Its shocking to some, but not to others! Marijuana is a substance that has become very much a part of American culture, nearly 65 million Americans have either used it occasionally or regularly. The use of marijuana hit mainstream America about thirty years ago and it has been accepted by a large segment of society ever since. The debate on whether this substance should be legalized or not remains a very hot topic today. Despite government efforts to isolate and eliminate its use, it is clear that the use of marijuana is still very popular.
There is an obvious problem concerning marijuana today. Governments on all three levels: local, state, and federal are trying desperately to find an appropriate policy involving marijuana. National polls show that more than 70% of the American people, from both ends of the political spectrum, support controlled access to marijuana for medicinal purposes. Despite fierce opposition from the federal government, voters in California and Arizona passed ballot initiatives in the fall of 1996 favoring the legalization of medicinal marijuana.
If support for marijuana at least as a medicinal remedy is so high, then why have only a few states taken steps to change their olicy? There are several reasons why marijuana remains illegal. Mainly, it is a political issue kicked around by certain special interest groups. Some of these groups perceive marijuana as a threat to the home, tearing families apart and causing them to abandon traditional values. However these groups usually are not legitimate areas of legislation. The more powerful groups have other, more practical reasons for keeping marijuana illegal.
Among the most powerful of these groups are the combined law enforcement-judiciary-penal systems. This group sees the elimination of marijuana laws as a threat to their jobs. Add to this group defense lawyers, who stand to make millions of dollars defending marijuana offenders. Consciously or not, they support anti-marijuana laws. Another interest group includes the scientists whose marijuana research is funded by the government. If marijuana were legalized, they would lose millions of dollars in research grants intended to prove the detrimental effects of the substance.
Two other unrelated but very influential groups are the liquor lobby and pharmaceutical companies. Their spending is usually very secretive and not publicized very much. Legalization of a competing product that can be produced with relative ase by anyone with access to a plot of land would cut deeply into their profits. And the drug companies want control, rather than just a ban, for they know the medicinal benefits of marijuana . Therefore the major reason marijuana continues to remain illegal, is that special interest groups are blocking legislation by extensive lobbying.
Clearly it is seen that many people support its use, at least for medical reasons. It is obvious that the current policy for marijuana is not working very efficiently. The government spends billions of dollars every year to stop its use. This leads to the opening of a very extensive black market for arijuana, because the drug is still in high demand. With the black market comes all the crime and violent acts that create a new problem of overcrowding prison populations. In effect, the government does not really solve the marijuana problem; instead it just creates a new one in its place.
The present policy on marijuana is that it is classified as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act. This law established criteria for determining which substances should be controlled, mechanisms for reducing the availability of controlled drugs, and a structure of penalties for illegal distribution and possession of controlled drugs. The criteria for Schedule I substances are: The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse, is not currently accepted for use in medical treatment in the United States, has not been proven safe for use under medical supervision.
Along with marijuana, hashish, and THC, drugs listed in Schedule 1 are heroin, LSD, mescaline, peyote, and many other hallucinogens. This makes it illegal for anyone to buy, sell, grow, or possess any amount of marijuana anywhere in the United States. State laws vary in terms of penalties issued. Under New York State Law, a first possession of up to twenty-five grams of arijuana in private results in a $100 fine. If there is a second possession of the same amount, the fine is increased to $200. The cultivation of marijuana results in a $1000 fine and up to one-year imprisonment. The same applies to the sale of marijuana.
There are harsher penalties issued if the offender is convicted of possession, cultivation, or sale of marijuana in public. Possession of marijuana in public results in a $500 fine and up to three months imprisonment. Cultivation results in up to one-year imprisonment and a $1000 fine. Sale of marijuana in public can result in a four-year imprisonment. Penalties become harsher depending upon the amount of marijuana in possession, cultivation, or sale. The apex is reached at a fifteen-year imprisonment with the possession, cultivation, or sale of over ten pounds of marijuana or more.
Source and Ingredients Marijuana is defined as the mixture of leaves, stems, and flowering tops of the hemp plant, in the genus Cannabis. There are three species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. The hemp plant now grows wild throughout most of the world and can be cultivated in any area with a hot season. Some 421 chemicals in 18 different chemical classes have been etected in the hemp plant. It synthesizes at least 61 distinct substances called cannabinoids that are not found in any other genus of plants.
The most significant of these substances is 1-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, an oily, water-insoluble liquid. In popular writing it is often called simply THC. The THC content of marijuana generally varies from 0. 5% to 6%. Patterns of Use There are many different cannabis preparations that are widely used to obtain effects. Cannabis may be either smoked or taken by mouth. However the same dose of THC is about three times as effective when smoked as when ingested. In the United States marijuana is usually smoked in the form of a hand-rolled cigarette (“joint” or “reefer”), but it is also smoked in a variety of pipes.
