By Cael Goodin
Marijuana has been a large topic in the news for the past ten years, but never has marijuana been so close to becoming legal in the United States. In order for marijuana to become legal it must past two large obstacle; one being state law and the other being federal law. Marijuana has been on a strong surge in the United States becoming legal in fifteen different states on the state level but under the federal laws marijuana is still seen as an illegal drug. Currently the large debate on marijuana is what constitutes it as being used for medicinal purposes. With the general public misinformed on the different benefits and side effects of marijuana it is hard for any change to happen. By making marijuana legal there will be many benefits that we will be able to acquire such as its health benefits, our government will save money and acquire a new source of tax income, and it will make acquiring marijuana safer for everyone who participates in its use.
Marijuana was first brought into the United States by the Spanish in 1545 and by 1611 it became a major commercial crop which provided a quality source of fiber. In the 1890’s hemp became a large cash crop in the majority of southern states. Marijuana became a large part of the U.S. culture between the years of 1850 through the 1930’s. In the 1930’s the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics began to put out messages of propaganda saying that marijuana was addicting and would cause its users to use other drugs. In 1937 the director of the FBN Harry Anslinger was sent before Congress and was recorded saying, “Marijuana is the most violence causing drug in the history of mankind.” Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes.” (thc-ministry) In the 1970’s the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified marijuana as a schedule I drug which placed it into the same category as heroin and LSD and ever since marijuana has been an illegal drug that has been harshly misjudged by several presidential administrations. (Marijuana in America) Currently marijuana is legal on the state level in fifteen different states yet it is still considered illegal under federal laws.
Recently Rep. Barney Frank and Rep Ron Paul have introduced new legislation that would end the federal ban on marijuana and would give the states the final say on whether to make it legal or not. This bill was the first to ever be taken before Congress in order to end the federal marijuana prohibition. (Huffpost) Rep. Barney Frank has stated, “Criminally prosecuting adults for making the choice to smoke marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources and an intrusion on personal freedom. I do not advocate urging people to smoke marijuana, neither do I urge them to drink alcoholic beverages or smoke tobacco, but in none of these cases do I think prohibition enforced by criminal sanctions is good public policy.” (Armentano) I fully agree with what Rep. Frank is stating in that if there are no proven harmful side effects from marijuana, especially when compared to alcohol and tobacco then why should it remain under such harsh laws. A large issue that has been targeted while trying to push for the legalization of marijuana is the tax money that the government could make by making it legal. In 2008 the U.S. incurred $16,575,613,000 in tax money from the sale of tobacco products and $5,763,336,000 in tax revenue from alcoholic beverages. (Tax Facts) There are many arguments that can provide evidence that tobacco and alcohol both provide larger health risks than marijuana. There has been no president who has made it his duty to make either of these products illegal and this is because the government knows how much money they acquire from their sales. Imagine if the government had another large source of income that they could collect taxes on, our economy would be at least somewhat better. A large benefit gained by making marijuana legal would be people would not have to deal with drug dealers in order to purchase their marijuana. Seattle’s mayor has just signed a law which created a licensing system for marijuana. Pete Holmes the City Attorney of Seattle said, “Now patients do not have to buy their medicine from drug dealers. We will show the world this will be done safely and humanely.” (Myers) California’s proposition nineteen was hoping that by making marijuana legal the state in turn would make $1.4 billion through taxes and it would also save money on law enforcement. Through careful regulations, a well educated law enforcement, and by educating the general public states could regulate and maintain the safe uses of marijuana.
There is little reason to why marijuana should not be legal and many of them consist of propaganda which the media and government have spread themselves. An argument that has been made against the legalization of marijuana is that there would be a large increase in marijuana users if it were legal. This argument is ridiculous and it is stating the obvious which truly has no proven side effects. Of course there are always going to be people that abuse marijuana but in life there are people who abuse much worse substances such as alcohol or tobacco. If marijuana is legal it is ultimately going to be up to its users to use it wisely or abuse it. Many sources state that marijuana causes an addiction and that it leads to people wanting to try other drugs and this assumption is false. In a 12-year University of Pittsburgh study it was proven that marijuana does not lead to the use of other drugs any more than alcohol or tobacco. (ScienceBlog) An article that I have read stated that, “reducing marijuana use is essential to improving the nation’s health, education, and productivity.” (DuPont) This author clearly has never been able to see profound effects that can come from the use of marijuana. The issue of legalizing marijuana on both the state level and the federal level is a very important topic to me in that I have a close family member who has been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. This family member has been through so many treatments, countless days in the hospital, and before my eyes has withered into a shell of their former self. One thing that has helped them feel better has been medical marijuana, which is legal in Hawaii. How can the federal government justify its claim that marijuana bears no medicinal value? When right before my eyes I can see it plain as day. Is seeing a loved one suffer and that loved one asking to be able to use marijuana to subside their pain, what it would take for more of our politicians to open their minds to the positive qualities that marijuana possesses?
The issue of legalizing marijuana on the state level and the federal level directly affects our generation greatly in that it has been in the 1990’s where the U.S. has gone through a great increase in the amount of people whom use marijuana. As the marijuana culture grows stronger we are going to be seeing larger debates and more politicians urging the legalization of marijuana. Although not every state has made medical marijuana legal, it is my hope that the federal government will reevaluate its stance on marijuana and at a minimal give the authority to the states so that they may decide how to handle marijuana’s legality.
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“Marijuana Bill In Congress: Barney Frank, Ron Paul Legislation Would End Federal Ban On Pot.” Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. 22 June 2011. Web. 29 July 2011. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/22/marijuana-bill-barney-frank-ron-paul_n_882707.html>.
Wood, Evan. “Why Conservatives Should Favor Legalizing Marijuana – Page 3 – CNN.” Featured Articles from CNN. 21 Oct. 2010. Web. 29 July 2011. <http://articles.cnn.com/2010-10-21/opinion/wood.war.on.drugs_1_control-and-tax-cannabis-drug-supply-legalization/3?_s=PM:OPINION>.
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Myers, Laura L. “Seattle Mayor Signs Medical Pot Regulations | Reuters.” Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News | Reuters.com. 28 July 2011. Web. 29 July 2011. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/28/us-seattle-mayor-pot-idUSTRE76R66Z20110728>.
“Tobacco Tax Revenue.” Tax Policy Center Home. Web. 29 July 2011. <http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=403>.
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