Essay, Research Paper: Legalization Of Marijuana


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Dear Congressman, I am honored to be writing to you on such a significant topic
of national concern. Average citizens are annoyed and just plain fatigued with
the drugs and crime problems in America. These upright citizens, that contribute
to the growth of American society, are being told that legalization is a
reasonable alternative to dealing with these problems in their communities.
Legalization of any drug is not a positive way to fight crime. In fact, there is
no legitimate reason to legalize drugs. The Legalization of marijuana is the
starting point of the pro-legalization of drugs movement. The issue of
legalizing marijuana is truly a controversial one, and certainly one that
requires a plethora of considerations at the top levels of the legislative
branch. When considering the possibility of legalizing marijuana as a
recreational drug, there are a number of concerns that come to mind. Is
marijuana physically harmful to the user? Is marijuana an addictive drug? Does
the use of marijuana lead to dependency situations? Does it act as
"gateway" to more hazardous drugs? Does the notion of legalizing
marijuana send an immoral, wrong message to the youth of America? Mr.
Congressman, the answer to all these questions is YES. According to the DEA
(1998), the supreme ruler of drug knowledge in America, there are over 10,000
scientific studies that prove marijuana is a harmful and addictive drug. Yet
there is no reliable study that proves marijuana has any medical value.
Marijuana is an unstable mixture of over 425 chemicals, which when smoked are
converted to over thousands. Most of these are toxic, psychoactive chemicals
which are unstudied and appear in uncontrolled strengths. Marijuana leads to
many different consequences depending on the personality and general
characteristics of the individual using the drug. These may include, but are not
limited to: premature cancer, addiction, coordination and perception impairment,
mental disorders, hostility and increased aggressiveness, general unconcern of
life, memory loss, reproductive disabilities, and impairment to the immune
system. Marijuana is currently up to 25 times more potent than it was in the
1960's, which makes the drug even more addictive. In 1994, a U.S. Court of
Appeals ruled that marijuana should remain a Schedule I drug: highly addictive
with no medical usefulness. Marijuana is a harmful substance. The use of
marijuana for the purposes of intoxication leads to a number of serious health
risks. Research has proven that marijuana damages short term memory, distorts
perceptions, impairs complex motor skills, alters the heart rate, can lead to
severe anxiety, and can cause paranoia and lethargy. A condition called
Amotivational syndrome take places after chronic use. It is defined by Dr. Harry
Avis (1996), professor of psychology as, "a condition characterized by a
lack of ambition or desire to succeed, presumed to be the result of smoking
marijuana." As reported in The Medical Journal of Australia,
"Marijuana causes birth defects, fetal damage, lung cancer, long-term
impairment of memory, schizophrenia, suppression of the immune system, and even
leukemia in the children of marijuana-smoking mothers" (Nahas & Latour,
1992). The National Institute on Drug Abuse (1996) reported that the chemicals
found in marijuana smoke suppresses the neurons in the information-processing
system of the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that is crucial for
learning, memory, and the integration of sensory experiences with emotions and
motivation. Marijuana, should it be legalized, would ruin many Americans'
abilities to learn, and would abruptly decay the development and progress of the
American Society. Marijuana is dangerous, and it is more dangerous than it ever
has been. The federal Drug Abuse Warning Network, or DAWN, claims that recent
statistics show increases in the number of patients mentioning marijuana in
hospital emergency rooms ("The Marijuana Debate Goes On", 1998).
Inexperienced users may suffer acute anxiety the first time they use it. This
could be a direct result of the increase in potency of marijuana. Growers have
access to the latest agricultural technologies and scientific methods which
enable them to grow more powerful marijuana. "Growers have become extremely
sophisticated about developing varieties of marijuana with high concentrations
of THC" ("Is Marijuana Dangerous? Is It Addictive?", 1995). THC,
or Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is one of the 400 chemicals in marijuana. It
accounts for most of marijuana's psychoactive, or mind-altering, effects
("Facts About Marijuana and Marijuana Abuse", 1996). The levels of THC
found in the modern drug markets' marijuana are much higher than they have ever
been. The concentration of THC will keep increasing in the future. This directly
leads to more and stronger addictions to marijuana. One argument that the
pro-legalization movement pleads is that there are thousands of legal medical
drugs on the market that have possible side effects that can be dangerous to the
user. One effect can be dependency and addiction to prescription drugs. Now,
sure there are perception drugs on the market that are potentially dangerous to
the person taking the drugs, but their effects are nothing compared to that of
marijuana. Such a comparison can be made with a knife and a gun. Both are
potentially lethal and dangerous. Just being careless with a knife can result in
death or injury, but with the gun, all one has to be is stupid enough to mess
with it. Also, recreational marijuana users are not taking marijuana under a
doctor's supervision, or taking a prescribed dosage from a pharmacist. This
argument is by no means grounds for possible consideration of legalizing
marijuana. The addictive ability of marijuana has been studied and discussed for
some time now. Many studies have transpired to verify these addictive effects.