Until the 1960’s the pattern in the United States was one of intermittent use of marijuana on social occasions by a relatively small number of young adults, together with regular use by some jazz musicians, urban minority groups, and Mexican Americans in the Southwest. In the following years, however, marijuana use increased sharply. By 1979, 68% of young adults 18 to 25 had tried marijuana at least once, 35% had used it in the month just efore the survey, and about 2/3 of current users reported using it five or more times per month.
About 9% of users reported use on a daily basis. The use of marijuana also increased sharply in other countries throughout the world. Psychological and Physiological Effects THC produces its actions primarily on the nervous system and on the heart and blood vessels. The effects depend on the dose, the route of administration, and on the degree of tolerance that has developed. Because individuals vary in the way they inhale the smoke and because marijuana varies in THC content, the amount of active THC that reaches the bloodstream uring smoking varies greatly .
Generally, smoking a marijuana cigarette with a 2% THC content (equivalent to about 20 mg taken orally) produces changes in mood, mental abilities, coordination, blood pressure, and pulse. The most common result is the state commonly referred to as a “high”, including an increased sense of well being (euphoria), relaxation, and sleepiness. Short-term memory is impaired, and the capacity to carry out goal-directed problems requiring multiple and mental steps is reduced. Users may experience feelings of strangeness and unreality.
Sights and sounds may take on new ualities. The sense of time is often altered to that minutes may seem like hours. Balance and stability are impaired even with low doses, as are complex behaviors (perception, information processing) involved in driving. Low doses also produce increases in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, and a reddening of the eyes due to dilation of conjunctival vessels. Higher doses can produce hallucinations, delusions, and unrealistic suspiciousness and feeling of persecution. Anxiety increases, and a state of panic may occur.
Thinking becomes confused and disorganized. Because the onset of the drug ffect is rapid when marijuana is smoked, most users learn to avoid overdose by taking only as many inhalations as are required to produce the desired “high”. Smoking high doses of marijuana or hashish over long periods of time produces severe bronchitis, and the “tar” produced when marijuana is smoked is more potent than the “tar” from tobacco in causing cancer in animals. Medical Uses The pharmacological effects of the hemp plant have been known since ancient times.
A Chinese pharmacopoeia compiled nearly 2,000 years ago recommended it for treating a number of disorders, and it was used in India efore the 10th century AD. There are no currently approved uses for marijuana in the United States, except for two states California and Arizona, which have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. Clinical research has shown that THC is effective in reducing the nausea that cancer patients experience when they are treated with chemotherapy. Marijuana is also believed to stimulate appetite.
In asthma patients, several studies have shown that THC acts as a bronchodilator and reserves bronchial constriction. In treating epilepsy, marijuana is used to prevent both grande mal and other epileptic seizures in some patients. Marijuana also limits the muscle pain and spastically caused by multiple sclerosis and it relieves tremor and unsteady gait. Lastly, marijuana has been clinically shown to be effective in relieving muscle spasm and spasticity. History of Marijuana Laws The hemp plant was once a widely cultivated plant in the New World by settlers.
It has been known for centuries that the fiber from the hemp plant is very useful in making ropes. Therefore the cultivation of the hemp plant was encouraged and much needed. The Virginia Assembly, urging farmers to grow the crop for its fiber passed the first law concerning the hemp plant in 619. There was virtually no significant legislation passed concerning the hemp plant until the 1900’s. It was at this time when American attitudes towards Mexicans became hostile. Marijuana obtained a foul reputation when Mexican peasants crossed the border into Texas.
It was widely used by Mexican peasants as an intoxicant. The Texas police claimed that marijuana caused these Mexican settlers to commit violent crimes. Therefore in 1914, the first ban on possession of marijuana was passed in El Paso, Texas. Many other states followed Texas, and in 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. This law made the possession of marijuana illegal anywhere in the United States. During the McCarthy era, the Boggs Acts were passed to define mandatory minimums for the possession of marijuana.
Congress moved to an even stronger position in 1956 by lengthening these mandatory minimum sentences. Anti-marijuana feelings continued to grow, and state laws often imposed stricter penalties than the federal penalties. In the 1960’s, however, a strange phenomenon began to occur. For the first time in history, marijuana use began to rise amongst the white middle class. Many mandatory sentences were repealed. This was seen in the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.
Most of the states followed the federal government, and the possession of marijuana was decriminalized. However in the 1980’s the government once again changed its mind, with the passage of the Anti-Abuse Act of 1986, which once again imposed mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of drug offenses. The last major piece of legislation passed by the federal government (not state governments) was in 1996, which stated that any American convicted of a marijuana felony may no longer receive federal welfare or food stamps.