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NobleNote EnglishComposition1 26April2013

FinalResearchPaperMarijuanaLegalization

Asitstands,recreationalandevenmedicinalapplicationsofmarijuanaare forbiddeninmoststates.Assomeonewithastrongideologicalbeliefinliberty,Iam disappointedinthestrictmeasuresthelawhasputinplaceagainstcertainsubstances, mostnotablytheplantCannabis.Cannabis,whosedriedleavesarereferredtoas marijuana,isconsideredanillegalsubstancebytheUnitedStatesgovernment.WhileI alsobelieveotherillegalsubstancesshouldbedecriminalizedandregulated,Ibelieve marijuanaholdsprimeimportance.Itisbyfartheleastharmfulandmostbeneficialofthe declaredillegalsubstances.ManyAmericanswouldagree,asaccordingtoapollbyPew ResearchCenter,52%areinfavorofmarijuanabeinglegalized.

Mystanceonmarijuanaisthatitshouldbelegalizedandregulatedforboth recreationalandmedicaluse.Inseveralstatesalready,marijuanaisavailablefor medicinalpurposes,withusesofeasinganxiety,relievingnausea,andstimulating appetite.AccordingtotheDEA(DrugEnforcementAdministration),Marijuanaisa

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Schedule1controlledsubstance.Schedule1substancesaredefinedashaving:...ahigh potentialforabuse,nocurrentlyacceptedmedicaluseintreatmentintheUnitedStates, andalackofacceptedsafetyforuseofthedrugorothersubstanceundermedical supervision..PlacingmarijuanainthisSchedulecontradictsevidencethatproves otherwise,asmarijuanahasfoundmedicinalusein15statessofar.

MyhopeisthattheDEAreschedulesmarijuanatoeitheraSchedule2orSchedule 3substance,sothatmarijuanawillbeallowedformedicaluseinallstates.Themedicinal applicationsofmarijuanaareduelargelyinparttoCannabidiol,orCBD,acompound derivedfromtheCannabisleaves.CBDiswhatcausesthealleviatingeffectsthatjustify marijuanasuseasmedicine.Therehasalsobeenresearchdonebyscientistsat CaliforniaPacificMedicalCenterthatindicatesCBDmaybeusefulincancertreatment.It isthepsychotropiceffectsofthedrug,causedbytetrahydrocannabinol,orTHC,thathas preventedmarijuanafrombecomingmorecommonlyaccepted.

MarijuanadefinitelyhasitsmedicinaluseseventhoughTHCisderidedforits psychoactiveproperties,itsvomitinhibitingpropertiesarehelpfulintreatingcancer patientsandsufferersofeatingdisorders.Beyonditsmedicalpurposes,however, marijuanaiscommonlysmokedrecreationally.Despitetheharshlawsinmoststates againstpossessingandusingmarijuana,theSubstanceAbuseandMentalHealth ServicesAdministrationreportsthat,in2010,6.9percentoftheUSpopulation,or17.4 millionAmericans,usedmarijuana.Accordingtotheirresearch,thisnumberhasincreased

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since2008.Thecontinuedandincreasinguseofmarijuanastronglyindicatesthat marijuanaprohibitionisafutilemeasure.

WeknowfromAmericanhistoryjusthowineffectiveprohibitionis.Inthe1920s, aftertheEighteenthAmendmenttookeffect,alcoholstillcontinuedtobeproduced, circulated,andconsumed,despitebeingbanned.SomeAmericanseventooktomaking theirownalcoholicbeverages,throughvariousmeans.Itwasntuntil1933thatthe prohibitionwasrepealedbytheTwentyfirstAmendment.Oneofthelargestflawsof prohibitionisthethrivingblackmarketstheycreate.Evenwiththeoutlawingofaproduct, consumerswillstilldemanditandseekitout,eventhroughillegalmeans.Suchwasthe case90yearsago,andsuchisthecasetoday.Marijuanaavailabilityremainsstrong, undefeatedbyitsoutlawing.

Duetotheillegalityofmarijuana,researchonitisstifled,preventingstudiesthat couldfindsafeandpracticalmedicalapplications.Furthermore,theuseofmedical marijuanaisdeniedtothosewhomitcouldpossiblyassist.Banningmarijuanahassofar beenfruitless,astheblackmarketcontinuestomakemoneyfromtheAmericanpublic.If marijuanaweretobelegalizedandregulated,thegovernmentwouldbeabletotaxsales, creatingalargenewsourceofrevenue.Furthermore,withmarijuanaavailabilitymanaged bythegovernment,itssafeandhealthyusecouldbeencouraged,preventingdrugabuse fromoccurring.Intheircurrentstate,illegaldrugrelatedlawsareignorantoffreedomand personalliberty.

