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Jon Lloyd
Professor Deadrick
Researched Argument
English 102
April 20, 2016
Should Cannabis Be Legalized
Now that cannabis legalization is a more relevant topic than ever with the majority of
Americans in favor of legalizing the plant, it is important to look into the reasons why it was
made illegal in the first place. Humans have cultivated and consumed the rich flowering buds of
the female cannabis plant since the beginning of recorded history. Much of todays views on
cannabis has been formed around political and societal agendas rather than scientific evidence. In
the early 1900s after the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the United States saw an increase of
immigration from Mexico into states like Texas and Louisiana. The Mexican immigrants brought
with them their native language, culture, and customs including the use of cannabis as a
medicine. The immigrants referred to the plant as marihuana.
However, at this time cannabis was present in almost all tinctures and medicines
available for sale. The American public was not yet familiar with the term marihuana.
Therefore, when the media began spreading fears about the Mexican immigrants bringing their
dangerous marihuana use into the states, the rest of the nation had no clue that this evil
marihuana was a plant they already had in their medicine cabinets. The governments efforts to
demonize the cannabis plant was an extension to demonizing the Mexican immigrants. The

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government needed an excuse to search, detain, and deport Mexican immigrants. Their excuse
became marijuana. During the 1930s the government used propaganda to create even more fear,
making claims that marijuana use would cause men of color to become violent and solicit sex
from white women. These false claims against marijuana are what fueled the passing of the
Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which effectively banned its use and sales. Years later the Act was
ruled unconstitutional and was replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, which
placed marijuana in the most restrictive category of schedule 1.
Americas war on drugs expanded drastically with the creation of the Drug Enforcement
Agency and the Controlled Substances Act. Political agendas exacerbated the war on drugs
especially in 1986 when U.S President Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act which
implemented mandatory sentences for drug-related crimes. The new law raised federal penalties
for Marijuana possession and dealing. The possession of 100 cannabis plants received the same
penalty as possession of 100 grams of Heroin. Just a few years later in 1989 President George
Bush declares a new War on Drugs in a nationally televised speech. However, times have
changed with advancements in scientific research, which explains why newer generations dont
believe in the anti-drug propaganda that was fed to the past generations. According to a recent
GALLUP study, 58% of Americans back legal marijuana use. Overall in the past 40 years,
cannabis has been proved to have more beneficial health effects than negative ones. Currently,
the number of states legalizing cannabis both medically and recreationally keep growing.
However, there needs to be a change on how the federal government views cannabis because the
largest barrier faced by the rescheduling movement is the Controlled Substances Act placement
of cannabis in schedule 1.

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R1: Cannabis has been wrongly portrayed as dangerous for decades driven by political
agendas and the federal government.
For example. In 1988 the DEAs Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young concluded:
In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For
example, eating ten raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically
impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the
safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis
marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care. [Docket #86-22],
(September 6, 1988). Judge Francis young agreed that it was irrational to keep marijuana in
schedule 1, and advised for it to be rescheduled. However, then-DEA Administrator John Lawn
rejected Judge Youngs determination. In 1994, the Court of Appeals allowed Lawns reversal to
stand, which in turn kept marijuana in schedule 1.
Biscayne Boeck from HGAB magazine writes an online article that shows how the war
on drugs was greatly influenced by political agendas such as Ronald Reagans anti-drug
campaign which used propaganda to spread fear of the use of cannabis. Many people still believe
that cannabis kills brain cells and that chronic use of cannabis leads to brain damage. This
frightening belief was popularized by Ronald Reagan 40 years ago in his famous statement I
now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to
being on Bikini Island during an H-bomb blast (Boeck). After six years of requesting accurate
accounts of research procedures, they were released to the public in 1980.
This is when the public discovered that the actual study conducted by Dr. Heath involved
strapping rhesus monkeys into a chair and pumping them with the equivalent of 63 Columbianstrength joints in five minutes. The monkeys were strapped with gas masks to assure no smoke

