Sunday, March 2, 2008

Libertarians and Marijuana

Alright, so I've done a few long school projects on Marijuana, the medical effects of it, and the legalization aspect of it. When I was 16 I thought that it should be legalized. Let's be honest, on the outside, the argument for legalizing marijuana is very attractive. It will be taxed thus adding to the governments revenue (When libertarians use this argument they really don't think too hard. On one side of their mouth they say, "Less taxes!" and on the other side they say, "Tax Marijuana!"), and it will eliminate the black market. Will it really eliminate the black market though? Or will it just make black market mainstream? Every convenient store that sells Marijuana will now be part of the former "black market." In reality, the black market hasn't been eliminated, it has just been redefined and expanded. Anyway, I digress. The main argument that libertarians (and liberals) use in their argument for the legalization of marijuana is this: "Alcohol and cigarettes are legal, why not marijuana?" The simple question to ask someone who says this is: "Alcohol and cigarettes do enough damage, why would you want to add another one to the list?" Some folks from the medical marijuana crowd say that they "need" marijuana for their cancer treatment. First of all, marijuana is already available in a pill form, and second of all, there are tons of better medications out there that are more effective. Why settle for something mediocre (and expose others to it's smoke) when you don't have to? The last argument that libertarians like to use is surprisingly one that I agree with (partially). They say that the federal government doesn't have the right to regulate marijuana. This is true (even for cocaine, meth, etc.), unless it is being shipped across state lines. Most libertarians however go further and say that it shouldn't be regulated period. This is where i have to disagree. States do have the authority and the right to regulate anything to protect their populace. I wrote this really short, but hopefully informative paper on marijuana last semester. Hopefully you'll find it interesting and enlightening.

Marijuana, or “grass” as it’s sometimes referred to, comes from the green or brown hemp plant Cannabis. The flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of this plant are all used to create the highly addictive street drug. Of the hundreds of names used for this drug, some of the most common include, “aunt mary, boom, chronic, dope ganja, gangster, hash, herb, kif, mary jane, pot, reefer, sinsemilla, skunk, and weed.”1 Palmately compound leaves, with Serrated leaflets, make this annual dioecious herb, a pretty-looking plant.2

Marijuana continues to be the most used drug in the United States with 69 million citizens over twelve having tried it. Though Cannabis is “indigenous to central Asia and surrounding regions2, It is the second most common drug (after alcohol) found in the blood stream of injured Americans.3 Despite Prohibition, Marijuana is the fourth largest cash crop in the Unites States. “Alabama, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia” all have marijuana as their number one cash crop.4

Marijuana and other cannabis products are usually smoked. . .most often in loosely rolled cigarettes known as "joints." Some users will slice open and hollow out cigars, replacing the tobacco with marijuana, to make what are called ‘blunts.’”12 Marijuana can also be added to any baked product. Cookies, Brownies, and tea are some of the more common substances mixed with the drug. I recently heard on the news that a police officer’s wife “spiked” his spaghetti with Cannabis.

More than just pretty-looking and addictive, this plant has become a hot political issue in recent years. Many groups advocate the legalization of marijuana for mainly libertarian reasons. For instance, one prominent website called Marijuana Legalization Organization advocates legalization on the grounds that “People have a basic right to make choices for themselves as long as their actions do not harm others.” They go on to say that, “The government is wasting our time and money by prohibiting marijuana” due to the high cost of prosecuting offenders and not taxing it. Many people are also quick to point out that, “Alcohol prohibition did not work, and there is no logical reason to believe that marijuana prohibition is a better idea.”5 Groups on the other side of the argument are quick to rebuttal such statements by calling marijuana a “Gateway Drug”6, meaning that once it is legalized, other drugs such as cocaine will also follow suit. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration notes that if Marijuana were legalized it would result in a higher amount of people using it. Examples such as Holland and Alaska during the seventies and eighties can be used to prove this point.7 Most anti-marijuana legalization websites though, focus on the effects of the drug. “Illegal drugs are illegal because they are harmful.

The THC in marijuana has been proven to influence the activity of the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. “The short-term effects of marijuana can include problems with memory and learning; distorted perception; difficulty in thinking and problem solving; loss of coordination; and increased heart rate… One study has indicated that an abuser's risk of heart attack more than quadruples in the first hour after smoking marijuana.”.8 Marijuana’s long-term effects have also been seen to negatively effect the lungs and immune system. “A study of 450 individuals found that people who smoke marijuana frequently but do not smoke tobacco have more health problems and miss more days of work than nonsmokers.”

Another issue that has become a big topic in recent years in the issue of “medical marijuana”. The Providence Journal quoted Joycelyn Elders, M.D stating that, "The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS.” U.S. Senator Bill Frist, M.D. though said, “I believe that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that there are less dangerous medicines offering the same relief from pain and other medical symptoms.”10 The medical community will probably debate this issue for quite awhile. In the meantime, “Marinol, a pill made up of marijuana's most psychoactive ingredient, THC, is available by prescription.”11 Though, not available in a “smoke-able” form, I have been told by one member of the medical community that some doctors encourage chemo-patients to buy it off the streets.



Charlie Sommers said...

What a load of unadulterated crap!

bowchikabowwow5 said...

You need to think about what you're saying too. You say that legalizing would make the black market mainstream, how? Legalizing marijuana would finally take it out of the black market, this means no more "gateway theory" crap since there is no mixing of weed with hard drugs like heroin. Also, you say they have marijuana in pill form. They don't have it in pill form, they try to recreate the same delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in pills, but nothing ever comes out the same as when you smoke marijuana. Marijuana can replace many pills in fact, that's one of the reasons it remains illegal, because pharmaceutical companies would lose tons of money. Oh, and backing up a bit, Libertarians dislike taxes, but if taxing marijuana is the only way for it to become legalized (which it should be), then they have to support taxing it. The only thing I do agree with, that you said, was that it should be regulated, if and when legalized, weed should be sold just like alcohol and cigarettes. I am not trying to argue with you, I am just saying there are always two sides to every issue, and I hope you don't just get mad, but think about what I've said.

bowchikabowwow5 said...
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