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The Devil's Lettuce- Is It Really the Devil?
The Devil’s Lettuce- Is it Really the Devil?
A 59 year old man sits in a courtroom, being tried for possession of marijuana. He says he uses the drug for medicinal purposes after having being injured in the Vietnam War. He has never broken the law before now. Is he a criminal, or is he merely a patient?
So far, eighteen states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use. This means that anyone over the age of 18 that experiences significant medical issues such as muscle spasms or cancer is eligible to obtain a “red card.” A licensed doctor will recommend the dosage and the amount a patient may possess at one time. The patient has the right to legally buy marijuana from regulated dispensaries, as well as grow their own plants. According to the website Colorado Medical Doctors, marijuana can be used to treat severe depression, muscle spasms (often caused by severe illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis), chronic nausea in cancer patients caused by chemotherapy, and even epilepsy or HIV. Although the medical marijuana does not “cure” the disease, it lessens the pain to a bearable level so people can function in their day to day lives.
Many people wonder, how exactly does marijuana help? The main “ingredient” in marijuana is called Tetrahydrocannibinol, otherwise known as THC. This is the chemical that produces the high, euphoric feeling. When inhaled or otherwise ingested, the THC travels to the brain and produces a chemical called dopamine, which is responsible for transmitting signals to other parts of the brain and body. It is said that sensory perception is increased, as well as appetite. In cancer patients, medicinal marijuana is used to both increase appetite and treat chronic nausea. In patients with Multiple Sclerosis, the drug helps to “calm down” their nervous system to decrease muscle spasms. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the long term effects on the brain “are too subtle for reliable detection.” One of the main concerns of medical marijuana is how it will affect the patient later in life; will it make you stupid? Will it kill all your brain cells? After numerous MRI’s of chronic users the National Institute found no conclusive data correlating marijuana to loss of cognitive ability.
In 2012, the state of Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use by voting in favor of Amendment 64. This has brought about many new questions and controversy. How will the decriminalization affect youth? How will this affect our economy? In The Netherlands, “soft drugs” such as cannabis were decriminalized quite some time ago. According to Eric Voeten from The Monkey Cage, the country found its economy boosted, due to an increase in tax revenue as well as tourism. However, as The Netherlands is the “pioneer” country, we cannot be certain as to what recreational legalization will do long-term.
Although there are not definitive studies of long term effects, what does the youth of Colorado think of recreational legalization? After surveying 26 students in my Honors English IV class at Woodland Park High School, I determined interesting results. After being asked if the legalization of marijuana will be beneficial to the citizens of Colorado, 50% said yes, while 31% said maybe. I also asked on a scale of 1-10, 1 being unlikely and 10 being highly likely, how likely will you participate in recreational use of the drug once you’re over the legal age of 21? An overwhelming 85% of the class answered between 1 and 5, which I generalized as being unlikely. Only 4 students claimed that they would be likely to use the drug. When asked how marijuana should be taxed, 31% said normal sales tax while 35% believed something similar to a tobacco tax should be used. (The revenue produced from the tax would be used in areas such as education and dissuading citizens from using the drug in the future-ironic right?) 15% said an extremely high tax should be enacted, one student remarking that it should be highly taxed, but not to the point that it is more expensive than buying illegally. To conclude, although most of the students would not participate in the use of marijuana, the majority said it is beneficial and none said anything about it adversely affecting them. According to Dale Gieringer, Ph.D., “tax revenue would increase by 6.4 billion per year.” He also believes that taxpayers would pay less annually, because the government would be spending less on imprisoning criminals charged with possession of marijuana.
When compared with alcohol, marijuana is sometimes considered the unattractive stepsister until you actually analyze the facts. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 37,000 people die each year from alcohol related incidences. The same institute had no reported deaths attributed to marijuana. Alcohol has many damaging aspects, ranging from harming the liver to deteriorating the brain. Alcohol is extraordinarily addictive, resulting in thousands of cases of alcoholism in which withdrawals often cause seizures and serious injuries. Marijuana did not show the same withdrawal symptoms and many lifelong users say they could quit if necessary.
One aspect of marijuana few people consider while forming their opinion, is the use of industrial hemp. Hemp is the fiber from the stalk of the actual plant, and has trace amount of THC in it. According to Rense, the stalk has various uses including: rope, paper, textiles, housing, food, and even oil or fuel. Hemp has been used throughout history as rope and clothing. The Department of Energy states that “the hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas.” This additional byproduct of marijuana could reduce the use of fossil fuels exponentially! It can be used to create fiberboard for construction, and studies have shown that hemp seeds have more nutritional value than even soybean. Not only does industrial hemp have dozens of beneficial uses, it would create numerous jobs that may help to restore America’s faltering economy.
Although there is plenty of opposition to marijuana, my research has shown me that the pros outweigh the cons. The tax revenue generated by the legal sale of both recreational and medical marijuana would help reduce our debt, and at the same time we would be spending less taxpayer dollars imprisoning people for possessing small amounts of marijuana. It has been proven that it has positive effects on patients with severe illnesses, such as Multiple Sclerosis. This is especially close to home as my mother has MS. Knowing that there is something out there that may help her horrendous muscle spasms is a tremendous relief. The side effects of alcohol are worse than that of marijuana, according to many licensed medical doctors across the nation. Not only that, but the use of industrial hemp would certainly help our struggling economy. Based on the results of my survey, it seems that the youth of Colorado doesn’t necessarily plan on using the drug recreationally, but they still believe it will be beneficial for the state.
Think back to the 59 year old man sitting in a courtroom. After understanding my research, do you still believe he is a criminal? Do you still believe the “Devil’s lettuce” is really the devil?