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Thefreedomtouseandpossessmarijuanashouldbeaguaranteedright.Itshould beuptotheindividual,notthelaw,onwhatsubstancestheyshouldexposethemselvesto. Evenifacertainsubstanceisharmfultotheuser,thatdoesnotvalidateoutlawingit. Regulatingsuchsubstancesisfine,andIagreethatitisnecessary,butnotallowingthem completelyisgoingtoofar.Thegovernmentshouldstayawayfrommakingmoralistic decisions,andallowpeopletomakethesechoicesforthemselves.Thatdoesntmeanthe governmentshouldntencourageanddiscouragecertainbehaviours,astheyalreadydo, butitdoesmeanthattheyshouldntsetthoserecommendationsinstone.

Opponentsofmarijuanalegalizationpreferthatitandotherillegaldrugsremain illegal,criminalizedsubstances.Amongthemostcommonlyspreadargumentsforkeeping thesedrugsillegalareabouthowharmfultheyaretousers.Asstatedearlier,theactive componentinmarijuana,THC,isprimarilyresponsibleforthepsychoactivepropertiesof thedrug.THCcausesthefeelingsofeuphoriaandrelaxationassociatedwithbeinghigh. However,inadditiontothesesoothingeffects,whichareconsideredbeneficial,THCcan alsoimpaircertainfunctionsofthebrain.Itdisruptscoordinationandbalance,hinderingthe usersperformanceofvarioustasks,suchaslearning,maintainingbalance,andreactingto events.

Largedosesofthedrug,especiallywhenconsumedratherthansmoked,cancause psychosis,resultingindelusions,hallucinations,andevenalossofthesenseofpersonal

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identity.Marijuanaseffectsonmemorygoevenfurther,asevidencedbyanimalstudies involvingrats.ExposuretoTHContheratswasfoundtocauseproblemswithlearningand memorytasks.ContinualexposuretoTHCwasshowntobesimilartotheeffectthataging hasonnervecellloss.ThismeansthatTHCcausesmemoryabilitytodegradefasterthan normal.Itislikelythatthelossinmemoryabilityisonlyintheshortterm,butthereisa possibilitythatthedeterioratingeffectsonthebrainwillbuildupovertime,causing longtermcognitiveharm.

Ofcourse,inadditiontothementaleffectsofmarijuana,therearealsophysical effectstomention.Ofparticularnoteistheincreasedheartrateexperiencedshortlyafter smoking,partneredwiththephysicalsymptomsofbloodshoteyes,anddrymouth/throat. Heartratecanincreasebyupto50%,oreven100%.Theincreasedheartratehasriskof causingheartattacks,especiallyinthosewhoaremoresusceptible.Anotherhazard associatedwithmarijuanasmokingisofcoursethesmokeitself,whichirritatesthelungs. Thishighlyincreaseschancesofrespiratoryillnesses.Smokingmarijuanamayleadtoan addiction,thusfurtherharmingtheuserevenmore.

Anotherwidespreadargumentagainstmarijuanaistheallegationthatitisa gatewaydrug.Opponentsofmarijuanausebelievethatbecomingamarijuanausermay encourageonetotryoutother,moredangerousillegaldrugs.Astudyhasindicatedthere tobeacorrelationbetweenmarijuanauseandlateruseofother,harderdrugs,suchas cocaineandheroin.Dataindicatesthatmarijuanausersare85timesmorelikelytobegin

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usingotherdrugs,thanthosewhodonotusemarijuana.Accordingtothehypothesis, marijuanaisthestartingpointfromwhichdelvingintootherillicitmaterialsbegins. Opponentsofmarijuanalegalizationfearthatmarijuanabeinglegalizedwillleadtotheuse ofdrugsthatarefarmoredangerous.

