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Marijuana, a controversial plant, something you’ve been told is harmful. An illegal substance, one that in Maryland alone can land you with a felony, a $15,000 fine and up to five years in jail for possession of any amount, in fact, more than 800,000 people are arrested for marijuana each year, that’s 52% of drug arrests in the United States (Bureau of Justice Statistics). But the prohibition of Marijuana is steeped in greed and control, and should be legalized for its medical, industrial and judicial benefits.
Most people assume marijuana was outlawed due to its medical controversy, but the illegalization of cannabis has its roots in greed and racism. This time period is the first time marijuana has ever been illegal. Until 1937, marijuana was never restricted in any way. In fact, in Virginia during the revolutionary war and the colony’s first years, it was illegal for farmers not to grow hemp because of its multiple uses. However, things changed in 1930 with the prohibition of alcohol. The prohibition created a new department in the federal government, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, headed by the ambitious Harry J. Anslinger (Why is Marijuana Illegal?). He saw his new position full of ample opportunity, and strove to get the most out of it as he could. He wanted to be a hero, a saver of a nation, but first he had to find something to save it from, his scapegoat was marijuana. Anslinger drew upon the country’s racist mindset and helped write the Gore Files, a list of crimes done supposedly under the influence of marijuana. Many of the stories are fabricated or embellished, a document used to spread fear and hate to anyone that read it. Some select quotes from the documents include (Why is Marijuana Illegal?):
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”
“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
Anslinger had spread his fear far and wide, and had gained a new ally, William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper company owner who had invested heavily in the timber industry. Hemp was poised to easily replace paper made from trees, crumbling Hearst’s business. He printed anti-marijuana stories in all of his newspapers, allowing Anslinger to bring his fear mongering into people’s homes. The two were assisted by the Dupont chemical company who had patented nylon, and wanted to destroy hemp as a competitor (Why is Marijuana Illegal?). They also gained support from various pharmaceutical companies who wanted to knock out cannabis as an effective medicine, as they couldn’t regulate and sell it effectively because anybody could just grow it in their backyard (Why is Marijuana Illegal?). With the pharmaceutical companies’ support, propaganda spread about how marijuana affects your health, the lasting impression of the “reefer madness” era.
Many believe Marijuana to be detrimental to your health, to be an addictive substance, one that kills brain cells. However, these claims are false and based off of unsupported and heavily scrutinized research. The original theory that marijuana was addictive stemmed from many people mixing it with Tobacco, a drug that contains the heavily addictive chemical nicotine. However there is no evidence that THC causes any amount of chemical dependency (Life Above the Influence of Ignorance). Many others believe Marijuana kills brain cells, this stems from a study done on rhesus monkeys during the late 1970’s, harshly criticized for the bias of the researchers, the very small test size, the extreme amounts of THC the monkeys were exposed to and the falsifying of reports (Three Things Marijuana Doesn’t Do). There is also the ever persistent “gateway theory,” that after trying marijuana, you are bound to move onto harder substances. There have been no scientific studies to prove this theory, and there is a real world example that disproves it. When Amsterdam partially legalized cannabis in the 1970’s, marijuana use sharply rose. If the gateway theory is true, the use of other hard drugs like heroin and cocaine should have also risen, but they didn’t, they actually dropped a significant amount (Marijuana Decriminalization and its Impact on Use). Even if you believe these reports false, even if you still believe marijuana is dangerous, do you think the government has the right to incarcerate someone for it? Cigarettes are terrible for you, they lead to addiction and serious lung cancer, almost 450,000 people die in the U.S. a year from tobacco products, but it’s still legal (Above the Influence of Ignorance). If the government’s job is to prevent people from harming themselves, they should outlaw tobacco, alcohol and even McDonalds. Governments do not exist to control us, they exist to protect us, not make decisions for us, not to be our mother and dictate everything we can and cannot do. They do not reserve the right to put people in jail if they don’t like how they live their lives. And if Marijuana is legalized, they’ll be putting a lot less people in jail.
In the U.S., a place where many prisons are overflowing and where keeping prisoners fed and clothed costs tax payers millions each year, almost 25% of those prisoners are there for using marijuana (Bureau of Justice Statistics). With marijuana legalized, the immediate change would be a 25% decrease in the number of prisoners, freeing up more tax money for more useful causes like roads and schools. And just like the end of the prohibition era, Marijuana’s legalization will end the organized crime syndicates centered on it, as the end of prohibition halted Al Capone and the infamous gangs of Chicago. Legalization will also stop wasting valuable funding to police departments and courts on harmless marijuana users. And in a time of economic decline, we cannot afford to waste money, in fact, any stimulation to our economy could be vital for its privileged existence.
The legalization of cannabis could provide the boost needed to regain our position as the number one economy. Legalization will create an abundance of jobs for growers and store owners. That’s just concentrating on the drug uses of marijuana, if the industrial advantages are considered as well; there could be no end to the benefits. Hemp, the plant fibers of cannabis, can quickly replace cotton and trees as the number one material for clothing and paper. Unlike trees, it only takes 10 months for hemp to grow to its full size, and can be replanted as soon as it’s harvested (Hemp the Wonder Plant). It’s also extremely versatile, able to grow in many soils and climates, and strong enough to outcompete most weeds and pests, rendering pesticides and herbicides unnecessary. It can also grow closely together, and yields so much material that 1 acre of hemp equals about 4.1 acres of trees (Hemp the Wonder Plant). Paper made from hemp is also much more durable and takes less effort and chemicals to make (Hemp the Wonder Plant). In fact, both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are written on hemp paper (Hemp the Wonder Plant). Paper and clothing is not its only function; the oil from hemp can be used as vegetable oil in cooking, and can be used to run your car. In fact, when Gottlieb Daimler designed his combustion engine in 1885, he intended it to be run solely on hemp oil (Hemp the Wonder Plant).
Even when all of these facts are presented out in the open to the government, when every lie lays exposed in its anger and hatred, they still refuse to legalize. Why? To me, only a few possibilities remain. They actually believe their own propaganda, or they are too steeped in political greed. While the government could tax marijuana, it would be intensely difficult to hold total control of it. Since the culture of marijuana users is so geared towards hating the government for outlawing such a beautiful plant, what makes them want to buy taxed marijuana? What’s to stop them from just growing it in their own backyards? The government must see this as a huge roadblock to the potential profit they could make off of marijuana. While some users will no doubt begin growing their own herb freely, I disagree that all will. I believe that most marijuana users would much rather prefer going to a local dispensary rather than take the time and effort to grow their own, and if they do prefer to grow it in their yards, so what? It’s not the government’s decision to restrict us from something because they can’t make the most amount of money possible from it. They want to restrict happiness and freedom of their citizens for greed and money, denying their duty as a governor of free people.
The switch to legalize marijuana will drastically change our country, change that will help us in every way. So help us become freer, more independent and even more prosperous than ever before, to be safer, cleaner and more efficient. Marijuana will revolutionize the medical, industrial and criminal world. So help our country become a better place. Legalize and be free.
NORML, Three Things Marijuana Doesn’t Do.
Life Above the Influence of Ignorance, Medical Cannabis Research, Hemp, the Wonder Plant.
Marijuana Decriminalization and its Impact on Use.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/, 2010.
Guither, Pete. Why is Marijuana Illegal? http://www.drugwarrant.com/articles/why-is-marijuana-