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was lost. At that smoke concentration, the monkeys were being treated like a person locked in a
garage with the car engine left running for five, 10, 15 minutes at a time every day (Boeck).
Shortly after the monkeys died their brains were split open in order to count the number of dead
brain cells compared to the monkeys who had not ingested any smoke. The difference in the
number of dead brain cells in the marijuana monkeys were staggering and the results of the
experiment concluded that the effects of marijuana were devastating to the brain (Boeck).
Knowing this now shows that the Heath monkey study was actually a study in animal
asphyxiation and carbon monoxide poisoning. It seems as no surprise that carbon monoxide
poisoning and other factors were completely left out of the results and were not considered to
play a role in the experiment. Reagans approach was so successful at scaring the public away
from marijuana that he decided to keep investing in his anti-drug campaigns (Boeck). By the
time Reagan was voted in for his second term his wife Nancy coined the slogan Just Say No,
which paved the way for what is known today as the D.A.R.E. program.
Today programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) and partnership for a
drug-free America still claim that cannabis will result in permanent damage to the brain, using
studies like Heaths monkey experiment as scientific proof of the dangers of smoking. We should
stop using Reagans outdated approach to Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.). We
should properly inform the youth about substance abuse with concrete scientific data, instead of
using fear tactics which have been proven to be an utter failure when attempting to sway young
people from drug use.
R2: The legalization of cannabis would allow for more medical research studies to be

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When there is a request to reschedule cannabis, federal government agencies claim they
need FDA caliber clinical studies that prove to show the therapeutic benefits associated with the
use of cannabis. When attempting to conduct a long-term study researching the benefits of
cannabis researchers must get approval from the FDA, NIDA, HHS, and the DEA. Then attempt
to receive an adequate amount of cannabis in order to conduct the study itself. However, further
research on cannabis is handicapped by the federal monopoly controlling where the cannabis
used in the study comes from. Alexander W. Campbell from the American Society of Law,
Medicine & Ethics writes a professional journal discussing in-depth how the federal government
uses comprehensive rules and regulations in order to stop the rescheduling movement from
Many of the difficulties researchers face when seeking approval for conducting studies
involving cannabis stems from the 1970 passing of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Campbell states, The CSA establishes five schedules into which all controlled substances are
classified. Each schedule requires the Attorney General to make specific findings with respect to
a substance's potential for abuse, the existence of a currently accepted medical use, and the
danger of dependence when using the substance. For example, to classify a substance in
Schedule I, the Attorney General must first find that the substance has a high potential for abuse,
that it has no currently accepted medical use, and that there is a lack of accepted safety for its use
under medical supervision due to a high likelihood of physical or psychological dependence.
Schedule I currently includes, among other substances, heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD),
3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), and marijuana.
R3: Because the federal government refuses to acknowledge the positive benefits
associated with cannabis use.

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As the number of states legalizing cannabis use both medically and recreationally
continue to grow, the American public has become more aware of the benefits associated with
cannabis. However, the federal government refuses to acknowledge the currently accepted
medical use of cannabis in legal states when turning down petitions requesting for cannabis to be
rescheduled. Campbell states, The CSA does not define "currently accepted medical use," and
the DEA rules shed no further light on the meaning of the phrase or what sort of evidence is
necessary to show an accepted medical use. The DEA rules simply provide lists of controlled
substance in each Schedule, certain exemptions from classification, and procedures for petitions
and hearings. This quote shows how the federal government has been able to deny petitions and
hearings advocating cannabis use for decades. The DEA has been able to do so because their
regulations say little about the standard that outside parties must meet when petitioning to
reschedule a controlled substance. Campbell states, In 2002, when Americans for Safe Access
(ASA) petitioned the DEA to reschedule cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III, IV, or V, on
the ground that cannabis has an accepted medical use. ASA included in its petition over 200 peerreviewed studies supporting its argument, including a 1999 Institute of Medicine report that
suggested that marijuana could have some therapeutic benefit. The DEA denied the petition in
2011, and ASA appealed the DEA order to the Court of Appeals. The D.C. Circuit upheld the
DEA order, finding that substantial evidence supported DEA's finding that no adequate and wellcontrolled studies had established that marijuana had [a] currently accepted medical use. The
court said that peer-reviewed studies were insufficient to satisfy the regulatory requirement, and
that the Institute of Medicine report clearly suggested that more and better studies were needed
to establish any medical benefit. Seeing that it took 9 years for the DEA to ultimately deny the

