Before Americans can make accusations that marijuana can only be used for the sole purpose of euphoric pleasure, they should first become knowledgeable of cannabis’s original and highly valuable uses that gave the plant its primary popularity. The herbal plant was actually a food source around 6000 BC, and it was used as a fiber two thousand years later. Another couple thousand years later was when cannabis obtained its first medical record in China and soon traveled to India and North Africa where cannabis began its use as a “recreational hallucinogen.” When Europe greeted marijuana at about 500 BC, users began classifying in what methods the plant can treat various medical conditions. The Americas were first introduced to marijuana via the Spanish in 1545; then, it was introduced to the colony of Jamestown via the English in 1611 where it was still being used as a medical practice and fibrous construction although it gradually became less popular and was replaced by cotton as fiber and cocaine as medicine by 1890. About thirty years into the nearer future, Americans rediscovered marijuana as a result of the notorious alcohol prohibition of the 1920s when “people looking for oblivion from their own troubles turned to a new way of getting high.” Consequently and realistically, America can only blame itself for marijuana’s recreational popularity, seeing as “from 1850 to 1945, the … plant was listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia.” Almost a decade after the alcohol prohibition ended is when marijuana was first perceived “as a dangerous, addictive, ‘gateway drug’” by the United States Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Then, “in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act was passed … [which] classified marijuana, [alongside Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)] and heroin, as a Schedule I drug, meaning that [the drug] had a high risk of abuse [with] no acceptable medicinal use.” Within the following decade, “marijuana use in the United States declined,” then once again escalating among youth in the nineties. Meanwhile in modern-day India, people are still practicing marijuana medicinally, and exploring what advantages the “dangerous” drug has to offer (Chapter 2: The History of Marijuana 18-31).
Being classified as a Schedule I drug, Americans often associate marijuana with violence, psychotic disruptions, or maybe even rotten teeth, but how many of these accusers have actually witnessed what marijuana does to a person? The chemistry of cannabis focuses on the active chemical Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which creates a euphoric (otherwise “high”) sensation in its users in the initiative entrance into the user’s blood stream. After the drug has settled, users will feel various effects, including “drowsiness[,] … decreased alertness, … short-term memory, slowed reactions,” decreased attention span, decreased motor coordination, increased heart rate, expanded bronchial passageways (similar to the effects of tobacco smoke), and even an increased appetite. The different amount of doses also have different outcomes as “low doses … induce … relaxation, increased sociability, … decreased anxiety … [and] increased sensory acuity … whereas high doses may cause … increased anxiety, panic reactions, … sensory distortion, hallucinations and even an acute toxic psychosis” which only lasts until shortly after “the drug is discontinued.” Negatively, just as any addiction has its harms psychologically and physically when chronically used, so does smoking marijuana. The most dangerous psychological effects include “poor memory, vagueness of thought, decreased verbal fluency and learning deficits that are not always fully reversible when use of the drug is [discontinued;] additionally, high-dose, daily use can give rise to a chronic intoxication syndrome, characterized by apathy, confusion, depression and paranoia.” Chronic use has also been known to present “chronic inflammatory chest disease … [to] over [sixty percent] of long term daily smokers of cannabis” as a potential physical effect. Research has factually proven marijuana to have some dignified effects to users despite being temporary or chronic users; however, just as all prescription drugs have side effects, so does marijuana. (Kalant 84-85).
As known, marijuana has been a common medicine in the course of its historical impact, but many cannot discern marijuana to be correspondingly harmful and even more helpful. Perhaps Americans should become more optimistic towards marijuana’s effects in the involvement of medicinal opportunities. For example, marijuana’s most notable effect in its users is a major increase in appetite; this inclement of food desire can assistant patients of anorexia in their recovery. Low dosage use accompanied by anxiolytic effects can very well treat people suffering from anxiety; also, the euphoric effects can uplift a person suffering from depression. Also, on a more drastic account, patients with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and even patients with cancer whom are undergoing radiation or chemotherapy can benefit from marijuana’s provided anti-nauseant characteristic which is created by pure THC. While these are all excellent treatments, researchers propose that scientists discover a safer way to take in cannabis besides inhalation due to the accompanied effects; the intake of pure THC and cannaboids has less severe side effects and has longer duration than direct inhalation of marijuana smoke. Despite all assumptions and setbacks for legalization of marijuana around the world, the United States Institute of Medicine have accepted marijuana for its potential anti-nauseant and antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, and relief of muscle spasticity (Kalant 86, 89). In addition, a total of eight states have already legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, and several activists organizations such as the American Public Health Association are urging the allowance of marijuana to certain patients along with certain limitations, supervision, methods, and duration for patients which will diminish the possibilities of patients becoming stereotypical “dope heads” altogether. (Schwarz 284). Although marijuana may have typically unfavorable side effects, patients can turn some of the effects into a great beneficial opportunity therefore being helped instead of harmed.
In the mid-twentieth century, marijuana first became illegal in all states as enforced by federal law, and possession, trafficking, and selling of marijuana became a felony. However, the states of Alaska, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska and Oregon passed “decriminalization” laws meaning that possession of small amounts is treated as a “civil violation” rather than a crime. California, New York and North Carolina deemed the possession of small amounts a misdemeanor, Ohio deemed it as a “minor misdemeanor,” and Colorado deemed it as a “petty offense.” After these “decriminalization” laws were passed, studies showed marijuana possession rates in states such as California, Ohio, Colorado, and Minnesota declined by a range of 36 to 43 percent, and studies also showed that Americans’ attitudes and beliefs about marijuana were not heightened. Users, in fact, appeared to become less interested in the drug seeing as there was not such a dramatic thrill of owning and smoking marijuana anymore. However, even though marijuana had been “decriminalized”, possessing the drug was still illegal and searches are seizures only became more strictly enforced. By the late 80s to early 90s, numerous states had begun protesting and pushing for revisions of the laws set forth to marijuana and pleaded that medical marijuana become accepted in the United States. (Single 462-463) More recently, as many as twenty-four states currently allow the medicinal use of marijuana, and with doctors’ approvals, patients can now be licensed to cultivate marijuana on their own personal property with mandatory supervision by the State Departure of Agriculture. States such as Washington and Colorado have completely legalized the distribution and consumption of marijuana along with many regulated stores that have been constructed and licensed to sell marijuana to citizens. However, federal grounds have restricted citizens from smoking marijuana as the government still views marijuana as an illegal Schedule I drug. (Marie 1)
“Chapter 2: The History of Marijuana.” Marijuana: Mind-Altering Weed (2008): 18-31. Book Collection: Nonfiction. Web. 24 Mar. 2014.
Kalant, Harold. “Medicinal Use of Cannabis: History and Current States.” Pain Research and Management 6.2 (2001): 80-94. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
Marie, Price. “Loosening Marijuana Laws Gains Traction in Some States: Oklahoma’s Not One of Them.” Journal Record legislative Report (Oklahoma City, OK) (n.d.): Regional Business News. Web. 24 Mar. 2014.
Schwartz, Richard H. “Marijuana: A Decade And A Half Later, Still A Crude Drug With Underappreciated Toxicity.” Pediatrics 109.2 (2002): 284. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 24 Mar. 2014.
Single, Eric. “The impact of marijuana decriminalization: an update.” Journal of public health policy 10.4 (1989): 456-466. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.