Pros and Cons
Cannabis, also known by its Spanish and commonly used name “marijuana”, is perhaps the most controversial and widely used illicit drug in the United States today, second only to the legal recreational substance, alcohol. From the 1960s to the 1970s, marijuana became more than just a drug. It grew to become a symbol in its own right, a flag of the revolutionists that rejected the leadership and materialism of mainstream American culture. As a result of this generational upheaval, between 1966 and 1980, numerous reports were written, ignited by unfriendly public debates. These particular findings made it increasingly difficult for scientists and the general public to study and/or discuss the aspects of legalization objectively. To appropriately formulate valid views and opinions on the legalization of marijuana, we must first uncover several factors surrounding the history, possible reasons for and against use, along with the physical, mental, legal, psychological effects, and consequences involved with use.
Let’s begin with unearthing some historic influences. The first evidence of cannabis (marijuana) dates back five thousand years to China, where the Neolithic population made thread from the (ta-ma in Chinese), or hemp of the marijuana plant. According to co-authors, Richard Evans Schultes and Albert Hoffman, in Plants of the Gods:
Medical purposes were first determined in 2737 BC, when the Chinese emperor Shen-Nung studied, experimented with, and recorded his findings on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. At this time it was discovered that cannabis could be utilized not only as a medicine but a substance that revealed stupefying and hallucinogenic properties (Schultes and Hoffman 8).
Its use spread from China to India, then to North Africa and reached Europe as early as A.D. 500. For centuries that followed, the use of marijuana included domestic uses, cultivation, and industrial purposes. This has continued throughout history with uses for oil, food, and hallucinogens. It wasn’t until around 1910 that it was introduced to the New World, by Mexican farm laborers working in Texas fields. It quickly migrated and was generally confined to the poor minorities primarily in New Orleans. Then in 1937, when its use began to spread across America, regardless of socioeconomic status, the Marijuana Tax Act was enacted. This Act prohibited growth or possession of marijuana, making it illegal for use without a tax stamp, other than the popular and therapeutic uses of hemp preparations which are not categorically prohibited by the provisions of the Marijuana Tax Act. With the increase in the number of middle-class users in the 1960s and 1970s, there came a somewhat greater acceptance of the view that marijuana should not be considered in the same class as narcotics and that U.S. marijuana laws should be relaxed. Marijuana was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1850 until 1942 and was prescribed for various conditions including labor pains, nausea, and rheumatism. Its use as an intoxicant was also commonplace from the 1850s to the 1930s. Opponents of easing marijuana laws have asserted that it is an intoxicant less controllable than alcohol and that our drug-using society does not need another widely used intoxicant. Their view was that the United States should not act to weaken UN policies, which are opposed to the use of marijuana for other than possible medical purposes.
Despite the laws of the land that prevail, marijuana has become widely used and researchers have found through studies, surveys, and other various forms of research, that those who are addicted to or have experimented with marijuana use, present a variety of reasons why they choose to partake. These include: the desire for pleasure, escape from reality or tensions, curiosity, peer pressure, the longing to fit in, self-medication, sacred or religious rituals, sexual satisfaction,