Among the American population there is a growing movement to legalize marijuana use. There is so much clamor and advocating going on about the legalization of marijuana that the Drug Enforcement Administration felt it necessary to remind people this past June that marijuana smoking is harmful (Gayathri, 2011). They use the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society’s among others to bolster their statement, the ACS stating that “"cannabinoid-based medicines and alternate delivery methods" should be developed for the safe consumption of marijuana and discourages smoking or legalization of marijuana” (Gayathri, 2011). All this trouble is being caused over one plant, a plant with a history that predates the formation of many countries and governments that exist today.

This does not change the fact that many people believe the DEA’s opinion that the plant is a harmful drug. However, one can contest that there are many drugs that are harmful and considered legal. Despite the fact that there are people who do not smoke or approve of marijuana, legalization of cannabis will be a benefit for American society because of its impact on state and federal revenues, ridding the legal system of a non-violent criminal class, and helping to rejuvenate the farming industry. The next paragraph will establish the history of cannabis to help enforce the familiarity of mankind and the plant in discussion.

Cannabis Sativa, or by its more commonly referred name marijuana, originated from Central Asia and was first documented by one of the fathers of Chinese medicine, Shen Nung (Christopher, 1995). It reportedly reached Europe around 1500 BC and was widely used as fiber as well as for medications (Christopher, 1995). In the 800’s the Muslim leader Mohammed even allowed the use of cannabis while he forbade the use of alcohol (Christopher, 1995). When the pilgrims immigrated to America from England, they brought over the cannabis plant with them. The constitution itself was drafted on cannabis paper, and even the one of America’s founding fathers, George Washington taxed marijuana to encourage domestic industry with Thomas Jefferson calling “Cannabis "a necessity"” and urging “farmers to grow Cannabis instead of tobacco” (Christopher, 1995).

As time wore on, something changed in the once blasé attitude towards cannabis and legislation was developed to make it illegal. One major corporate conspiracy theory has been developed as to how pot became illegal. It states that Lamont DuPont, who stood to lose a majority of his business because new state-of-the-art processing machines were being developed to cultivate and harvest hemp, helped launch a campaign to end cannabis (U.S. Hemp Museum, 2009). “If hemp had not been made illegal, 80% of DuPont’s business would never have materialized…” meaning DuPont would not have a major stock in the fiber industry (U.S. Hemp Museum, 2009).

Together with William Randolph Hearst, Henry Anslinger, and Andrew Mellon, they ran systematic attack campaigns in the newspapers that demonized cannabis and its users, culminating in the Marihuana Tax Act virtually outlawing the plant (U.S. Hemp Museum, 2009). There are still arguments that the plant has medicinal benefits and that it should not be listed as such a dangerous drug. The DEA lists Cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, in the same category as Heroin and LSD, meaning the  substances “have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision” (DEA, 2011). With the growing movement of Americans deciding to use cannabis, perhaps looking at its impact on revenue will help understand part of the reasoning behind why it should be made legal.

Cannabis makes money for the individuals involved in the illegal drug trade, but exactly how much money the product makes for them is unknown and uncertain. What is apparent is that the money going to those drug dealers could be put into the pockets of American farmers, business owners, and even the American government. The money that drug dealers make is earned tax-free, without any bill of sale, or consumer right to fair pricing. In other words, the lack of regulation means that drug dealers can give users as much or as little as they feel like, sell users fake or synthetic products that will not work, or put anything additional in with the marijuana, and they would have virtually no method of contacting any agency to rectify this swindling. To stop this from happening, the government simply arrests drug dealers and users alike, putting a strain on our justice system and costing taxpayers money for busts, trials, and incarcerations.

In the forty years the war on drugs has been waged against all forms of illegal substances, it has cost taxpayers 1 trillion dollars and failed to meet any of its goals (Associated Press, 2010). This is likely because people have a long history with mind-altering substances, specifically cannabis. Should cannabis become legal, the expensive raids on homes of suspected cannabis users would stop, taxpayer money would be saved for more dangerous and harmful drug dealers and users, and the institutionalized cannabis industry would allow people to purchase marijuana at fair pricing. This would stimulate business growth during an economic downturn, create a new job market, and provide both the state and federal government with a new revenue source.

Considering the war on drugs, the anti-drug campaign that is not working to prevent drug use considering the level of people arrested for cannabis related crimes has been rising steadily between the years of 1980 to 2009 (FBI, 2010). Given the facts presented, it is safe to say that there will be no point where cannabis use drops to zero. Most would believe it to be smarter to simply make the popular drug legal and collect the revenue from the sales as a way to help balance the budget. This would also eliminate the current class of non-violent criminals incarcerated in our legal system.

As stated above, America is imprisoning more and more people for non-violent drug crimes. As taxpayers, people pay more money each year to house, feed, clothe, and maintain prisoners in every state. In 2009, the national average of tax revenue going to state prisons was at 6.8%, up 1.6 percent that year (Kelley, 2009). It is also stated that “Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut and Delaware spend more on corrections than on higher education” (Kelley, 2009). America is spending more on criminals that it is on its own children in some states. Currently, America also holds the dubious title of having 25% of the world’s prison population (Fenster, & Petteruti, 2011). Perhaps the most telling statement on America’s policy on incarcerating drug offenders is this one:

“The growth in the U.S. prison population has been fueled, in part, by the increase in incarceration for drug offenses. Between 1980 and 2006, the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses in state and federal prisons increased 1,412 percent from 23,900 to 361,276. In 2006, 24 percent of the people in state and federal prisons were there because their most serious offense was a drug offense” (Fenster, & Petteruti, 2011).

