What Is Marijuana? Marijuana, a drug obtained from dried and crumpled parts of the ubiquitous hemp plant Canabis sativa (or Cannabis indica). Smoked by rolling in tobacco paper or placing in a pipe. It is also otherwise consumed worldwide by an estimated 200,000,000 persons for pleasure, an escape from reality, or relaxation. Marijuana is known by a variety of names such as kif (Morocco), dagga (South Africa), and bhang (India). Common in the United States, marijuana is called pot, grass, weed, Mary Jane, bones, etc. The main active principle of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol.
The potency of its various forms ranges from a weak drink consumed in India to the highly potent hashish. The following consists of pure cannabis resin. Marijuana is not a narcotic and is not mentally or physically addicting drug. One can use mild cannabis preparations such as marijuana in small amounts for years without physical or mental deterioration. Marijuana serves to diminish inhibitions and acts as an euphoriant.
Only once in a while will it produce actual hallucinations. More potent preparations of cannabis such as hashish can induce psychedelic experiences identical to those observed after ingestion of potent hallucinogens such as LSD. Some who smoke marijuana feel no effects; others feel relaxed and sociable, tend to laugh a great deal, and have a profound loss of the sense of time. Characteristically, those under the influence of marijuana show incoordination and impaired ability to perform skilled acts. Still others experience a wide range of emotions including feelings of perception, fear, insanity, happiness, love and anger. Although marijuana is not addicting, it may be habituating. The individual may become psychologically rather than physically dependent on the drug.
Legalization Of Marijuana Those who urge the legalization of marijuana maintain the drug is entirely safe. The available data suggested, this is not so, Marijuana occasionally produces acute panic reactions or even transient psychoses. Furthermore, a person driving under the influence of marijuana is a danger to themselves and others. If smoked heavily and a great deal of consistency, its use has been clearly associated with mental breakdown. In many persons who smoke chronically, the drug reinforces passivity and reduces goal-directed, constructive activity.
The chronic use of pure resin (hashish) has been associated both with mental deterioration and criminality. One of the major complications of marijuana use is the tendency on the part of some users to progress to more dangerous drugs. Users in economically deprived areas usually go on to heroin, whereas more affluent individuals tend to move from marijuana to more potent hallucinogens such as LSD. There is no established medical use for marijuana or any other cannabis preparation. In the United States, its use is a crime and the laws governing marijuana are similar to those regulating heroin. Many authorities now urge that the laws be modified to mitigate the penalties relating to conviction on marijuana possession charges.
The Case For Legalizing Marijuana Use The United States stands apart from many nations in its deep respect for the individual. The strong belief in personal freedom appears early in the nation’s history. The Declaration of Independence speaks of every citizen’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Constitution and Bill of Rights go further, making specific guarantees. They forbid the government to make unwarranted entry into dwelling places. They forbid seizure of personal property, except when very clear reasons are approved by the courts. They allow every citizen to remain silent in court when accused of a crime.
Legal decisions have extended these rights, so that every citizen may feel safe, secure, and sheltered from public view in the privacy of his or her home. The Right To Privacy In recent years, Americans have referred to privacy as one of the basic human rights, something to be claimed by anyone, anywhere. United States citizens feel strongly about this and often tell other countries that they must honor their people’s claims to privacy and personal freedom. Foreign leaders often disagree. They resent what they deem arrogant meddling by the United States. Leaders of the Soviet Union, for example, regard individual privacy as trivial when compared to the needs of the state. If the United States is to be persuasive in promoting freedom in other parts of the world, it must respect the privacy of its own citizens.
Sometimes it is hard to do this because what goes on in people’s private lives may seem offensive. But, according to U.S. traditions, there is a strong case to be made against legislating the private behavior of adults, so long as that behavior does not in turn violate the rights of others. Some people feel that this reasoning should hold also for marijuana. A person who smokes at home is not doing injury.
The marijuana user is indulging in a minor pleasure over which that government should have no jurisdiction. It is quite clear from survey data that most people do not become physically dependent on marijuana. The majority use it as others use alcohol – to relax occasionally and to indulge a festive mood. How can a mild intoxicant, taken less than once a day by most users, be seen as a public threat? Even those who are “hooked”, or psychologically dependent upon their habit, should not be penalized by the law. Some people find any compulsive and unproductive behavior disgusting. But that is not a reason for outlawing it. Consider eating, many people develop compulsive habits about food.
They talk about it frequently. They spend many of their waking hours anticipating, planning, obtaining, and consuming food. This may be unattractive. It certainly is not productive and it can be harmful if the “food addict” is over weight. But there are no laws to prevent food addiction. If Congress tried to forbid the eating of ice cream sundaes or cotton candy, many people would be outraged, others would simply laugh.
The same sort of argument is raised by some people with respect to marijuana. Even compulsive marijuana smoking by an adult is not so offensive that it injured neighbors or requires government intervention. The attempt to use the law to tell people what they may and may not consume at home is an arrogant invasion of personal privacy. Protecting the Drug User’s Physical Health Sometimes it is said that the law must protect the drug user from himself. The argument takes two forms.
One has to do with the damage a drug may do to a person’s health and the other with the individual’s power of self-control or freedom. First consider the health effects. By any reasonable standard, marijuana is a mild drug and as for overdosing, there is no scientifically valid evidence of anyone dying of an overdose of marijuana smoke. Of course, it is possible to commit suicide by consuming large amounts of marijuana. But it is possible to die by eating too much salt.
Salt is not illegal. Aspirin kills by overdose and that’s legal. Many people die by drinking too much alcohol, an addictive drug. It too is legal. Why is marijuana considered more dangerous? Protecting Society from Marijuana One argument made against the legalization of marijuana is that it damages not only the user but innocent bystanders.
This argument, like the one about protecting the user, has two parts. The first deals with physical injury and the second with spiritual health. The main physical threat to society is that users under the influence of a drug with crash a car or airplane, or lose control in some way and do harm. People who have recently smoked marijuana do show signs of clumsiness and disorientation. They should not operate machinery in this condition.
One study estimates that alcohol plays a part in 55% of all fatal highway crashes. Marijuana may present similar risks, but at present there are no reliable data on its importance in accidents. According to John Stuart Mill’s writings, the government should try to control only the aspects of drug use that injure society. In this vein, it makes sense to have laws against driving under the influence of marijuana …