Marijuana has been around for a long time and its use has become wide spread in America. So much so, that an underground culture and economy have formed around it like a protective shroud. For most people, a supply of marijuana is only a phone call away (ICSDP.) Yet it has been illegal to possess, use, grow, or distribute since the thirties. Despite the possibility of becoming addicted to marijuana, many use it recreationally, while others rely on the medicinal effects of marijuana to alleviate a variety of diseases. Thirteen states have enacted medical marijuana laws and programs despite federal prohibition policies against the use of marijuana. Twelve more states are in the process of following this trend and if they are successful in passing these impending measures, fifty-four percent of the United States will have broken federal laws regarding its use. The federal government maintains that marijuana is illegal, while the state governments assert that it is legal to use from a medical standpoint. From a public standpoint, marijuana has a semi-legal status and the problems stemming from this legal ambiguity are many. The state and federal agencies that make our laws do not agree on the legal status of marijuana, and in the wake of the creation of the medical marijuana programs, many Americans wonder who will assume the responsibility for its supervision. If our government refuses to be accountable for the supervision of marijuana, how can they expect the American citizens to accept accountability for its use We must work together as a nation to create and implement a strict, mandatory supervision system for the regulation of marijuana in order to prevent the exploitation of the marijuana laws.
What is the truth about marijuana Some want it to remain illegal, while others want to decriminalize it. Those against the legalization of marijuana tend to emphasize the dangers of marijuana while ignoring the medical values of this substance, while those in favor of legalization tend to downplay the dangers of addiction and the social problems that arise from possible addiction to marijuana. For instance, here is an excerpt from an editorial in the Florida Times Union.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy says marijuana plays a bigger role in a serious U.S. drug problem than most people realize. Consider Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. About 75 percent — or 14.6 million of the nearly 20 million illicit drug users — are using marijuana. Of the 7.1 million Americans dealing with illegal drug dependence or abuse, 60 percent are hooked on marijuana or abuse it. More young people are being treated for marijuana dependency than for booze or for all other illegal drugs combined, the office says marijuana’s daily use among eighth, 10th and 12th grade students has increased over the last year, according to recent survey results released by the office. Youths who use marijuana — particularly those in their later teen years — are more likely to do poorly in school, stand a better chance of getting into trouble and tend to have more sexual partners. And, while there’s no shortage of backers for legalizing marijuana, it has proven to be a psychologically addictive drug with plenty of downside to society, the Office of National Drug Control Policy says (EDITORIAL.)
The US Drug Enforcement Administration opposes the legalization of marijuana in any form, citing that medical marijuana is not a proven medicine (US DEA), despite the existence of the Federal Medical Marijuana Program. This program was created in 1978 as the direct result of a lawsuit filed by Robert Randal who was successful in proving medical need for his glaucoma (ProCon.org.) 33 years worth of federally collected data regarding the medical effects of this substance is available to the DEA, and yet they continue to deny the medicinal value. In addition to this, the DEA would argue that legalization has been attempted in the past and was not successful. This is in reference to Alaska’s legalization of marijuana in the 70’s. The result was that marijuana use among teens in Alaska was double that of teen use in the lower 48 states, and Alaska’s citizens voted to recriminalize the drug in 1990(US DEA.) In spite of this failed attempt, Alaska enacted its own medical marijuana program in 1998(ProCon.org.) On the other hand, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML.ORG) would argue that marijuana is safe not only for medical use but also for recreational use. This organization asserts that the federal government continues to arrest patients with permission slips for medical marijuana use and drug charges in patient’s background make it difficult to obtain work, housing, medical treatment, and funding for education. This may be true; however, the state laws dictate that the possession of a doctor’s recommendation does not prevent arrest. Neither does it make marijuana legal to use. It only provides the patient with a medical use defense if they choose to take the risk. Equally important is that NORML has a tendency to downplay the addictive qualities of marijuana by stating that it is less addictive than alcohol or cigarettes, which are both legal. In addition, they claim that marijuana is not for children and adults should use it responsibly (NORML.ORG.) However, legalization will have a negative effect on children, should the child’s parent become addicted to marijuana. To summarize, the federal government has set a legal precedence for the medical use of marijuana, and we cannot ignore that. However, this does not mean that we should ignore the dangers of drug use or the crimes that are often a result. Marijuana use is far from harmless and we should not simply legalize it without pause for concern.
No matter the status of marijuana, illegal, or semi-legal, one thing is clear; there is a concerning amount of variation in the green state laws. Inconsistent laws that regulate marijuana make it difficult to track the activities associated with it. Eleven of the fifteen current green states have mandatory registration programs for both patients and caregivers. In California and Colorado, registration is voluntary. In states such as Washington, no regulatory systems are currently in place at all. However, the majority of problems in regulating medical marijuana do not stem from tracking patients or their caregivers; it is with the growers of medical marijuana. The supervision and regulation of the growers is sporadic at best. As long as the grower has copies of the registration cards of their patients, the state largely ignores the amounts of marijuana being grown. These people are truly taking advantage of the medical marijuana laws. Most growers do not want complete legalization. The semi-legal status of marijuana allows the growers a legal defense for growing it. In addition, the illegal status makes the marijuana worth roughly 3000.00 a pound at street value. This significant profit motive is highly attractive to the many unemployed people who are willing to take the risk. Hypothetically, the grower can provide for up to four patients and have up to six mature plants at a time. One mature plant produces five pounds of marijuana on average. The grower is obligated to supply a pound and a half for a total of six pounds of marijuana to their patients, leaving an excess of twenty-four pounds of product. This is then sold at street value, providing an illegal profit of 72,000.00 for the grower. These growers routinely use guns and violence to protect their crops and the resulting crimes are expensive to the communities they reside in. These growers are not required to prove that they hold legitimate employment in support of their families. Nor are they required to supply information on how they financed various stages of the growth or preparation of their product. These loopholes in the law result in more crime, arrests, and chaos at the expense of the taxpayer. For example, here is an excerpt from the Mail Tribune in Medford, Oregon.