The number of people caught in possession of cannabis keeps going up along with the number of arrests and incarcerations. The cost to incarcerate this many non-violent drug offenders is costing the country and taxpayers a significant amount of money. The revenue that could be going to replace outdated school books or computers is instead being used to house and feed people whose only crime was holding a drug. Legalizing cannabis will reduce the number of people imprisoned because of drug-related offenses by a significant amount.

Cannabis is a prime candidate for this because of its lack of proven negative side-effects. In a study conducted in 2010, there was no conclusive evidence linking cannabis to psychosis, the study stating “no study has verified an interaction effect between candidate genes and cannabis use” (Amato, et al, 2010, p.315). On the contrary, it has been shown to have some medicinal values when tested on multiple sclerosis. “In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that CBME (stands for cannabis medicinal Extract) (Sativex) is an effective treatment for spasticity associated with MS” (Wade, Makela, Robson, House, & Bateman, 2004). This is a sign that a different approach should be made, whether it’s focused more towards medical rehabilitation or regulation of drugs that can be cultivated safely by the American government.

So far, there is only one place in America you can get legally grown marijuana; the Unites States government. The Coy W. Waller Laboratory Complex, located on the campus of the University of Mississippi, is the only place where farming and production of marijuana is legal (Ahlers, & Meserve, 2009). “Since 1968, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has contracted with the university lab to grow, harvest and process marijuana and to ship it to licensed facilities across the country for research purposes. The lab also collects samples of marijuana seized by police to determine its potency and to document national drug trends” (Ahlers, & Meserve, 2009). This one produces, harvests, and collects the only samples of marijuana that are tested by the government, under heavy lock and key by the DEA.

Imagine American farmers allowed to grow and harvest these crops for sales and profit. It would bolster the farming industry and possibly cause an agricultural revolution the likes of which have not been seen since slave labor induced a boom of cotton production in the south. The industry of farming is rapidly declining as less people are farming and more farmers are bringing in outside income to support their families. For example, in the year 1900, 41% of workforce population was employed in agricultural work compared to 1.9 in 2002. While there are more people in America now and more of those people are living in urban and suburban settings, this is still a sharp decline over a hundred year period (Conklin, Dimitri, & Effland, 2005). This has also coincided with the increase of work done off the farm, jumping from 30 percent in 1900 to 97 percent in 2002 (Conklin, Dimitri, & Effland, 2005). Adding a new crop like cannabis would make agriculture a more viable option and keep farmers in the field as opposed to them having to find extra work to supplement their income.

In conclusion, the lives of all Americans were easier when cannabis was legal in the early 20th century. When it became illegal, people still used it because it was familiar to them, because it is entwined within our history as human beings. Even today, cannabis is still widely used despite the fact it has been illegal for over 70 years. There is little to do to stem the use of cannabis in American society, so the best option is to regulate and monitor its use.

Despite the fact that there are people who do not smoke or approve of marijuana, legalization of cannabis will be a benefit for American society because of its impact on state and federal revenues, ridding the legal system of a non-violent criminal class, and helping to rejuvenate the farming industry. Using regulation like other controlled substances, it can be monitored and watched so that minors do not have ease of access. It can be officially studied in modern labs to properly determine its effects on the brain and body. Legalization will bring in new revenue and cut the profits of drug dealers and cartels. In the spirit of American freedom, the emancipation of non-violent cannabis users, and the much needed profits of employment opportunities, cannabis should be legalized, monitored, and regulated.

References

Ahlers, M., & Meserve, J. (2009, May 18). Government runs nation's only legal pot garden. Retrieved from http://articles.cnn.com/2009-05-18/justice/government.marijuana.garden_1_marijuana-drug-abuse-cameras?_s=PM:CRIME

Associated Press, . (2010, May 13). Ap impact: after 40 years, $1 trillion, us war on drugs has failed to meet any of its goals. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/05/13/ap-impact-years-trillion-war-drugs-failed-meet-goals/

Christopher, R. (1995). A cannabis chronology. Retrieved from http://www.ukcia.org/culture/history/chrono.php

Conklin, N., Dimitri, C., & Effland, A. (2005, June). The 20th century transformation of u.s. agriculture and farm policy. Retrieved from http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib3/eib3.htm

DEA. (2011, August 8). Controlled substance schedules. Retrieved from http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/index.html#define

FBI, . (2010, September). Marijuana. Retrieved from http://drugwarfacts.org/cms/?q=node/53

Fenster, J., & Petteruti, A. (2011). Finding direction: expanding criminal justice options by considering policies of other nations. JUSTICE POLICY INSTITUTE, Retrieved from http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/finding_direction-full_report.pdf

Gayathri, A. (2011, July 21). Why dea is against legalizing smoked marijuana. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/184773/20110721/cannabis-weed-legalization-marijuana-medicinal-fallacy-drug-enforcement-administration-marinol-cance.htm

Kelley, M. (2009, August 10). Monday map: your tax dollars go to prison. Retrieved from http://news.change.org/stories/monday-map-your-tax-dollars-go-to-prison

U.S. Hemp Museum. (2009). Prohibition. Retrieved from http://www.ushempmuseum.com/Prohibiton.html

Vecchi, S., Perucci, C.A., Minozzi, S.,Davoli, M., Bargagli, A., & Amato, L. (2010). An overview of systematic reviews on cannabis and psychosis: discussing apparently conflicting results. Drug and Alcohol Review, 29, 304–317, DOI: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2009.00132.x.

Wade, D.T., Makela, P,, Robson, P., House, H., & Bateman, C. (2004). Do cannabis-based medicinal extracts have general or specific effects on symptoms in multiple sclerosis? a double-blind, randomized, placebocontrolled study on 160 patients. Multiple Sclerosis, 10, 434-441.


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