In America there are a lot of problems, ranging from violence to obesity. A growing concern of many Americans is the drug “epidemic” with the growth of the war on drugs. Marijuana, throughout history, has been demonized and illegalized, however now a newfound acceptance of the drug is growing rapidly with some states fully legalizing the drug recreationally, and others medically.
Marijuana has a deep history in America, being in the Americas since 1545 when the Spanish brought it over with them. Later, it was again brought over with the English colonists to Jamestown. Here it was used as a large cash crop similar to tobacco and was used as a major source of fiber. Later in the 1890s, a similar plant, hemp, became another large cash crop in the southern half of the US even replacing cotton. Around this time marijuana was also used in medications, although it was not on the scale of cocaine and opium, being used to treat everything from labor pains to rheumatism, “any disorder of the extremities or back, characterized by pain and stiffness” (The Definition of Rheumatism). Further on, in the 1920s marijuana became increasingly more popular with jazz musicians and even special cafesclubs opening for its use. It was not until the 1930s when a campaign conducted by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics whom labeled marijuana as the harmful “gateway drug” it is seen as today. Though labeled as harmful, the drug was not made illegal until the “Controlled Substances Act of 1970” (Marijuana History), which grouped marijuana with other harsher drugs, such as LSD and heroin. This law was not enforced as heavily, however, until the Reagan and Bush administrations brought forth the “war on drugs”, initially started by Richard Nixon, which cracked down hard on drug investigation.
Now we move forward to 2016, with a large push for legalization across the U.S., where Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Massachusetts, Alaska, and Maine have all legalized marijuana fully, medically and recreationally. Other states have legalized marijuana only legally, such as Montana, California, Illinois, Arkansas, Louisiana and many more, with other states having limited medical legality, and all other states having marijuana fully illegal. These changes have shown the large push of the masses to legalize marijuana, because of it ‘s, not only being non harmful, has many extensive benefits as well, from treating Glaucoma to controlling seizures. Now looking at hemp, there are just as many uses for it as there are for marijuana, if not more. Hemp seeds can be eaten to get a large portion of necessary proteins for humans, hemp can be used as an oil, for clothing, and much more, but one of the best uses is paper. In production of paper, an acre of hemp can be equated to an acre of trees being grown over the course of a 20 year growth cycle, and doesn’t require as many harmful chemicals to bleach it white, as tree paper does.
Marijuana, is not as harmful of a drug as many would like to believe. Its short term symptoms are mood changes, impaired movement and memory, difficulty thinking and solving problems, heightened alertness, and a change in sense of time. The long term effect is a slow down of mental development, which only affects children, teenagers, and young adults. This is an important fact to note, as marijuana does not have any harmful effects after the brain has fully developed. Even the idea that it is a gateway drug and can lead to the use of harder drugs is not expressly true, and in fact “most people who smoke marijuana, don’t even continue smoking marijuana.” (Conover, Adam).
Now we move on to the problem, which isn’t what you may think it is. The problem here is that marijuana was made illegal for reasons based on money and racism, as well as hemp being illegal, even though it is not a drug like marijuana. A man by the name of Harry Anslinger, a man who worked for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who needed to keep the funding of their program alive, decided he needed to find a drug he could demonize to get Congress on board with them again (Conover, Adam). So he used propaganda (racism and fear) to get Congress to make the drug illegal. Since then, we have had done many tests to prove the claims he made were untrue, but when Nixon was confronted about it, he started the “war on drugs”, which was kept on by the Reagan and Bush administrations (as previously stated).
Now let’s move on to possible solutions to the problem. There are three real ways we can approach the legalization of marijuana. We can approach one, the legalization of marijuana (and hemp) entirely, legalizing marijuana medically (also including hemp), or just legalizing hemp itself. No matter what way you look at it, here is how you would get it done. One would have to do extensive research and create a “presentation” to put forth before Congress. Once you have that presentation made up, you would present it to a small board who would then put that “bill” up to Congress. That bill would have to be approved and then legalized, but would go through changes before anything happened, assuming it was approved.
My personal solution to the problem, is fully legalizing marijuana and hemp. Looking back on history, and the blatant facts in front of me, I can see that marijuana is clearly a, not only non harmful, but also quite beneficial drug, as well as hemp having no real reason to be illegal (to grow). The way I look at it, comparing marijuana to alcohol you can easily see that one is bad, and one is not. Alcohol is a drug that kills brain cells, and causes many deaths in the US because of unsafe use, whereas marijuana does not cause any harm if legalized under the same ramifications as alcohol. Thus I think the only real solution is fully legalizing marijuana, through presenting to Congress and getting the “bill” passed. What would happen if this “bill” did get passed, the large amounts of people put into jail yearly for possession of this drug, would no longer need to worry, and many already in jail could be let out.
Marijuana, a drug demonized throughout America’s history should be legalized because the “war on drugs” epidemic has put it into a bad light, when it has many benefits that could be reaped, with a strong backing of many people pushing for its legalization, with many states passing laws to legalize it both recreationally and medically, or just medically.