to leave Marijuana once they are married without any withdrawal symptom. Keeping in mind all the statistics, it seems ironic that Marijuana which is relatively non-addictive is illegal whereas tobacco and alcohol are legal and easily available throughout the country. The reason which is presented by many public analysts is that the state had outlawed Marijuana just to protect the revenues of the alcohol and tobacco industry because it has been found by a research that Marijuana smokers tend to consume less cigarettes or alcohol. This political agenda behind the illegalization is farfetched and needs to be uprooted from its very source. As the Economic weekly reported that cannabis, like other medicines, has side effects; however these side effects are “not physical but political”. Therefore, Marijuana has the least relative rate of addiction compared to all the drugs, especially tobacco and alcohol, hence legalizing it would help the state to further its democratic image in the minds of the people.

Moving on, one of the major arguments to support the legalization of Marijuana is enormous tax revenue generation and furthering of economic condition of the country significantly. According to the latest statistics, the consumers in the USA spend around $45 billion dollars in theconsumption of Marijuana. If the average price is taken to be $10 per gram and levying the same tax rate which is prevalent on cigarettes, the revenue generation can be between $60 billion to $100 billion (BusinessPundit). This is a huge number compared to the fact that presently all the money goes into the pockets of underground dealers and gangs. The money, of course does not show up in the official records thereby reducing the potential Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the economy greatly. In order to combat this, the state could set up shops and sale Marijuana through them. The customers may be charged with variety of taxes; federal excise tax, a state excise tax and a sales tax (Legalize, Tax Marijuana to FillBudget Gap). The system would pretty much be like how liquor is distributed. Furthermore, it could also be sold in bars and nightclubs, which would be licensed of course. The legalization would in turn increase the job availability as more shops would be set up. Also, it will greatly increase the incomes of the farmers who will now grow Marijuana as a cash-crop. The benefit which could be gained from it is that the increased incomes could be taxed therefore further increasing the revenue generation. This presents a win-win scenario for the government and the society as a whole. Not only will the money, which forms a part of the black economy of USA, be curbed but the money will also be transferred to the hands of the state. The revenue could be spent to level the budget deficit and may also be used for the benefits of the economy by providing more public goods and services. Therefore, if Marijuana is legalized and taxed, it could generate huge amounts of tax revenue from the sale and incomes of the people who will get involved in the business thereby pulling the economy out of the economic downturn being faced presently.

Furthermore, humans have used parts of the Marijuana plant for textiles, fiber and paper for over thousands of years and today modern processing technologies have made it possible for it to be used as an alternative to plastic and other petroleum products. First of all, Marijuana has been used for making clothes as far back as the Greeks era. Even today, it is considered to be the strongest natural fiber available in the world. Thomas Jefferson and GeorgeWashington too were advocates of Marijuana fiber and recommended their fellowcountrymen to use the plant as fabric for uniforms and clothing. It is considered to be stronger than cotton and can be used in the production of rugs and carpets. In addition to being stronger, it can also yield 250% more fiber than cotton. Surprisingly, the first flag of America and the first pair of jeans by Levis were made with Marijuana plant because its durability . Furthermore, Marijuana can also be used to produce a fine quality paper. It is estimated that around 1 acre of Marijuana plant can produce as much paper as 4 acres of trees. The fact that it can regenerate in months without any use of fertilizers further enhances its significance. Thomas Jefferson’s journal entry reported that trees are scanty to produce and harm the land whereas Marijuana is “abundantly productive and grows forever on the same spot” (Hemp: AnAlternative Fiber for Making Paper). The current global ‘go green’ movement to save trees and protecting environment adds weight to the argument of growing Marijuana. Moreover, latest researches show that Marijuana can be effectively used as a substitute for natural oil in the production of plastics. In 1941, Henry Ford built a Marijuana fueled and fabricated automobile that weighed only two/thirds the amount of a steel car and could resist blows 10 times as great without denting. There is film footage of Henry Ford hitting this car with a sledge hammer, and the hammer just bounces right back without any noticeable damage at all. This depicts the durability of plastic made from Marijuana. Although plastic from Marijuana plant is currently being produced in China, however the benefits cannot be borne by the US industrial sector. If Marijuana is legalized and its cultivation encouraged, it may turn out to be the biggest cash crop for USA because of its numerous industrial uses.

