Tamara M. Hillmann
Lakeshore Technical College
Should Wisconsin Proceed with Weed?
Every 36 seconds someone is arrested in the United States for incidents related to cannabis (Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), 2008). Of the 757,969 arrests in 2011, 87% of the arrests were for possession of one ounce or less of cannabis (Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), 2013). Currently 15 states have decriminalized cannabis (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), 2013). Decriminalization means that possession of cannabis is processed much like a traffic ticket, resulting in a fine rather than an arrest, incarceration, or criminal record (MPP, 2008). Another 18 states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized the sale of medical marijuana, and Washington and Colorado are the first two states to legalize the recreational and medical use of marijuana. The residents of these states may think that they are safe from prosecution; however, cannabis is still federally illegal and its use even in these states can be prosecuted on a federal level (NORML, 2013). The prohibition of cannabis is starting to come to an end, as indicated by the legalization at different levels. The law may not be changing federally any time soon, but why should Wisconsin join the other states in legalizing cannabis?
Medical cannabis has been used since 2900 B.C. by the Chinese. “Ma,” as they call it was used because it produced both yin and yang qualities. Cannabis use has been noted in Hebrew, Egyptian, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Greek writtings. By 1 A.D., the Chinese recommended cannabis for more than 100 medical conditions. Cannabis was soon being used throughout Europe. Hemp was first used in 1538 by the English and was brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1611. In 1762, Hemp was such a huge import/export business that Virginia actually penalized farmers who chose not to grow hemp (ProCon, 2012). At the time cannabis was being used to make rope, clothes, paper, animal fodder, medicine, and even food. By 1916, machines were even created to allow easier mass production of cannabis and it was predicted that hemp would become the most prominent agricultural industry (Williamson, 2010, p. 17).
By the mid 1930’s, lumber and paper companies realized that hemp production would take away the riches they were earning from manufacturing paper products. Therefore, William Randolph Hearst, a wealthy man who owned a chain of newspapers, started an aggressive campaign against cannabis. Hearst began the campaign by changing the term cannabis and hemp to “marihuana,” and published that it was a scary Mexican drug. Hearst then had his editors publish pictures in his newspapers showing African Americans and Mexicans as violent “marihuana” smoking criminals. Due to the media, “marihuana” became a strange, foreign substance that engendered the public fear. Because of the newspaper’s influence, Americans perception of cannabis changed, and beginning in 1935, there were clandestine meetings held at the Treasury Department to eradicate hemp (Williamson, 2010, p. 18-19).
By 1937, anti-cannabis laws existed in every state of the union. From 1938-1944, the mayor of New York City had research conducted to see the effects of “marihuana.” The findings were that the original claims the media published about “marihuana” were exaggerated and untrue. However, the report was overlooked and in 1956, marijuana was added to the Narcotics Control Act which then created harsher punishments for those who were charged with marijuana-related offences. The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 lists marijuana as drug with no accepted medical benefits and lists it as a Schedule 1 drug, along with heroin, cocaine, and LSD. Schedule 1 drugs are said to be highly abused, have no medical benefits, and lack safety when taken without medical supervision (ProCon, 2012).
From 1745-1775, President George Washington wrote in his diary that he grew and smoked…