” Dec. 24–Police seized about 225 pounds of marijuana from three men who allegedly grew and distributed more pot than is legally allowed under the Oregon Medical Program, police said. On Dec. 17, an undercover officer bought 65 pounds of from two people in a restaurant parking lot in Grants Pass. From information gained from this buy, officers were able to obtain three search warrants in Josephine and Jackson counties. All three locations were reportedly tied to the Oregon Medical Program, Oregon State Police said in a news release (Conrad.)”
This happened as a direct result of the inconsistent verification of the growers and their grow operations. In effect, the lack of supervision on growers allows them to make a lot of money without having to pay taxes on that income. They are taking unfair advantage of the medical marijuana laws, prohibition laws, their fellow citizens who pay taxes, and most importantly, the patients for whom they grow. The lack of consistency with regard to the supervision of patients and growers has left many opportunities for avoiding accountability. Money and marijuana have gone hand in hand for a long time and the medical marijuana movement has made it possible to obtain and deal this drug with frightening ease. Only one thing is certain, as long as the federal government says no to marijuana, and the states say yes to marijuana, marijuana supporters will continue to take advantage of the system and play both ends against the middle.
Thanks to the legal precedence set by our federal government, we now have the medical marijuana programs. The use of marijuana is an undeniable fact in our country. We must not ignore that. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and ignore the realities and consequences of this issue. To do so would be counterproductive to reaching a solution to this debate. Each green state must accept accountability for the regulation of these programs and create government divisions to supervise the patients and growers of this substance. Until they do so, marijuana consumption will continue to be unregulated, undocumented, and uncontrollable. And, in the end, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of this particular cure.
American for Safe access “The History of Medical Cannabis. Medical Info. Americans for Safe Access Web. 6 Mar 2011. httpwww.safeaccessnow.org. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis through legislation. This organization works for advancing legal medical marijuana and covers the topic surrounding the medical uses of marijuana. I consulted this source but did not use it.
Conrad, Chris. Arrests made for abuse of medical marijuana law. Mail Tribune 02022011 Newspaper Source. Web. March 6, 2011. httpweb.ebscohost.com. This article found in the TVCC library discusses arrests of three men in connection with the medical marijuana program. I will use this article to support my reasons for calling for marijuana reform.
EDITORIAL Marijuana The perils of puffing. 02022011. The Florida Times Union Newspaper. Source, Web. 6 Mar 2011. httpweb.ebscohost.com. This article found in the TVCC library discusses the role of marijuana in the U.S. drug issue. I will use it as an example to support my thesis.
ICSDP, Tools for Debate US Federal Government Data on Cannabis Prohibition. report of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (2010) International Centre for Science in Drug Policy. Web. 6 Mar 2011. httpwww.icsdp.org. The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy is an international network of scientists, academics, and health practitioners committed to improving the health and safety of communities and individuals affected by illicit drugs. This report demonstrates the failure of U.S. marijuana prohibition and supports calls for evidence-based models to legalize and regulate the use of cannabis. I will use this to support my thesis.
NORML.ORG. Why should we decriminalize or legalize”FAQ’s Web. 4 Mar 2011. httpnorml.org. This website is dedicated to the push to legalize marijuana and contains information regarding uses of, legal consequences of, and effects of marijuana. They also lobby for the legalization of marijuana and provide legal assistance to those in need of defense from laws. I will use this information to summarize the issue.
US DEA. The Summary of the Top Ten Facts on Legalization. , Web. 3 Mar 2011. httpwww.justice.gov This government run website is dedicated to the controlled substance laws and the regulations of the United States of America. It provides information regarding the legal status of all controlled substances. I will use information found here to summarize the opposition.
Who are the patients receiving medical marijuana through the federal government’s Compassionate IND program” General Reference 992010. ProCon.org. Web. 6 Mar 2011. httpmedicalmarijuana.procon.org. ProCon.org is a nonprofit public charity that has no government affiliations of any kind. Their purpose is to provide resources for critical thinking and to educate without bias. This article covers information regarding the creation of the Federal Medical Marijuana Program and I will use it to refute the opposition.
15 Legal Medical Marijuana States and D.C. Summary Chart. ProCon.org. Web. 6 Mar 2011. httpmedicalmarijuana.procon.org. ProCon.org is a nonprofit public charity that has no government affiliations of any kind. Their purpose is to provide resources for critical thinking and to educate without bias. I will use information from this source to summarize the green state policies regarding the regulation of medical marijuana.