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petition on the grounds that it did not have enough adequate and well-controlled studies is deeply
The procedures and requirements needed for obtaining cannabis for research are
extremely difficult to navigate. Even if the study is approved by the FDA, NIDA, HHS, and
DEA there is only one place in the entire country where researchers can legally obtain cannabis.
Campbell states The National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) at the University
of Mississippi is currently the only marijuana manufacturer registered with the DEA, and NIDA
is responsible for administering the NCNPR's supply of marijuana to researchers. In addition to
the statutory and regulatory requirements for obtaining DEA approval, NIDA has its own
requirements for entities that wish to order marijuana. Although a vast majority of the public
support cannabis research, most of the major medical associations in the US are against the use
of cannabis which shows their bias. This federal monopoly on cannabis intended for research is
one of the many reasons why researchers struggle to obtain enough cannabis needed for
conducting long-term clinical studies.
R4: Drugs that are legally prescribed by doctors such as opiates for pain are responsible
for more than half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths while cannabis is responsible for zero
overdose deaths.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Overdose deaths
involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, and so have sales of these
prescription drugs. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from
overdoses related to prescription opioids. In 2014 alone there were almost 19,000 deaths caused
by prescription opioids, which is equivalent to about 52 deaths per day. This data shows an
increase from approximately 16,000 prescription opioid deaths in 2013. Overdose is not the only

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risk related to prescription opioids. Other potential dangers include abuse and opioid addiction.
For example, according to the CDC In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were
dependent on prescription opioids. As many as 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids
long term for noncancer pain in primary care settings struggles with addiction. Every day, over
1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids. Overall
the CDC came to the conclusion that Regardless of the analysis strategy used, prescription
opioids continue to be involved in more overdose deaths than any other drug, and all the
numbers are likely to underestimate the true burden given the large proportion of overdose
deaths where the type of drug is not listed on the death certificate. Its scary to realize the mass
number of Americans who have become addicted and died from prescriptions handed out by the
pharmacies. While the federal government keeps cannabis in the most dangerous and restrictive
class of controlled substances even though the innocent plant is responsible for zero fatalities
since the beginning of recorded history.
R5: The War on Drugs is a complete waste of tax payers money and America has the
highest incarceration rate in the world.
The United States contains less than 5% of the worlds population. However, the United
States holds nearly 25% of the worlds prison population. More than half of our prisoners are
serving time for a drug possession charge. A large part of this issue is caused by the War on
Drugs implementing harsh legal penalties for drug convictions. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)
is the nations leading organization promoting drug policies that are grounded in science,
compassion, health, and human rights. The United States spends more than $51,000,000,000
annually funding the war on drugs. Just imagine what $51,000,000,000 could do if the
government used the money towards funding schools, hospitals, and public transportation. There

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were 700,993 Americans arrested for marijuana in 2014 alone. However, 619,809 (88%) of those
arrested were charged with possession only. The police should stop locking people up for
possessing cannabis for personal use. Instead, the police should focus more of their attention and
resources on arresting people committing acts of violence.
57% of people incarcerated for a drug offense in state prisons are black or Latino, even
though these groups use and sell drugs at similar rates as whites. While these nonviolent
American citizens are behind bars for possessing cannabis there are 24 states and District of
Columbia that allow the medical use of cannabis, and 4 states have approved legally taxing and
regulating cannabis including Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Additionally 20 states
have decriminalized cannabis by eliminating criminal penalties for simple possession of small
amounts for personal use, including Maryland (up to 10grams). If California were to legally tax
and regulate the sale of cannabis, their estimated annual revenue would be $1,400,000,000.
America learned that alcohol prohibition was a failure because the public continued to drink it
and all the money went towards fueling the black market and crime. Over 100,000 people have
been killed in Mexicos drug war since 2006 and over 200,000 students have lost federal
financial aid eligibility because of a drug conviction.
Legalizing and regulating cannabis which is Americas largest cash crop would create
new jobs and economic opportunities. Additionally, the money will go to the formal economy
instead of the black market. Law enforcement will save money by focusing their scarce resources
towards public safety while reducing corrections and court costs. Also, state and local
governments would benefit from receiving significant new sources of tax revenue from
regulating cannabis sales. Overall the criminalization of cannabis use disproportionately harms

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young people and people of color, creates more violence and corruption, and ultimately fails to
prevent youth access.