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Anthony A. Gygi
Katie Young
English 1010
14 Apr 2014
Marijuana: Harmless Alternative or Mexican Death Weed?
The marijuana legalization argument has been done already. Then it was done
again, and again. In fact, every high school student since the nineteen-sixties has written
a paper on the merits of marijuana legalization or abortion. However, my aim in this
research paper is to outline the existing argument, draw attention to information from
credible sources, interpret the information, and explain what the data means for my
argument. Most importantly I hope to shed light on this subject and introduce new
information for the readers consideration.
In the conversation about legalized marijuana, there are three opinions that are
most visible. There are those who believe that cannabis should remain banned in all of its
forms, claiming people can become dependent on it, it causes crime issues in
communities, and that it is unhealthy. Then there are those who believe that marijuana
should be decriminalized, or in other words, the punishment for marijuana-related
offenses should be much less strict. Last of all, there are those who believe cannabis
should be legalized for public use. In their eyes, marijuana can be applied as an
alternative medicine, or analgesic, that it is much less dangerous or harmful than we have
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been lead to believe, and that the control of marijuana in the U.S. is a waste of money and
There are certain common-ground facts that are widely accepted by each side of
the argument, such as the physiological and chemical effects. Though it is illegal, there is
no doubt that marijuana is commonly used in our society. According to Bonn-Miller,
Marijuana is one of the most commonly used recreational drugs in the world and the
most commonly used illicit drug in the United States Recent US epidemiologic data
also suggest approximately 25 million people (approximately 8.6%) have used marijuana
in the past year (862). Regardless of where society stands in its view of cannabis, it is
very hard to deny that use of this drug is a common occurrence; legal or illegal.
Another fact outside of the argument is the way THC (delta-9
tetrahydrocannibinol) is absorbed into the body. When THC is absorbed into the
bloodstream, it is carried to cannabinoid receptors all over the body, most of which are in
the brain. When smoked, THC is absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs
aveoli. When cannabis is ingested, THC is absorbed into the bloodstream through the
gastro-intestinal tract.
Marijuana, or hemp, is not just used as a drug. Before being used as a drug,
Marijuana was used to make a decorative fiber, rope, fabric, paper, and food as far back
as 8000 B.C.E. Cannabis Sativa was used medicinally as far back 2737 B.C.E. in the
empire of Sheng Neng and some religious sects of Hinduism have used it religiously. The
plant has be found and used in a wide variety of places such as China, India, Greece,
Ethiopia, South Africa, France, The Middle East, and in most countries on the American
continent. In 1920, the eighth amendment was passed, which outlawed liquor, and in turn
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drove cannabis use up. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 assessed large fees on hemp
farmers, stemming from fantastic stories presented by William Randolph Hurst. Hurst
spread a lot of rumors and worked to outlaw cannabis to serve his interests in his logging
companies and paper companies. In 1956, The U.S. Narcotics Control Act established
two years of mandatory time in prison for marijuana possession.
The main argument for those who want cannabis to remain illegal is that it is
harmful in a variety of ways. One of the ways these non-believers claim it is harmful is
that it is psychologically harmful. In one research journal, the author cites, Marijuana
users who have taken high doses of the drug may experience acute toxic psychosis, which
includes hallucinations, delusions, and depersonalization - loss of the sense of personal
identity, or selfrecognition (Yacoubian,19). In the aforementioned journal, heavy
marijuana users are said to be at risk of mental illness resulting from cannabis use.
Another argument they make is that marijuana is physically harmful because it is
addictive. In a research article, Marcel O. Bonn Miller states, Here, coping with such
affective distress by using marijuana can be conceptualized as a short-term emotion
regulation strategy, but over time, this motivation by use cycle may promote anxiety
symptoms (863). Basically this research asserts that the test subjects would use
marijuana to cope with anxiety, meanwhile extended marijuana use creates anxiety. This
is unhealthy behavior because it is a complete cycle of chemical coping and symptom
The idea that cannabinoids are harmful to society is rooted in the idea that
marijuana use directly correlates with crime rates in a given area. In his comparison
between the U.S. and Netherlands, Dr. Yacoubian quotes the National Institute of Justice:
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As measured by urinalysis, cocaine and marijuana were the two most prevalent illicit
drugs (NIJ, 2001). Marijuana is the drug used most commonly by adult male arrestees.
Urinalysis revealed that an average of 40 percent of arrestees had used marijuana recently
(NIJ, 2001)(26). Though this doesnt assert that all marijuana users are degenerates, it
does show some semblance of the role that cannabis plays in the lives of convicted
While this evidence that marijuana could be addictive may be credible, I feel as
though the possibility of dependence is not a reason, given that most drugs which are
legal in the United States have addictive properties, and that people can exhibit addiction
traits toward anything that stimulates the reward circuitry in their brain.
Some believe the argument isnt in whether cannabis is healthy or unhealthy.
These people who believe marijuana should merely be controlled believe it should be
decriminalized. This stance is centered on the perceived benefits of both legalizing and
illegalizing. This side of the argument is mainly about reforming existing marijuana laws,
and policies.
The war on drugs has failed to keep marijuana off the street. Yet still we are
spending money on the War on Drugs. Quoting a 2006 article from the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Association, Dr. Yacoubian posits, Marijuana is the most
prevalent illicit drug within the American household population, with 14.6 million
persons 12 or older reporting its use during the past 30 days (SAMHSA, 2006)(25). R.
Keith Stroup states, A national survey of voters conducted by the American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU) found that 32%one third of the voting adults in the country
acknowledged having smoked marijuana at some point in their lives(1).
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The punishment for marijuana use and possession is far more severe than any
consumption- produced effect. In his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives,
R. Keith Stroup states, In 42 states, possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable
by incarceration and/or a significant fine (136). He then explains, Under federal law,
possessing one marijuana cigarette or less is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and
one year in prison, the same penalty as for possessing small amounts of heroin and
cocaine (136). Given the information I have found, I am inclined to believe that
punishment for marijuana use and possession is harmful in that the punishment does not
fit the crime. Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug in the same category as
psilocybin mushrooms, heroin, and codeine, and it shouldnt be.
Most of the reasons Ive found that people think marijuana should be legalized are
not really reason to legalize at all. These anti-prohibitionists use factual information to
show how harmless cannabis is, or how pointless prohibition is. The common stance is
that marijuana should not be illegal.
Many people, who believe recreational cannabis should be legalized, believe that
marijuana has been demonized and that it isnt half as unhealthy as it has been portrayed.
Research shows, A close look at the data reveals that many people with psychological
problems smoke marijuana, but it does not cause their disorders. Yet some people with
mental illness may find that the drug aggravates their symptoms (Earleywine, 144). In
another section, Earleywine says, No one has ever died of THC poisoning (144). He
goes on to explain, A 160-pound (73-kilogram) person would require 9125 mg of THC
to receive a fatal dose. Most marijuana cigarettes weigh one gram and contain 20 mg of
THC (144). This shows how seemingly harmless marijuana is. In the very least, one
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cannot overdose on illegal marijuana but it is entirely too easy to poison ones self with
legal alcohol.
One point used to support the legalization of marijuana is legalized marijuana is
the financially savvy side of the argument. Research shows that legalized cannabis is a
viable tax revenue source, and that prohibition is hardly worth what it is costing tax
payers. In his online research article, Dr. Jeffrey Miron states, This report concludes that
marijuana legalization would reduce government expenditure by $7.7 billion annually.
Dr. Mirons conclusion shows the estimated amount the federal government is spending
per year on the prosecution, prevention, and incarceration of marijuana users. Further on
he shows how much revenue legalized marijuana can produce when he says, A more
modest excise tax, such as one that raises the price 50%, would produce revenue on
legalized marijuana of $6.2 billion per year. He also points out that the upper bound is
around $9.2 billion per year with many assumptions about the effects of legalization on
the supply and demand curve.
To conclude, it is my belief that there are valid points to each side of the cannabis
argument but I feel that marijuana should be decriminalized. After reviewing the
information I found the punishment for marijuana possession does not fit the crime, but
marijuana is also not harmless. I think there should be far less severe ramifications for
marijuana use, possession, and cultivation.

