Currently, there is an unnecessary association between harmful narcotics and harmless stimulants. Even as recent as the 1920s, marijuana was categorized with such mind altering and addictive drugs as heroine, morphine and cocaine (Bonnie). However, before this period in history, marijuana was widely accepted and frequently used, according to Peter Guither, drug policy reform expert. Guither, who has spoken on six national panels for drug reform and authored two books on the subject, explains a law enacted in Virginia in 1619 which mandated the growth of Indian marijuana plants to be used commercially. He also mentions an 1850 census which counted 8,327 marijuana plantations in America. Somewhere along the way, when regulators attempted to prohibit substances like alcohol, marijuana was thrown into the mix due to politics and racism. The Schaffer Drug Library confirms this fact by explaining, “In the southwestern states, marijuana was outlawed because of racial prejudice against the Mexicans who used it.” As one Texas legislator said, ‘All Mexicans are crazy and this stuff (marijuana) is what makes them crazy.’”
After being illegal for over half of the previous century, marijuana is cemented as a substance that “should” be illegal. Perhaps Americans should thoughtfully reevaluate this outdated law and not determinedly oppose a topic without substantial evidence. With staunch predispositions already integrated into society, legalization of the plant becomes a difficult task. If Americans can move past an initial thought of negativity toward marijuana then they may clearly understand why marijuana should be legalized due to its lack of danger and beneficial properties.
Those who oppose recreational marijuana legalization argue that legalizing the plant will pose too many dangers to the health of users as well as others. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana causes short term effects that include feelings of panic and anxiety, difficulty thinking, distorted perceptions, and memory problems. Opponents of legalization believe the distorted perception can lead to accident and injury, which could harm others. Cognitive functions are also at risk when using the drug. “Heavy marijuana use is associated with residual neuropsychological effects even after a day of supervised abstinence from the drug,” reports Harrison G. Pope, Jr., MD, and Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, PhD. Even after a smoker has stopped for a day, the effects of marijuana still traumatize the brain and its functions. The study explains that the trauma induced by marijuana does not end immediately after coming off a high. Memory loss and short attention span may plague marijuana users even days after use, and in some extreme cases chronically. Those who wish to legalize the plant must be weary of its ability to retard thought process after use.
Contrary to these arguments, the documented negative effects of marijuana are minimal and few harms to safety stem from use. The effects of the plant do indeed cause an altered state of mind, a euphoric elation. This describes how marijuana may be used as medication. But to address impairment, those who are high are not aggressive and even though the thought process may be slowed, marijuana smokers do not react dangerously. “Nor is there any of the yelling, dashing about, playing of crude jokes or physical violence that often accompany alcoholic parties,” says Professor Richard J Bonnie, a Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences from the University of Virginia, in regards to parties where marijuana is consumed.
Psychologically, marijuana smokers are not impaired like drunks or even angry people. To argue that a marijuana smoker’s state of mind could put others at danger is ludicrous since studies have revealed the calm nature of smokers. In relation to driving in particular, a study performed in the Netherlands placed drivers under the influence of marijuana on a highway and had them drive. The results found that a slight decrement in ability did occur, but overall, the marijuana caused greater caution because users were able to compensate for their impaired state (Klonoff).
Furthermore, the effects of marijuana have been documented to help treat cancer patients and alleviate pain. The National Eye Institute and the Institute of Medicine both have concluded that marijuana can indeed reduce the intraocular pressure of glaucoma patients. Those afflicted with glaucoma are characterized with loss of eye sight and high fluid pressure within the eye. Marijuana can reduce this pressure which allows patients to see better. Marijuana also promotes appetite for those undergoing chemotherapy and may provide relaxation to patients who are stressed. For AIDs and HIV patients, marijuana can end nausea. The same is true for multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, asthma, and arthritis. According to the medical marijuana ProCon website, the effects of marijuana help treat all of these sicknesses in different ways, helping relieve pain and anxiety. Especially for sufferers of movement disorders, such as Tourrette’s, the calming effect of marijuana can lead to relief. Marijuana cannot cure any of these afflictions, but it certainly stimulates the body in a manner which prevents negative effects of sickness and promotes well being.