Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Legalize It... for Medicinal Purposes

Allow me to be clear on where I stand right up front. I support the legalization of Marijuana in the United States of America.

I support legalization because marijuana poses no significant danger to those who use it or those around them. More importantly, I support legalization because I believe in the individual freedom to do what you want to your own body. I do not have the right to tell you that you cannot get a tattoo, cut yourself to relieve stress, drink to excess, take massive amounts of narcotics under a doctor’s prescription, eat far too much unhealthy food, or blow your head off with a shotgun. So why would I have a right to tell you that you cannot smoke a little weed now and then?

How did we get to where we are in terms of legislation? It might surprise you to know the truth. During the early 1900s many states began to make the use of cannabis illegal. Hemp was being used for many things such as rope and industrial uses. It was also being prescribed by physicians and sold openly in drug stores. This really began to change with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The Act did not itself criminalize the possession or usage of hemp, marijuana, or cannabis, but levied a tax equaling roughly one dollar on anyone who dealt commercially in cannabis, hemp, or marijuana. There was a ton of faulty testimony during the debate on this legislation. Some testimonies included that cannabis caused “murder, insanity and death”. The American Medical Association protested the law because it affected medical use, and further because they were not finding that the claims about marijuana were true. Keep in mind that for the majority of the first half of the century, marijuana was generally believed to be a narcotic, on the same levels as cocaine and opium.

Eventually, the Supreme Court, in 1969, ruled the MTA of 1937 unconstitutional, and Congress responded by passing the Controlled Substances Act as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which repealed the Marihuana Tax Act. However, legislation in the 1950′s made selling or distribution of hemp materials carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 2-10 years and $20k. Then Nixon formed the DEA, the Supreme Court deemed it reasonable to give a hemp dealer 20 years, Reagan offered the War on Drugs and the three strike rule. Those are some quick highlights of legislation around marijuana, as it would take an entire article to cover it all. But if there is a point to be made here, it is this: Marijuana was made illegal in the first place by the use of false claims about its effects, make-up, and dependency rates. And I personally don’t believe that it was because people were simply uninformed. Hearst, DuPont, and other industrial powers of the time needed hemp criminalized in order to allow wood pulp paper and other factors to come to the forefront. As we all know, hemp is a very versatile product, and it was in direct conflict with some very powerful and politically connected men of the time.

Myths and Facts

Myth: Smoking marijuana can cause cancer and serious lung damage.

Fact: There chance of contracting cancer from smoking marijuana is minuscule. Tobacco smokers typically smoke 20+ cigarettes every day for decades, but virtually nobody smokes marijuana in the quantity and frequency required to cause cancer. A 1997 UCLA study concluded that even prolonged and heavy marijuana smoking causes no serious lung damage. Cancer risks from common foods (meat, salt, dairy products) far exceed any cancer risk posed by smoking marijuana. Respiratory health hazards and cancer risks can be totally eliminated by ingesting marijuana in baked foods.

Myth: Marijuana contains over 400 chemicals, thus proving that marijuana is dangerous.

Fact: Coffee contains 1,500 chemicals. Rat poison contains only 30 chemicals. Many vegetables contain cancer-causing chemicals. There is no correlation between the number of chemicals a substance contains and its toxicity. Prohibitionists often cite this misleading statistic to make marijuana appear dangerous.

Myth: Marijuana is a gateway drug–it leads to harder drugs.

Fact: The U.S. government’s own statistics show that over 75 percent of all Americans who use marijuana never use harder drugs. The gateway-drug theory is derived by using blatantly-flawed logic. Using such blatantly-flawed logic, alcohol should be considered the gateway drug because most cocaine and heroin addicts began their drug use with beer or wine, not marijuana.

Myth: Marijuana is addicting.

Fact: Marijuana is not physically addicting. Medical studies rank marijuana as less habit forming than caffeine. The legal drugs of tobacco and alcohol can be as addicting as heroin or cocaine, but marijuana is one of the least habit forming substances known.

Myth: Marijuana use impairs learning ability.

Fact: A 1996 U.S. government study claims that heavy marijuana use may impair learning ability. The key words are heavy use and may. This claim is based on studying people who use marijuana daily–a sample that represents less than 1 percent of all marijuana users. This study concluded:

1) Learning impairments cited were subtle, minimal, and may be temporary. In other words, there is little evidence that such learning impairments even exist.

2) Long-term memory was not affected by heavy marijuana use.

3) Casual marijuana users showed no signs of impaired learning.

4) Heavy alcohol use was cited as being more detrimental to the thought and learning process than heavy marijuana use.

It must be remembered that first and foremost I support legalization because doing so is in line with my belief that we are born as free men and women. Unless you can prove demonstrable harm to you caused by someone else smoking marijuana, then you have absolutely no right what-so-ever to tell people that they cannot do so. Realistically, I could end the entire debate with that single thing. Freedom and liberty dictate that I have every right to use marijuana if I want to, whether it is harmful to me or not, so long as I do not harm anyone else. Period. End of story. If you believe anything else other than this, then I submit that you do not support the core principle of freedom.

Just as the claims that we must restrict people’s diets, curb dangerous activities, and in any other way take away liberty, I reject the claim that society has a right to force me to be healthy. Society only believes this to be true because of the non-freedom concept of society somehow being forced to deal with the repercussions of my actions.

Our legal systems have been overwhelmed with marijuana arrests and prosecutions. Estimates are that over a billion taxpayer dollars a year are spent just on the incarceration of those sentenced for crimes around marijuana. This doesn’t include police actions, court systems, or any other costs associated with the war on drugs around marijuana. There are more arrests every year for marijuana than for all violent crimes combined in the United States.

There will be more on this subject... much more.

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