The topic of Medical Marijuana is a touchy one. Each person has their own strong beliefs on the topic; very much like alcohol in the days of prohibition. Whether your opinion is based on your religious beliefs or the fears that have been passed down from the warnings of previous generations, there are points to be made for both sides. The battle over Cannabis goes all the way back to the 1860’s, causing people to have their beliefs engrained deeply from generations of personal influence. With new science and technologies, new facts and even more dangerous drugs have emerged. So maybe it is time to take a more neutral look at the pros and cons of Cannabis use.
To have a better understanding of the marijuana debate, it is important to have an understanding of the history of marijuana in the United States. Did you know that Hemp was one of the primary crops on Mt Vernon by George Washington and on Monticello by Thomas Jefferson in the 1700’s? In 1619 there was even a law that made it mandatory for all farmers to grow Hemp seed. Hemp was an important crop and had many uses beyond smoking such as rope, cloth and many other products. Hemp rope was critical in the war efforts of the time. Laws banning marijuana did not surface until after the Mexican revolution and the tensions between farmers using cheap Mexican labor and farmers using American labor in the 1900’s. The escalating tensions and prejudice against the Mexican-American farm workers who smoked marijuana were part of the main force behind states like California passing marijuana ban laws. Other states soon followed based on the same prejudices of the time. These bans were not mandated out of scientific evidence that the plant was bad for people, but out of political tensions and prejudice. Through the 1930’s different inaccurate publications perpetuated the fear of marijuana, such as it caused people to be uncontrollably violent. In 1930 the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was created as part of the Treasury Department. Harry Anslinger was appointed as directed and through “yellow journalism” and lies; marijuana became illegal at the federal level on August 2, 1937. This is a basic early history outline of marijuana in the United States. For a more detailed historical account check out http://www.drugwarrant.com/articles/why-is-marijuana-illegal/.
Now that there is a basic understanding of the history of marijuana, maybe it will be easier to look at the topic of legalizing marijuana more openly. The main reasons that marijuana remains illegal are;
- The public’s perception that marijuana is addictive – This may be true. However, so are cigarettes and alcohol. This are legalized and restricted instead of banned and have a much higher addiction rate as well as much more harmful health side effects.
- The lack of adequately documented medical benefits – There is science to back up the medical benefits of marijuana, but they have not been documented comprehensively enough to highlight the benefits to legislators or the public.
- Inaccurate links to narcotics – Even though marijuana is not actually a narcotic, it was linked to drugs such as cocaine and heroin in order to help push through the ban in the 1930’s.
- Its association with unacceptable lifestyles – The 1960’s hippies movements and the portrayal of marijuana use in movies has linked the drug to less desirable lifestyles. But, modern movies have started to bring marijuana out of the shadows and show its use by upper management professionals, and other more sought after lifestyle groups.
- Longevity of the ban – When something has been seen in a negative light and been banned for a long period of time, it is difficult to reverse that ban and public opinion no matter what new science and evidence there is to support the reversal.
This article is not meant to promote marijuana use. The object of this article is to promote a real and open minded, educated dialog of the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana. Think about the tax revenue that could be received by legalizing marijuana in the same manner as alcohol. There are also the multiple other uses of the plant that could lead to manufacturing facilities and jobs. The medical uses alone are staggering. Cancer and pain management patients have had amazing life quality benefits from the drug, without the negative side effects of true narcotics such as Vicodin and Morphine. Beyond the manufacturing and medical possibilities, there are also the border control positives. If marijuana were legal in the U.S. and farming marijuana were a legitimate crop, there would be no reason for people to smuggle it into the country. Mexican marijuana smugglers would have no customers since it would be available legally in the U.S. In addition, regulating the drug’s manner of growth and distribution would also provide a tracking and safety process, similar to that of groceries, and pharmaceuticals. It would create a safer non-contaminated product. As things are now, marijuana is readily available even though it is considered illegal, and the methods of getting a hold of it are not necessarily safe. Dealers can contaminate the plant with any number of other drugs and not tell the customer what the plant is laced with causing additional danger and addiction issues. Medical Marijuana or MMJ dispensaries have created a safer source for this valuable medication. Unfortunately the dispensaries that act more like head shops than pharmacy environments has had a negative effect on the forward motion of the popular movement to legalize marijuana.
In the end, the battle to legalize marijuana still has quite a road ahead of it. But, if the real purpose of this struggle is to look out for all people’s rights and safety, both sides are going to have to open their minds while presenting themselves in a more publicly acceptable manner and looking at the actual facts versus fears and lies of the past.
The measured tree overflows.