Moreover, legalization of Marijuana would lead to a reduction in crime rate and curbing of the annual spending on law enforcement agencies which could prove socially beneficial. A billion dollar underground industry, sale and growth of Marijuana are in the hands of underground gangs and dealers. It has created a violent illicit market that is responsible for far too many lost lives and broken communities (Tax Dollars and Government Spending). Organized crime, gangs and drug cartels have the most to gain financially from prohibition, and these profits can easily be funneled into arms smuggling, violence and corruption . It is estimated that drug prohibition channels over $40 billion a year into the criminal underworld. This not only usurps the right of government to this huge financial gain but also induces and feeds into much crime related activities and crimes. If the state reverses its decision the underworld would lose billions of dollars as Marijuana would be sold in a legitimate open market environment. Also, the people currently in the Marijuana business instigate the development of crime subculture in the inner cities. Young and jobless individuals get easily incited by the money, cars and lavish lifestyle by the drug dealers and the individuals turn to Marijuana dealing because of the easy and lucrative business dealing. Moreover, people involved in the business cannot go to courts to settle their disputes and when black-market contracts are breached, the result is often some form of violent sanction, which usually leads to retaliation and then open warfare in the streets. The legalization would lead to curbing of the growing crime culture and will have a positive impact on the reduction of organized crime and gang violence throughout the country. In addition to that, it is estimated thataround 97.5 people are arrested every hour for the possession of Marijuana in the United States. The majority of the convicts are teenagers and who are found with very small amounts of Marijuana. In 2007 the Department of Justice reported that there were 1,841,182 drug arrests in the United States; the report alsostated that there were more drug abuse arrests than any other category of offenses. Marijuana arrests accounted for 47.4% of the drug abuse arrests. This allows us to estimate that about 872,720 persons were arrested for Marijuana offenses. This is the greatest number of people arrested in the world for any drug possession. This is not surprising compared to the fact that USA has the highest rate of incarceration with 2,266,800 adults incarcerated in U.S. prisons at year-end 2010 (United States of America. Bureau of Justice Statistics). What holds significance in these statistics is the fact that the jailing related expenses for holding such a large number of convicts come from the public purse in form of taxes. In 2010 the U.S. federal government spent over $15 billion dollars on the War on Drugs, at a rate of about $500 per second (Sheriff Mack's Constitutional Posse). This has significant repercussions not only on the public purse, which is being drained holding such juvenile ‘criminals’ but also on the lives of innocent individuals. Furthermore, not only billions of tax dollars are wasted, but drug war spending also results in the defunding of other important services. Money funneled into drug enforcement has meant less funding for more serious crimes and has left essential education, health, social service and public safety programs struggling to operate on meager funding (Wasted Tax Dollars). Also, the arresting of Marijuana possessors diverts the limited resources of law enforcement agencies from the prevalent heinous crimes such as murder, rape and robberies therefore failing to control these crimes. Dan Quayle, U.S. Representative and Vice president under President Bush said, "Congress should definitely consider decriminalizing possession of Marijuana; we should concentrate on prosecuting the rapists and burglars who are a menace to society". Therefore, decriminalizing Marijuana would not only reduce the crime rate of the country but will also save billions of tax dollars which could be diverted to other social institutions.

Hence, the time has come when United States of America should actually prove itself to be truly democratic and a country run by citizens. The time has come when USA needs to bow down to the wishes of its citizens before it destroys it respect. In the words of Albert Einstein, ‘the prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered by the prohibition law ; for nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced’. The state needs to hold on to its prestige and reap the benefits which this resource has to offer. It needs to realize the true potential behind this precious natural resource which has been forgone for years. It needs to realize that in the time of economic downturn, Marijuana, a harmless plant can not only provide enormous amount of taxes but can also boost the industrial sector along with reducing the crime rate of the country. Therefore, the state needs to expunge the erroneous myths associated with Marijuana and legalize it because this is what the people demand.

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