The Marijuana Controversy
Marijuana, at large, has acquired a highly tarnished name. Perhaps the reason for this is because of the controversial understandings of its effects. Marijuana seems to attract a great deal of misunderstanding, which is why the marijuana laws regarding both medical and recreational uses are directly conflicting, and challenging all Americans with a rapidly growing, increasingly puzzling, social problem. Its controversial recreational use, medical properties, and financial opportunities all greet us with the questions we face today: Should America legalize and tax marijuana on a federal level? Do scientific advancements in medical science now legitimize marijuana as a medicine? Marijuana is currently illegal under federal law. However, at the same time, marijuana is somehow very legal under state law in certain American states today. Still, the citizens of these states have fallen subject to federal prosecution. For even though they are using marijuana in compliance with state laws, they are at the same time using marijuana in violation of federal law. As a result, the federal government has been going into these marijuana-legal states and enforcing their contrasting laws upon the state laws. In addition to shutting down state-run medical marijuana distributers, the federal government is also imprisoning doctors and distributers should they not shut their operations down (Schwartz). This practice is unconstitutional, and is leading to overcrowding in our prisons and unnecessary spending to enforce the federal law in state jurisdictions. Unnecessary, unsuccessful and financially exhausting efforts are made on the federal government’s behalf to prohibit a substance that was once listed in the United States Pharmacopeia (Bauer). In addition, more and more states seem to be passing marijuana reform laws and most would agree that America may already be slowly on its way to a future of marijuana legalization. Thus, we have a pressing issue that needs to be addressed. At this point, the only realistic solution to the marijuana controversy is for the federal government to add marijuana to the U.S. Pharmacopeia and implement a policy in which the states that have legalized marijuana are exempt from federal enforcement
At the root of the controversy is the marijuana, or “Cannabis” plant itself. So what exactly is this plant, and what is its history with humans? Edward M. Brecher, author of The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs, points out that, “[C]annabis is the only plant that yields both a drug or intoxicant and a useful fiber, [and] its early history can be readily traced through references to a plant that yields both” (pt. VIII, ch. 53). Human’s first interaction with marijuana dates back to 2900 BC, where the Chinese Emperor Fu His had described cannabis as a medicine that “possessed both yin and yang” (Deitch). Widely used throughout ancient history, marijuana was first brought to the United States by Jamestown settlers in 1611, where its strong fiber was used for ropes, canvas, and other fiber-based materials. (Brecher). It wasn’t until the Mexican immigrants brought the plant into the U.S. from 1910-1920 that ingesting marijuana for its intoxicating effects was first introduced to the American people (PBS). Following the initial spread of marijuana use, many insights to the plant began to unravel and it was soon introduced to the medical community.
The interesting, and rather overlooked aspect of marijuana is that humans are made for it. According to an article published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, in the early 1960’s scientists Gaoni and Mechoulam isolated delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinoil (THC) from the Cannabis plant. However, the mechanism of action remained a mystery until 1990. After a lengthy, 30-year research process, THC’s mechanism of action was revealed and identified in a surprising discovery: Cannabinoid receptors, THC-sensitive sites in the human brain