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Legalizing Marijuana

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President Barak Obama, an average college student, and fun-loving, family friend "Uncle Eddy" seemingly do not share many things in common. Although all three share this in common: they have made the choice to recreationally smoke marijuana. Countless odd pairings of the American demographic can be created that share the same fact, which demonstrates how the "Legalizing Marijuana" cause has made leaps and bounds towards its goal. Marijuana, once one of the largest agricultural crops in the world, was also legal at one time. Cannabis has only been outlawed, "for less than 1% of the time that it's been in use. Its known uses go back further than 7,000 B.C."(Guither ). In the United States of America, farmers were once required by the government to grow hempseed for its variety of uses. The influx of Mexicans to the West first caused California and then other states to follow in outlawing marijuana. For indeed marijuana has a lengthy, interesting history, but this paper will focus on the future of marijuana in America based off the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana, personally and governmentally. As well as, discuss the important court cases which have formed the policies on marijuana today in the U.S.

As with any controversial topic, it is important to analyze both sides of the argument. First, I will discuss the negative effects of marijuana. From my research, I found no widely accepted study conducted that specifically and scientifically labeled the effects of smoking marijuana, which left the door open for tons of speculation. Having said that, the list of harmful side effects of smoking marijuana include losing brain cells, lung cancer, testicular cancer, gum cancer, heart attacks, emphysema, bronchitis, and damage to the immune system. "Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance, yet among the least studied in medication development research. Cocaine-dependent individuals frequently also use marijuana; however, little is known about the effect of this combined use on treatment presentation,"¹ this quote explains the results of a study conducted at the University of Texas. Not only does this quote clearly indentify the minimal research done of marijuana, but also shows the process of how people tend to associate marijuana with any side effect that a recent study claims to have linked marijuana to. "As terrible as you can possibly make marijuana sound by the use of anecdote and by cherry-picking the scientific literature, you cannot make a credible argument that its public health and other social effects are as bad as those of alcohol and tobacco." ² No valid argument based on the health effects can be made to keep marijuana illegal. No one has ever said that marijuana is healthy. Just as no one has ever said that alcohol and tobacco is healthy. Which than raises the question, why is alcohol and tobacco legal while marijuana isn't? Overall, marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco are equal choices that we as Americans should be able to make ourselves. As long as proper measures are taken to warn people of the harmful side effects that could result in your actions, it is up to you to make your own choice.

Another argument against marijuana is that of the "gateway theory". The gateway theory states that once someone tries one thing, they are going to be inclined to try something at the next level. People argue that marijuana users are more likely to move onto hard drugs such as heroin or crack-cocaine. "The Institute of Medicine and other research bodies have concluded there is no evidence that marijuana is a "gateway" drug - certainly no more so than alcohol or tobacco. While some people use marijuana to excess, most people who smoke marijuana never become dependent." ³ This quote disputes the arguments against marijuana and is another great example of how how many facts that paint marijuana in a negative life are speculation. A more coherent, intelligent explanation of how marijuana has become labeled as the gateway drug is since marijuana is illegal, users have to purchase marijuana from the black market where dealers probably sell other drugs. Through pressure or because of the availability, people will perhaps try what else the dealer has to offer. If Marijuana were legal, there would be a smaller inclination to move on to hard drugs because people would be buying government regulated pot at local gas stations instead of the neighborhood drug dealer.

So far, the arguments against marijuana have been refuted because no tests have scientifically proven any of the arguments true. Also, the arguments against marijuana use are strikingly similar to the arguments against alcohol and tobacco. If marijuana was legalized the way the government budgeted its money would be greatly affected. '"More than 40 billion dollars of federal money is spent each year trying to fight the "War on Drugs" "(Merlin ). That means that the portion allotted for marijuana prevention could be allotted to healthcare costs, lowering taxes, national defense, environmental research, or help fix the deficit as some examples. "Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says he welcomes the debate about legalizing marijuana as the state struggles to avoid insolvency. The move could generate as much as $1.4-billion in new tax revenue and save the state "tens of millions of dollars" in prison and police costs, state officials told the California Assembly's Public Safety Committee. They based their estimates on a levy of $50 an ounce."⁴ The U.S. economy hasn't seen a recession that it is currently in since the Great Depression. The economic effect of taxing marijuana would help both the states and federal government. The U.S. court systems are over booked with court cases, most being non-violent cases. "Police made about 870,000 arrests for marijuana in 2007. Roughly 775,000, or 88 percent, of those arrests were for nothing more than simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. Millions of Americans have never been arrested or convicted of any criminal offense except this."⁵ Judges and everyone involved in the court



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