It is said that marijuana is not physically addictive but is psychologically
addictive. None the less, there are obvious signs that marijuana users become
addicted in some manner. "Nationwide about 100,000 people a year seek
treatment to get off marijuana," according to Alan I. Leshner, director of
the National Institute on Drug Abuse ("Is Marijuana Dangerous? Is It
Addictive," 1995). Dr. David Smith, founder of Haight-Ashbury Free Clinics
in San Francisco, says that, "the clinics there treat about 100 youths a
month who seek help with marijuana dependency" ("Is Marijuana
Dangerous? Is It Addictive," 1995). Most people probably aren't aware, but
an organization called Marijuana Anonymous actually exists. The only requirement
for membership is a desire to stop using marijuana. Such an organization would
not exist if addiction and dependency were not associated with marijuana use.
The physically harmful and addictive effects of marijuana should be grounds
enough to stop the legalization campaigns. We need to stay focused though, on a
much more critical problem our nation faces with this pro-drug crusade. That is
protecting the American children from throwing their lives away on drugs. If
marijuana were legalized with restrictions, similar to the age restrictions on
tobacco and alcohol, the use of marijuana by children under such an age would
increase. If it's legal, children would get the notion that it isn't harmful.
The physical effects of marijuana mentioned previously are much more dangerous
to the youths of America, who's minds and bodies have not even finished
developing. The Office of National Drug Control Policy's Statement on Marijuana
for Medical Purposes (1997) says, "marijuana use among kids has increased
78 percent in the last four years alone". With drug use by young people
increasing, we must not send a mixed message to our youth about the dangers of
marijuana. The recent proposals for legalization and the medical usage laws are
sending messages to the American children that it is "ok" to smoke
pot. And it simply is not. Our nations goals must be to reduce, not promote the
use of illicit drugs by our children. Marijuana is the first step that children
take into the dark world of drug abuse. It acts as a gateway to more serious
problems. The idea is that cocaine and heroin users don't just start out with
cocaine and heroin. They start with drugs like marijuana that are easier to get,
to try, and are less legally offensive. According to the National Center on
Addiction and Substance Abuse (1998), "teens 12-17 who use marijuana are 85
times more likely to use cocaine than non-marijuana users". The CASA
president, Joseph A. Califano, says, "that the gateway effect means that
recent increases in marijuana use among teens will translate into 820,000 more
children who will try cocaine in their lifetime, of whom 58,000 will become
(narcotics) addicts"("The Marijuana Debate Goes on," 1998). The
number of children that will use cocaine will increase should marijuana be
legalized. No-one debates the issue of legalizing cocaine. And no one should.
Cocaine, heroin, crack, and every other illicit drug out there should all remain
illegal too. There is no debate about the dangers of these drugs. When local
drug dealers know that your younger brother, sister, or child has tried smoking
pot they see a new customer for some of their more dangerous drugs. "If
marijuana is a gateway to hard drugs, it is likely due to its illicit status
that the purveyors of pot can put your adolescent in touch with the local crack
connection" (Clark, 1997). These drugs can kill the first time that they
are used. There is no dispute about the dangers of addiction and withdrawal that
accompany the use of such drugs. Do you want these dealers hassling the children
of America? Legalizing marijuana would set us on a slippery slope toward
accepting any and all drugs. Many pro-legalization organizations try to compare
prohibition of alcohol to the illegal status of marijuana. They try to make
claims that marijuana isn't as dangerous as alcohol and should then be legal as
well. This argument could be debated for years, supported by scientists with
physical studies backing up both sides of the issue. Alcohol is definitely a
dangerous and addictive drug. It leads to thousands of deaths a year, be it
drunk driving or other crimes executed while intoxicated. It truthfully doesn't
matter which drug would eventually be deemed the most dangerous. The fact of the
matter is that this pro-legalization argument is not a valid reason to legalize
marijuana. The alcohol situation that transpired during the early part of this
century was totally different from the current situation with marijuana.
