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Tyson Jones English1010

What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been Marijuana

Marijuana in all its forms, and uses has been around since man could record history. It has many names, many uses, and is quite controversial in this day and age. People have been growing, harvesting, and using marijuana all throughout history. The plant itself has many different uses, not just its common understanding as a drug that can be used… People once raised the plant to produce hemp, a valuable fiber with many uses (such as rope, lotion, etc). But recently it has become much more than just a fiber, it has evolved into one of the most commonly used drugs in the entire world. Many people see marijuana in different ways, for instance, a cancer patient might see relief, whereas a scientist might see harm. Marijuana has had a lengthy history in America. There are several different theories concerning its uses, harms, and of course the reason for its prohibition in the first place. Marijuana has always been an interesting topic to me, I have always wondered; what are the real dangers? Why is it illegal? and why of course do people care? By that I mean why is it such a hot issue? You don’t see people trying to legalize really harmful drugs like heroin, cocaine, etc. Because of course they know better, and there is no legitimate argument there. So why is it, that people want marijuana legalized so bad, and why is the government continuing to enforce laws to stop people from using it?

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My first source comes from an article on the internet. Why is marijuana illegal? written by an organization that reports information regarding drug laws. In this article Pete Guither argues that marijuana is not illegal because of its harms to the human body etc. Guither argues that marijuana is illegal for reasons such as, private interests, greed, racism, journalism, and ignorance. He and many others like him theorize that in the early 1900’s marijuana laws were passed to control immigration (marijuana being prominent amongst Mexican immigrants). He gives a brief history of Harry J. Anslinger, The Director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1975. Guither argues that Anslinger was a racist, and in order to keep his job had to find a scapegoat or something to fight, that of course being marijuana. Well connected within the government, Anslinger was also connected to a man named William Randolf Hearst, who owned several newspapers, who was also racist, and was quite invested in the lumber industry(Lumber being a direct competitor with hemp). It makes perfect sense why Hearst would want Marijuana prohibited. Needing something to pursue, Anslinger along with Hearst quickly painted a horrible and violent image of marijuana, and exposed it as a threat to the entire world. It makes quite a bit of sense why marijuana was immediately hated, and feared by people in this time period. (Guither) This was a very eye opening article, even though it may seem like it was written by some crazy conspiracy theorist, it turned out to be a very legitimate argument. Guither had several sources that were accurate and credible. In his defense, and in the defense of marijuana, it is very hard to argue this side of the argument, but they say history is written by the victors and that means that we must explore all sides of the argument to find the truth. I find this theory to be a very legitimate argument, with the exception of the last part of the article were Guither states that the actual law to outlaw marijuana was passed based on a lie from a congressmen. It could be true but it seems a little far-fetched to me.

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My second source, Legalizing Marijuana, is written by Peter Katel, from CQ researcher. In this article, Katel discusses the laws and states where medical marijuana is currently legal, and poses the question, what will happen if we legalize marijuana? The article gives examples from seized marijuana crops that can produce up to a quarter of a million dollars worth of marijuana per harvest, begging the question, would legalizing and taxing marijuana benefit our states? Katel’s research is quite extensive and analyzes all aspects of what would change in our nation if marijuana was legalized. Katel discusses how legalizing marijuana would affect violent crimes, how it would affect the Mexican drug cartels, and whether or not it would spur a giant increase in consumption. Katel wonders how these cartels would react to marijuana becoming legal, and predicts the outcomes could be violent. It was even stated that “getting the cartels to play fair, would be a pipe dream.”(Katel) He explains his examples from all points of view, leaving no one’s voice unheard. He discusses how users of medical marijuana feel like the government is launching a war on them, whereas the people that are enforcing the crimes feel like they are simply fighting a war with a drug. Towards the end of the article Katel lists several people’s outlooks on the subject, some think that marijuana will be legalized within ten years simply to put an end to the debate. But never-the-less some people think that that government has no reason to rush in and legalize marijuana, and that the situation is at a stand still. (Katel) I found this article to be very informative. Katel definitely did his homework here, his many sources are all credited for, and his research was extensive. Katel also did very well at giving plenty of background information about the topic, and was able to remain neutral throughout the whole article. Every time I was reading a statistic or interview that seemed to promote the idea of marijuana being legalized, it was countered with another person’s point of view to negate it.

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My third source comes from a book titled Reefer Madness written by The Atlantic’s, Eric Schlosser. Schlosser’s book is all about the black market in the United States, he discusses marijuana, prostitution, cheap labor, etc. The book is split up into mini books each discussing their own topic. Schlosser talks more about the punishments and charges that come with marijuana. He gives several examples of real life people that have received ridiculous sentences for their involvement in the drug trade, and the fact that our prisons are running out of room to hold them. He gives a brief overview of the medical effects of marijuana and argues that an average pot smoker does no more damage to his body than that of an average drinker. He also points out that there has never been a death caused specifically by marijuana, which is a fact. Schlosser also points out that due to mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders, prisons are being forced to make room for most commonly non-violent offenders. This of course means that murderers, rapists, violent offenders are being released early in order to make room for pot smokers. Even though Schlosser is telling us sob stories of drug traffickers, and users receiving excessive sentences for their crimes, he doesn’t make his true opinion known until the end of the book. Schlosser believes that marijuana should be decriminalized, he believes that marijuana for personal use should not be a crime but, selling, trafficking, and driving under the influence should most definitely still be illegal. Schlosser also believes in educating our youth and even discouraging the use of marijuana amongst teens, he states that we need a law based on the facts and nothing more. (Schlosser) I absolutely loved reading this book, it was quite eye opening. Schlosser’s research and statistics were very thorough and organized. As an investigative journalist studying America’s underground market, I do not see conflict concerning him being a biased source. Although I couldn’t say for sure Schlosser’s theory seems to be the closest in comparison to my own opinion. I see no reason why people should have their lives ruined for smoking a little weed,