Ratherthanmaintainingthesimpleopinionthatmarijuanauseshouldbe discouraged,manyopponentsbelievethosewhopossessmarijuanashouldbe imprisonedfortheiroffenses.Undercurrentlawinmoststates,merelypossessing marijuanaisviableforatleastamisdemeanor,butinmostcases,afelony.Eithercan resultinIncarcerationorafineagainsttheoffender.Itistheviewofmanythatjailtimefor drugoffendersisnecessary.Itcreatesathreatofrealpunishmentthatdiscouragesdrug offendersfromcommittingcrimes.Furthermore,somebelievetheyshouldbeimprisoned becausesomedrugoffenderscanposeaviolentthreattothepublic.Theyshouldbe disciplined,bothfortheirowngoodandthegoodofthepublic.

Idontbelievethedownsidesofmarijuanacanbedenied.Likemanyother substances,particularlyotherdrugs,marijuanahasvariousrisksassociatedwithit, especiallysinceitisusuallytakenbysmoking.Muchliketobacco,marijuanasmokeis harmfultothesmokerslungs,andsomedataevenindicatesthatitismoreharmful.In contrast,however,arecent20yearstudybytheUniversityofCaliforniaandtheUniversity ofAlabamasuggeststhatmarijuanauseislessharmfulthantobaccoexposure.Itwas foundthatlungfunction,measuredbyairflowrate,decreasedwithincreasedexposureto

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tobacco,whileitactuallyincreasedwithexposuretomarijuana.Itisveryimportanttonote, however,thattypicallyatobaccosmokerwillsmokemanymoretimesadaythanonewho smokesmarijuana,whomaysmokeonlyafewtimesamonth.

Despitethisdiscrepancybetweensamples,thefindingsstillhaveuse.Lowto moderateexposuretomarijuanaisproventobesaferandevenhealthierthantypical tobaccoexposure.Still,undoubtedlymarijuanabecomesmoredangerouswiththemore heavierdosestheuserexposesthemselvesto.Bymoderatingtheirusage,amarijuana smokercanmaintainahealthyandresponsiblelifestyle.Thislogicisimportant,as practicallyeverysubstanceisharmfuliftakeninlargeamounts.Itissmokinglargedosesof marijuanawhichleadstoabuse.Itisvitalthatmarijuanausersknowtomoderatetheir exposure,soasnottoharmthemselves.Iftherightprecautionsaretaken,marijuanacan bejustassafeasother,legalsubstances.

Inoppositiontomarijuanasuse,bothsafeandotherwise,areproponentsofthe gatewaydrughypothesis.Whilethegatewayhypothesisholdssomecredence,Idont believeittobeanaccuratetheory.Peoplegettinginterestedinotherillicitsubstancesafter usinganotherisanobrainer,really.Itdoesntprovemuchthatsomeonetakinga psychoactivedrugmaytryothers.Itjustmakesthestatementthatthereisincreased likelihoodofgettingintootherdrugsifyouarealreadyintoone.Themoralisticusethe gatewayhypothesistoarguethatmarijuanaisbad,becauseitleadstousingharddrugs. Theymissthepoint,becauseiftheybelieveharddrugsarebad,thentheyshouldfocuson

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themratherthantherelativelyharmlessdrugthatismarijuana.

Speakingoftherelativelyharmlessdrugthatismarijuana,itisasadfactthatso manyareimprisonedoverit,mostforthenonviolentcrimeofmarijuanapossession. AccordingtotheCenterforEconomicandPolicyResearch(CEPR),In2010around 571,000,oronefourthofallincarceratedinmatesinAmericawerenonviolentdrug offenders.Thisnumberisupgreatlyfrom1980,whenitwasjustonetenth.AsIhave describedmystancebefore,Iaminfavorofcompletelydecriminalizingmarijuana,sothat peoplenolongerhavetosufferoversuchtrivialmatters.Iopposethenonviolentbeing criminalizedandimprisoned,therebymarringtheirlivesandcausingdistresstotheir families.Criminalsarebeingcreatedoutofordinarypeoplewhodontharmothers.

Therearesimplynotenoughadequatereasonsastowhymarijuanashouldremain anillegalsubstance.Amassingevidence,alongwithgrowingsupportarebothinfavorof decriminalizingandeventuallylegalizingmarijuana,sothatitmaybeavailableboth medicinallyandrecreationally.Asacountryfoundedonthebasisoffreedom,weshould havebeenattheforefrontofthisendeavor.Now,itisourturntofollowtheleadsofother countries,suchasUruguayandCanada,andeventwoofourownstates,Washingtonand Colorado.Marijuanaspotentialbenefitsgreatlyoutweighitsrisks,andIbelievescience canfurtherlessentherisks,giventheopportunitytoperformresearch.

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WorksCited

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