Prohibition of alcohol was repealed after just 13 years while prohibition
against marijuana has lasted for more than seventy five years. Alcohol
prohibition struck directly at tens of millions of Americans of all ages,
including many of societies most powerful members. Marijuana prohibition
threatens far fewer Americans. Most of which are young and relatively
subordinate Americans. Alcohol prohibition was repealed and marijuana
prohibition was retained, not because scientists had proved that alcohol was the
less dangerous of the various psychoactive drugs, but because of the prejudices
and preferences of the majority of Americans. Marijuana has no place in American
society. The cost to society of the two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, has
been and still is enormous. As De Leon (1994) puts it, we certainly don't need
to add any more problems by increasing the availability of marijuana. "Even
if it is relatively ineffective, we have developed social control over the use
of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. Among most drinkers, solitary
drinking, drinking and driving, and being intoxicated are socially sanctioned,
while drinking moderately with family and friends and taking precautions about
driving are encouraged. No such controls prevail over marijuana or any other
drugs." (Avis, 1996). Marijuana should remain illegal because of the
enormous number of side effects and the addictions that result from use. The
illegality of drugs helps to discourage at least some people from trying them.
Making marijuana widely available would undoubtedly increase at least
experimental use, and given the stronger potency of modern marijuana, most users
would go on to develop abuse-related problems (MacCaoun, 1992). Marijuana is
still a drug! That fact can not be changed no matter how many people vote on it.
Drugs lead to Crime. And Crime breaks down society. Average citizens, fed up
with crime and drugs, are being told that legalization is a reasonable
alternative. As Thomas A. Constantine, administrator for the DEA, puts it
("Speaking Out", 1999), legalization is not an alternative, but rather
a surrender which will reduce our quality of life. Health and social costs
associated with the increased availability of marijuana would break our economy.
Crime would not decrease. The moral fiber of our country would be ripped apart.

BibliographyAvis, Harry. (1996). Drugs & Life. Chicago: Brown & Benchmark.
137-156, 245-265. Clark, Thomas W. (1997, May/June). "Keep Marijuana
Illegal." Humanist, 57, p. 14. De Leon, G. (1994). "Some Problems with
the anti-prohibitionist position on the legalization of drugs." Journal of
Analytical Toxicology, 1-7,14. "Is Marijuana Dangerous? Is It
Addictive?..." (1995, July 28). CQ Researcher, p. 666-667. MacCoun, R.
(1992). "Drugs and the law: A psychological analysis of drug
prohibition." Psychological Bulletin, 113, 497-512. Nahas, C.G., &
Latour, C. (1992). "The Human Toxicity of Marijuana." Medical Journal
of Australia, 156, 495-497. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (1996, May/April).
NIDA publication: Facts About Marijuana and Marijuana Abuse [Publication posted
on the World Wide Web]. Washington, DC. Retrieved April 15, 1999 from the World
Wide Web:
Office of National Drug Control Policy. (1997, August 4). ONDCP publication:
ONDCP Statement on Marijuana for Medical Purposes [Publication posted on the
World Wide Web]. Washington, DC. Retrieved April 23, 1999 from the World Wide
Web: Shalala, Donna E.
(1995, August 18). "Say 'No' to Legalization of Marijuana." Wall
Street Journal, pp. A10. "The Marijuana Debate Goes on." (1998,
November 20). CQ Researcher, p. 1018-1019. U.S. Department of Justice: Drug
Enforcement Administration. (1999, February 10). DEA press release: DEA Arrests,
Seizures Rise in 1998 As National Crime Rate Drops [Press Release on the World
Wide Web]. Washington, DC. Retrieved April 28, 1999 from the World Wide Web: U.S. Department of Justice:
Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA publication: Say It Straight: The Medical
Myths of Marijuana [Publication posted on the World Wide Web]. Washington, DC.
Retrieved April 28, 1999 from the World Wide Web:
U.S. Department of Justice: Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA publication:
Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization [Publication posted on the World Wide
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