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but I do not advocate the use of marijuana while driving, working etc. There is no strong discussion regarding why marijuana is illegal here, but Schlosser does discuss why he thinks it should be decriminalized. The term “decriminalized” confuses a lot of people, when it comes to the great marijuana debate most people think that decriminalized means legal, but that is not always the case. Marijuana is still a banned substance, and is illegal in America no matter where you are, that law is based on federal law. Marijuana has been decriminalized in only ten states, but what most people fail to realize is that there are still fines and penalties related to the possession of marijuana. The decriminalization process only means that it is not a criminal offense, and will not be handled by the criminal justice system. Being decriminalized also means that the offender will not go to jail over a bag of weed. My fourth source comes from an article published in the 1990’s by The National Review, written by Brad Miner. This article is the one that is completely opposite of my previous three sources. This article is against the legalization and use of marijuana. Miner uses lots of medical studies to support his thesis, mainly the medical research concerning the effects of THC on the body. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana; the medical studies state that THC can speed up the effects of cancer and can affect the memory. Miner uses these studies to his advantage, he theorizes that not only is THC bad for your body, but that it has evolved since people have been cultivating marijuana for its consumption. Miner states that back in the day when perhaps your parents or the youth of the seventies were getting high, the marijuana contained less THC. He argues that in this day and age, growers and dealers, constantly pursuing a better high, have evolved the plant much more through crossbreeding etc. to produce up to twenty times the amount of THC in marijuana than that in the

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seventies. Miner also gives the typical “gateway drug” argument, implying that the use of marijuana will lead to abuse of harder drugs. (Miner) Miner’s article was very well written and quite persuasive. I completely agree with Schlosser, that marijuana should be decriminalized, but I don’t however think that marijuana is completely harmless or safe for that matter. It is quite hard to refute hard evidence from medical studies. With that being said, I still think that the “gateway drug” argument is a complete load of garbage (this of course being the theory that the use of marijuana WILL lead to harder drugs such as cocaine, heroin, etc). Me and most of the people I know that smoke pot, have never tried harder drugs, and as for me I have no desire or intention to do so. My fifth source comes straight from the DEA’s website, it is The DEA position on marijuana. Coming straight from a government office, it is no secret where the government stands on marijuana. This article is chock full of all sorts of statistics concerning the use and effects of marijuana. The DEA argues that legalizing marijuana would cause a spur of “drugged driving” and cause lots of problems concerning DUI’s. Even though the DEA mentions that marijuana may help sick people, they make it clear that they don’t consider it to be medicine. They also argue that marijuana is a gateway drug, and list a ton of statistics about marijuana and the use of other drugs. They definitely did their homework here, they have tons of credible sources, and lots of facts and statistics. I cannot refute medical evidence, but once again I find the “gateway drug” argument to be ridiculous. Even though they have medical evidence on their side, The DEA is an extremely biased source. Whether or not it is right or wrong, their goal is obvious, to rid the world of marijuana and other drugs. The DEA even goes as far to say that marijuana can cause dependency, mischievous behavior etc. I do not dispute the medical evidence, but if you have

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ever smoked marijuana you know that it is not some crazy drug that is going to turn you into some sort of hell-raising delinquent with an addiction. That being said I do have to agree with

their “drugged driving” point, I don’t ever drive while under the influence, but I know people that do, and I would have to agree that legalizing marijuana would be a danger in that sense. In conclusion, I chose this topic because it was one that genuinely interested me, and throughout my research my opinions have changed several times. Once again I ask myself, Why is marijuana illegal? I have learned a lot doing my research and I still don’t think I could answer that question fully. I personally believe that there were several factors leading to its prohibition, not necessarily Guither’s theory, and not even because it is a detriment to health. In the end I would have to agree mostly with Schlosser, marijuana should at a minimum be decriminalized. No one’s life should be ruined over the use of marijuana, illegal or not. In my opinion using marijuana does not make you a criminal. With that being said, I am not advocating the use of marijuana or trying to promote it in any way, only saying the choice should be up to the people as individuals to decide whether or not they choose to use marijuana.


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Guither, Pete. “Why is marijuana illegal?” Drug WaRrant 2009 n. pag. Web 13 Nov. 2009. Justice Department. “The DEA’S position on Marijuana” Justice. DEA. N. publisher. 2006. Web. 13 Nov. 2009 Katel, P. “Legalizing Marijuana” CQ Researcher, 2009, 525-548 web. 13 Nov. 2009. Miner, Brad “How sweet is Mary Jane?-argument against legalizing marijuana” National Review. Web. 22 Nov. 2009. Schlosser, Eric. Reefer Madness. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003. Print.


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