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An Assessment of the Benefits of Marijuana Legalization

An Assessment of the Benefits of Marijuana Legalization

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Published by Chris Bates
In this essay, I examine several of the qualms regarding marijuana legalization in hope people will view these findings as proof that marijuana prohibition has no place in the United States of America or elsewhere
In this essay, I examine several of the qualms regarding marijuana legalization in hope people will view these findings as proof that marijuana prohibition has no place in the United States of America or elsewhere

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Published by: Chris Bates on Jan 11, 2012
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02/07/2013

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1Christopher BatesEnglish 225Professor Sara TalposDecember 8th, 2011An Assessment of the Benefits of Marijuana LegalizationSince 1970, the U.S. government has classified marijuana as a Schedule Isubstance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has a high potentialfor abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and there is alack of accepted safety for use of the drug (Drug Enforcement Administration,2005). Accordingly, under federal law, it is illegal to cultivate, distribute, possess, oruse marijuana. Recently, however, several states have enacted legislation protectingthe rights of those with a physicians recommendation to use marijuana to relievethe symptoms of certain medical conditions (Huffington Post, 2011). Additionally, agrowing body of research indicates that marijuana consumption is not harmful tothe user over the long-term, while other studies show that marijuana legalizationmay have beneficial effects on the national economy. Furthermore, some researchsuggests that the illegality of marijuana may actually create crime rather thanprevent it. For the aforementioned reasons, marijuana should be legalized at thefederal level for both medical and recreational users alike.One of the most common claims regarding marijuana is that it can kill braincells, damage brain function, and causes learning and memory impairment (Levy,2009). The basis of this claim lies in the results of a 1980 study published in
Biological Psychiatry 
, which found structural changes in several regions of the brain
 
2in rhesus monkeys exposed to high doses of marijuana smokemost notably thehippocampus, which plays a significant role in memory and learning (Heath et al.,1980). However, upon reviewing this study, Professors John Morgan and LynnZimmer found that 200 times the psychoactive dose of THC in humans had to beadministered in order to achieve these results (Morgan & Zimmer, 1995).Additionally, a more recent study of rhesus monkeys, in which the equivalent of 4-5joints per day was administered through face-mask inhalation for an entire year,found no change in hippocampal structure, cell size, cell number, or synapticconfiguration seven months after the regimen (Levy, 2009). Even more recently, a2011 study at the Australian National University in Canberra found no differences incognitive function associated with marijuana consumption across several measuresof cognition (Tait, Mackinnon, & Christensen, 2011). Furthermore, an analysis of cannabis research at Cambridge University found minimal evidence of majorcannabis effects on brain structure, both in regional grey matter volumes and in theintegrity of white matter fibers (Martín-Santos et al., 2009). The same analysisfound no differences in spatial working memory between marijuana users andcontrols. Taken together, this literature discredits the results of Heath et al.sextreme study and suggests that marijuana has little, if any, long-term effects onbrain structure or cognition.On November 6, 1996, California became the first state to enact legislationlegalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes (NORML, 2011). Since then,sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislationprotecting the rights of patients with certain medical conditions to utilize marijuana
 
3as an effective form of medication. Research has shown that cannabis has medicalbenefits for various health afflictions. The Institute of Medicine has acknowledgedthat cannabinoids can produce a significant analgesic effect for patients receivingchemotherapy, nausea and vomiting associated with opioid use in postoperativepain management, spinal cord injury, peripheral neuropathic pain, poststroke pain,ADIS, cachexia, or any significant chronic pain problem (Watson, Benson, & Joy,2000). The Institute has also indicated that cannabis is effective for treating wastingsyndrome and appetite loss in patients with cancer and AIDS, and reducesintraocular pressure in patients with glaucoma. Additionally, nationalepidemiological surveys and studies show that marijuana is not addictive and evenhigh doses are not followed by adverse withdrawal symptoms (Morgan & Zimmer,1995). Medical marijuanas effectiveness in treating a variety of medical ailmentsand its lack of addictive potential give it an advantage over many prescriptionmedications, and it is only a matter of time until many more states recognize thesebenefits and protect patients seeking relief by marijuana from legal persecution.The positive effects of marijuana legalization extend beyond the user toinclude the economics and society of the United States as a whole. In 2005, MiltonFriedman and more than 500 other economists, including some from Cornell,Stanford, and Yale universities, signed an open letter to President Bush andCongress endorsing marijuana legalization (Hardy, 2005). The letter cites a report from Harvard Universitys Professor Jeffrey Miron titled The BudgetaryImplications of Marijuana Prohibition. It found that total state and localgovernment expenditures were $5 billion on the enforcement of marijuana laws

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