Have you or your friend ever consumed marijuana? If you have, you certainly possess a strong vision of this problem that is worth reviewing. If not, then it is even more important that you take a close and objective look at the problem of legalizing marijuana that has recently become a real challenge the American society is forced to face in the 21st century. Polls show that more than 40% of Americans have tried cannabis at least once (Jacques). Marijuana is becoming more and more popular every year and there must be a serious reason for this growing popularity. I will try to explore the advantages and disadvantages of using marijuana taking into consideration the intrinsic contrariety and duality of the issue. I will look at how marijuana or weed can affect your body, and also how it can help cure some medical conditions. I hope, this will help me prove that legalizing marijuana is a reasonable and logical step that the American society should take on its way to improving public well-being.
Marijuana or Cannabis sativa is a plant that first was fully legally used throughout human history. It is said that is was first woven from its fiber-hemp as far back as 7000 B.C. (Bushak) The oldest documented use of cannabis goes back to the rule of the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2727 B.C. Cannabis was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, as well as to the citizens of the Islamic empire and people in North Africa. In the Rennaissance period this plant traveled to the western hemisphere and was used as fiber and, in the form of hemp, in rope, clothing and paper manufacturing (Cannabis, Coca, & Poppy: Nature's Addictive Plants). In 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act that ordered to excise taxes and enforced penalties on the commercial handling of the plant (Martin). Stricter measures followed in 1952 and 1970. The seventies became the hardest time for those who wanted to use cannabis, even for medical or research purposes. In his article, Time journalist Scott C. Martin shows that as a part of Richard Nixons war on drugs the ban on marijuana was rather a manipulative political decision, than a rational solution of the drug abuse problem: the Controlled Substances Act placed cannabis into Schedule 1, along with heroin and LSD, more due to Nixons animus toward the counterculture with which he associated marijuana than scientific, medical, or legal opinion (Martin). Martin proves his point by appealing to the 1972 report of the the Shafer Commission, an investigative body appointed by Nixon, which recommended that marijuana be decriminalized and thus removed from Schedule 1 and which was vehemently rejected by Nixon (Martin). No doubt, it is only natural that a decision made in such dubious political circumstances is to be seriously reconsidered today, when the benefits of this plant have been scientifically proven.
No one will deny, that marijuana can have both positive and negative effects on your body. Some of the positive effects are relaxation, laughter, increased socialism, and euphoria. Scientists state that the component responsible for the drugs' psychoactive effects is tetrahydrocannbinol, or THC, which binds to cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, and THC's binding to brain regions responsible for pleasure, time perception and pain leads to the altered state that is often defined as "high": this binding in turn triggers a chemical cascade that eventually stimulates the production of dopamine, a brain chemical often called the "feel good chemical," which is part of the body's reward system," says Mitch Earleywine, a psychology professor at the University at Albany in New York, who studies marijuana's health effects, "Subjective effects really vary Folks who like it emphasize the euphoria and the relaxation, and then depending on the strain, it's mildly stimulating, or mildly sedating" (as cited in Ghose). On the other hand, there are still a few disadvantages of marijuana that one can experience. For example, using this plant can cause dizziness, dry mouth, hallucinations, and blurred vision (Dryden-Edwards). Research has shown that the detrimental effects of the cannabis use are especially serious in relation to babies and children: exposure to this substance prenatally can negatively affect fetal growth and body weight, as well as the impulse control, focusing ability, learning, memory, and decision making (Dryden-Edwards). Like any other drug, marijuana has its side-effects. This is why it is essential to legalize marijuana so that its use could be easily controlled by the appropriate institutions. Public health will only benefit from the controlled and limited sale and use of this plant, as it will help better inform the users about the side-effects and safety rules of consuming this substance. It will also facilitate further research that will help define if there are any other effects both positive and negative that cannabis might exercise upon people of different ages.
Legalization will also make medical research and practice much more productive as marijuana has been used over time to help cure different illnesses. As Lecia Bushak points out in her article A Brief History Of Medical Cannabis: From Ancient Anesthesia To The Modern Dispensary, in ancient China and elsewhere in the world hemp was grown for food and had hundreds of other uses so it was only natural for people to discover that other types of the Cannabis plant could be used medicinally (Bushak). The author describes the effective and widespread use of the plant as a means of anesthesia in the ancient (China, Japan, India, Egypt) and medieval world (in the Middle East and Europe) (Bushak). In the modern times cannabis has been proven to be able to help with such serious health issues as epileptic conditions, HIV/AIDs, Parkinsons disease, multiple sclerosis, or even Crohns disease and schizophrenia (Bushak). Among other effects, research has also shown that it can help heal broken bones, stop severe seizures, and even cure migraines (Bushak). One of the major illnesses that this drug has assisted in delaying is cancer. While the drug may not cure cancer, it can help with the pain caused by the disease. It has been proven that cancer patients who have used marijuana experienced less pain throughout the process than those who prefer not to use it (Marijuana and Cancer). With such encouraging results marijuana is destined to change the way people are treated today.