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Bonn-Miller, Marcel O., Michael J. Zvolensky, Amit Bernstein, and Timothy R. Stickle.
Marijuana Coping Motives Interact with Marijuana Use Frequency to Predict
Anxious Arousal, Panic Related Catastrophic Thinking, and Worry among
Current Marijuana Users. Depression and Anxiety 25.10 (2008). 862-73. Web.
10 Apr, 2008.
Marcel O. Bonn-Miller is Director of the Substance Abuse and Anxiety Program
at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, and a Research Health Science
Specialist and VA CSR&D. Miller has a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for
Health Care Evaluation at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford
University School of Medicine in 2009. He also has a Ph.D. in clinical
psychology and a bachelors degree in psychology from the University of
Vermont. This text shows empirical scientific findings related to the anxiety of
high frequency marijuana users coupled with statistics about marijuana use in the
Earleywine, Mitch. Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence.
NewYork: Oxford UP, 2005. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
Mitch Earleywine, PhD., is a Professor of Psychology at the State University of
New York at Albany and has over 100 publications in scientific journals on the
addictions. He received his Bachelors degree from Columbia and his Doctorate
from Indiana University. This book is beneficial to my narrative because it
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examines the history, use, misuse, physiological effects, social effects, addictive
properties, law, and policy.

Miron, Jeffrey A. The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition in the United
States. June 2005. Web.
Dr. Jeffrey Miron is a distinguished economist and a a former chairman of the
Department of Economics at Boston University. He is now currently a professor
at Harvard University. This publication is important to my essay because Dr.
Miron discusses the theoretical monetary values associated with legalized

Stroup, R. Kieth. Testimony of R.Keith Stroup, Esq. 7 May
1997. Web.
Kieth Stroup is the founder of NORML or the National Organization for the
Reform of Marijuana Laws. In 1965, he received his undergraduate degree in
political science from the University of Illinois, and in 1968 he graduated from
Georgetown Law School. This speech is vital to my paper because of the statistics
Stroup uses. Stroup gave this speech in front of the Committee On The Judiciary
Council of the District of Columbia in order to provide a clear mission statement
to the government about marijuana legalization.
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Yacoubian, George S. Assessing the Relationship between Marijuana Availability and
Marijuana Use: A Legal and Sociological Comparison between the United States
and Netherlands. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Addiction 51.4 (2007). 17-34.
Web. 10 Apr. 2014
Dr. George Yacoubian earned a degree in transnational law from Temple
University, James E. Beasley School of a Law (LL.M) and a Doctorate of Law
(J.D.) from Rutgers University School of Law. He also has a Doctorate of
Philosophy from Madison University and he is an attorney for Law Offices of
George S. Yacoubian, Jr. This journal article compares the two antithetical
approaches to marijuana that the Netherlands and the United States have adopted.
This article lends itself to my argument and analysis by cross examining the
effects of the Netherlands policy on marijuana use, price, and relative crime
versus the effects of Americas policies.