Legalizing any drug evokes strong emotions from people on both sides. The intent of this article is not an opinion piece, but instead an effort to look at the facts, monetary concerns,and broad issues regarding the potential legalization of marijuana.
In the US, marijuana is a Schedule 1 narcotic. That schedule means it has no medicinal utility and a significant abuse potential. Many have tried over the last 20 years to get marijuana reclassified, but no success. There has truly been a lack of consensus as to marijuana's medicinal properties, as fifteen states as of 2011 have legalized it for numerous medical conditions.
How reasonable is it for American to keep marijuana a Schedule 1 drug when other cancerous and addictive substances like nicotine are allowed? That is a hot button topic. The link between tobacco and various cancers is clear, yet it is big business and it does produce tax monies. There are clear labels on these products, yet over 20% of the American public smokes.
A 2002 Time magazine poll showed an amazing 80% of Americans supported legalizing medical marijuana. In the early 20th Century, artists and intellectuals were frequent users of marijuana for the purpose of enhancing creativity. By the early 1920's, media in the US had decided there was a connection between marijuana and crime, both sexual and violent. It is pretty clear at this point that is not true at all, but then even without any research to back up that fallacy all states had laws by the 1930's regulating marijuana usage.
The Commissioner of Narcotics at the time, Harry Anslinger, crusaded against marijuana in front of the medical establishment, the media, and congress warning against its dangers to society. In 1937 as an end result congressional hearings began with the result ensuing with the Marijuana Tax Act. This did not make marijuana illegal, but created a hefty tax structure around every part of the marijuana cycle (cultivation, distribution, sale). The arduous nature of the Act shifted marijuana to a negligible status.
In the 1940's finally some research came out displaying marijuana to be fairly harmless compared to harder drugs like heroin and cocaine. The association with violence became negated and understood to be most likely from the alcohol being consumed in conjunction with marijuana. However, with the legalities around marijuana the general public tended to see it as dangerous in spite of the growing research showing it to be mostly (not completely) harmless.
During the 1950's and 60's marijuana use increased, but research mostly focused on LSD and other hard drugs. By 1970, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that 20 million Americans had used marijuana at least once. In 1970, a Gallup poll showed that 42% of college students had smoked marijuana.
As more and more research shows that medical marijuana in fact doesn't have an association to violent behavior, it seems only natural that individuals would feel they have been misled by the government agencies who are in charge of interpreting these issues. Marijuana has to be obtained illegally for medicinal usage in 35 states to this day, and patients have to live in fear of federal prosecution. Should the laws on marijuana and federal policy be changed? Should medical marijuana arizona simply be re-considered for medicinal usage or for overall usage and be sold next to cigarettes, cigars, and alcohol?
In the 1970's, a push started to decriminalize smaller amounts of marijuana. For those in favor of decriminalization, the general consensus was that the laws against marijuana were more harmful than the drug itself. President Jimmy Carter in 1977 called for the decriminalization of small amounts, so did the American Medical Association and American Bar Association. It didn't occur.
The 1980's saw a reverse of these efforts, and with President Reagan the War on Drugs ensued with tougher policies and penalties on pretty much every drug. Marijuana usage went down during this decade while alcohol, cocaine, and crack skyrocketed. The 1990's saw a reversal of usage trends. Between 1992 and 1994, marijuana usage doubled in adolescents.
Marijuana is not harmless. The cannabis plant has over 400 chemicals in it, and there's a lot we don't know about it. Should it be illegal though? Should it still be a Schedule 1 Narcotic? It is a big cash crop and legalizing it with regulation could bring in significant tax monies along with eliminating the need to provide resources for so much prosecution. Numerous scientific and medical pros have generated evidence about the medical benefits of medical marijuana in arizona, and fifteen states have legalized it for debilitating diseases.