Obviously, those who agree with the use of the plant, are encouraged to do so because of the positive effects the weed has upon human body, including relaxation which facilitates socialization and creative endeavors. But, as we have seen, using marijuana has both advantages and disadvantages. And the disadvantages seem to be quite serious too, as very few people would argue that dizziness, hallucinations, and blurred vision can contribute to their well-being. And yet, I would like to remind you that any medicine has side effects, many of them are poison when taken without regard for the prescribed dosage. Moreover, many legal things like, for example, owning a weapon, smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol can have potentially harmful and even deadly consequences. Studies show that, in 2010, overdoses caused the death of 38,329 people and that sixty percent of deaths were brought about by prescription drugs (Jacques). In that same year, alcohol killed the appalling number of 25,692 people (Jacques). But there is not a single documented case of a death caused by consuming marijuana. In addition, marijuana is not only not lethal, but also much less harmful than such legal drugs as cigarettes and alcohol. A 2010 UK-based study of drug abuse, conducted on behalf of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, reviewed by the Economist, proved that the combined harms to others and to the user of marijuana are less than the harms posed by alcohol or tobacco use (Scoring drugs). And finally, I cannot but mention Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNNs Chief Medical Correspondent, with his brilliant essay, Why I Changed My Mind About Weed, where the author shows that marijuana causes dependence in around only 9-10 percent of adult users while tobacco makes 30 percent of its users addicted (Gupta). Thus, it is easy to see that the devil is not as black as he is painted, and that the most important step for those who decide in favor of using cannabis is to be well-informed and to know when to stop.
Obviously, marijuana can do more good than harm. As we have seen, its positive effects can help not only solve minor psychological problems like anxiety, limited socialization, creative block, but also deal with major issues like cancer. If we can prevent people from unbearable suffering and going through a terrible psychological meat-chopper by such a comparatively easy measure as legalizing marijuana and making it an integral part of the legal pharmaceutical market, why should we not do it? Who would choose pain over joy, and worry over calm? Personally, I think, that cannabis should be legalized all over the country because it will allow more people to improve their health conditions and make their lives happier at a very reasonable price without serious consequences to their public image and activities. As I see it now, the only thing that is left is for the American society to get more objective information on the problem so that the citizens could see the benefits of the legalization without being influenced by the huge pharmaceutical companies and groundless fears which mass media use in order to manipulate public opinion.
Bushak, Lecia. A Brief History Of Medical Cannabis: From Ancient Anesthesia To The Modern Dispensary. Medical Daily, 21 Jan. 2016, www.medicaldaily.com/brief-history-medical-cannabis-ancient-anesthesia-modern-dispensary-370344.
Cannabis, Coca, & Poppy: Nature's Addictive Plants. DEA Museum, www.deamuseum.org/ccp/cannabis/history.html.Dryden-Edwards, Roxanne. Marijuana: Facts on the Drug and Its Effects on the Brain. MedicineNet, www.medicinenet.com/marijuana/article.htm#what_are_the_physical_effects_of_abusing_marijuana.Ghose, Tia. Marijuana: Facts About Cannabis. LiveScience, Purch, 18 May 2017, www.livescience.com/24559-marijuana-facts-cannabis.html.
Gupta, Sanjay. Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Why I changed my mind on weed. CNN, Cable News Network, 8 Aug. 2013, www.cnn.com/2013/08/08/health/gupta-changed-mind-marijuana/index.html.
Jacques, Renee. This Is Why Marijuana Should Be Legal Everywhere. HuffPost, HuffPost, 6 Dec. 2017, m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4151423.
Marijuana and Cancer. American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/complementary-and-alternative-medicine/marijuana-and-cancer.html.
Scoring drugs. The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 2 Nov. 2010, www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2010/11/drugs_cause_most_harm.Martin, Scott C. Marijuana in the United States: How Attitudes Have Changed. Time, Time, 20 Apr. 2016, time.com/4298038/marijuana-history-in-america/.
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