The Case for Legalization

THE LAW

The Marijuana Reform Act of 1977 classified possession of small amounts of marijuana up to 25 grams as a violation. The penalties range from a $100 to $250 fine and/or up to 15 days in jail depending upon whether it is a first, second or third offense, etc. Possession of more than 25 grams but less than 8 ounces is a misdemeanor. Possession of more than 8 ounces is a felony. Sale of less than 25 grams is a misdemeanor; sale of more than 25 grams is a felony.

Legalization Issues

Since marijuana is not physically addicting, has been and is known for a few medicinal properties and is not processed like cocaine or heroin (to name a few reasons), many people feel that is should be legalized, or at least possession of marijuana should be legal. Advocates of this view have collected supportive quotes from famous people to back them up. Three of these quotes follow:

  • "Much virtue in herbs, little in men" Benjamin Franklin

  • "Now what I contend is that my body is my own, at least I have always so regarded it. If I do harm through my experimenting with it, it is I who suffers, not the state" Mark Twain

  • "Congress should definitely consider decriminalizing possession of marijuana...We should concentrate on prosecuting the rapists and burglars who are a menace to society." U.S. Representative Dan Quayle, March 1977.

    Because it would be impossible (and ridiculous) to list every crackpot opinion on why it should be legal, two main arguments take precedence: the medical value of marijuana and first amendment rights. Below are only a few of the groups or individuals who support legalization. Their opinions represent in a general sense, the voice of many.

    The Marijuana Policy Project

    The MPP is a lobbying organization based in Washington DC. It was founded in early 1995 in order to replace marijuana prohibition with "realistic, practical regulations and policies." It feels, "Treatment and education should replace criminal sanctions." The MPP has effectively reduced penalties for marijuana cultivation and actively works to make laws more lenient to users.

    In their stance against prohibition, MPP members feel the government should learn from history that prohibition doesn't work. They also believe that marijuana is a banned medicine.

    The group keeps an eye on the DEA and recently won a minor victory when a judge accepted their Freedom of Information Act request with the DEA. The MPP charged the DEA with witholding a four-page document which"outlines the DEA's opposition to [the] marijuana-for-AIDS research project in San Francisco." It turned out they were right. The released document did reveal the DEA's attempt to block the study by revoking the permit to the Netherlands to import marijuana for the research.

    THE VNA

    The Virginia Nurses Association (VNA) has petitioned the federal government to end the illegalization of marijuana for medical use. This resolution which is sponsored by the VNA Council of District Presidents, The Ethics Committee and the Committee on Preserving the Rights of HIV-Infected Persons was highly supported in the October 1996 meeting of the VNA's Delegate Assembly.

    The resolution was initially called by Mary Mathre, RN, MSN who is a nurse at the Virginia Health Sciences Center. She referred to the resolution as "An important decision which places nurses squarely on the side of the seriously ill Americans who could benefit from legal, medically supervised access to marijuana." She is not alone in this belief as the VNA stated that nurses "have an ethical obligation to be advocates for health care," and that the VNA will support "all reasonable efforts to end federal policies which prohibit or unnecessarily restrict marijuana's legal availability for legitimate medical uses."

    Maithre believes that "people with cancer and AIDS should receive marijuana in a medically appropriate fashion." She also believes that "nursing organizations all over America will follow the Virginia Nurses Association's lead and begin to address this problem." She may be right, as the California Medial Association, a very powerful medial group has also proposed marijuana legalization for medical use.

    The IMI

    The Illinois Marijuana Initiative (IMI) is an organization that calls for "freedom for cannabis hemp in its medical, industrial, legal, environmental and recreational aspects." Evidence of interest in this areas is supported by the fact that 5010 people have contacted this web page since April.

    Jeffrey Blum

    Associate Professor of Law, Jeffrey Blum of the University of Buffalo School of Law, in response to a request from a federal judge, wrote a summary of what he believed was wrong with the "war on drugs." His arguments seem to follow the tenets of Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu, who said "All war is based on deception." Some of his contentions go as follows:

    The war on drugs is directed against a variety of different substances, some of which are highly addictive and unhealthy, while others are not necessarily so. Although there has never been credible evidence to justify marijuana's classification as a dangerous drug, marijuana has accounted for the majority of drug-related arrests, seizures, property forfeitures and expenditure of law enforcement funds over the past ten years. Close to 500,000 arrests have been made for breaking marijuana-related laws and over three-fourths of the illicit drug use in the U.S. involves the use of marijuana. This is in contrast to the fact that although marijuana is classified as a narcotic, "several presidential panels of experts and a number of other comprehensive reputable studies have consistently and unequivocally shown marijuana to be far less addictive, less toxic, less hazardous to health, less disruptive of family relationships, less impairing of workplace productivity and less likely to trigger release of inhibitions against violent behavior than alcohol."

    Blum believes that there has never been credible evidence to "justify this level of law enforcement against marijuana." He contents there are two main reasons that marijuana was first made illegal in the United States in the early 20th century, neither of them health-related.

    1) Since Mexican-Americans were the first publicly known large user group of marijuana, marijuana laws began to be passed in the Southwestern states as part of a harassment campaign designed to drive Mexican-Americans out of the United States and back into their home country. This campaign of harassment was intensified by the Great Depression which limited jobs and whites began to seek jobs held by Mexican-Americans.

    2) To covertly protect the interests of the paper and synthetic fiber industries (of which the Du Pont Corporation was a main representative) which called for the elimination of competition from hemp producers. These hemp producers posed a serious threat to the paper industry due to the invention of the hemp decorticator machine which made hemp production faster and more economical. Hemp is annual plant which is believed to produce as much as 4 times as much paper pulp as trees, acre for acre. This machine had the capability to wipe out the paper industry, thus they called for the illegalization of hemp, a successful effort.

    Proposition 215

    Proposition 215 deals with the medical use of marijuana. It passed on the ballot in California, but was struck down by a Federal ruling. Its proponents argue that marijuana can relieve pain and suffering in serious illnesses such as cancer, AIDS and glaucoma. They say that there will be tight controls that will only allow licensed physicians to prescribe it to seriously ill patients only. They claim that cancer doctors and nurses support it. Critics contend that this proposition will legalize marijuana and allow people to grow and smoke it for stress or "any other illness." They argue that this will even allow children to legally smoke marijuana and point out that the American Cancer Society rejects smoking marijuana for medical purposes and that no major doctor's organization supports proposition 215.

    American Public Health Association

    In addition to its endorsement for health purposes, the APHA states "marijuana was wrongfully placed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances, depriving patients of its therapeutic potential."

    There are many more organizations and groups of people in favor of legalization. Those were a sample that represent the views of many.

    Marijuana: History, Effects and Controversies

    Hemp Production

    Physical and Psychological Effects

    Religious Use

    Health Use

    THE "OTHER SIDE"

    The Case for Maintaining Prohibition

    References