Sociological Imagination

In this year of the millenium, the American populace, even while in the midst of the most prolonged economic boom in the history of the Republic, is confronted with some serious problems. Any randomly chosen group of people asked to list the most dangerous of these, would include among their immediate answers: The Drug Problem.


By the Drug Problem, do they mean the proliferation in our communities of all illicit, mood-altering, physically dangerous drugs?Or do they really mean the accompanying problems bought on by these proscribed substances: crime and the threat of crime, violence, disease, the growing number of users on public welfare, the loss of productivity to the countrys industry, the congestion of the court system, the over-crowding of our penal institutions, the diversion of our tax dollars from more productive areas, the corruption of our law enforcement agencies, and directly and indirectly the erosion of our civil rights?
Since I am confining this paper to discussing the laws prohibiting marijuana use, I will concede that it fits the first two categories above; i.e. it is by law, illicit, and by its nature, mood-altering. With the third category we enter upon shaky ground. There is no scientific proof that the prolonged use of marijuana exacts a greater physical toll on the user than the equivalent abuse of nicotine or alcohol.

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Under the name Extract of Cannabis, marijuana was once widely used medicinally in the United States, and still has minor medicinal uses in other countries. There is only one species – Cannabis Sativa – which yields both a potent drug and a strong fiber long used in the manufacture of fine linen as well as canvas and rope. The seeds are valued as birdseed and the oil, which resembles linseed oil, is valuable because paints made with it dry quickly.


A Chinese treatise on pharmacology alleges to date from 2737 B.C. contains what is usually cited as the first reference to marijuana. Through out the history of man in just about every culture the mention of this substance is found used both as a fiber and a drug.
The first definite mention of the marijuana plant in the New World, dates from 1545 A.D. when the Spaniards introduced it into Chile. The Jamestown settlers brought the plant to Virginia and cultivated it for its fiber. In 1762 Virginia awarded bounties for hemp culture and imposed penalties on those who did not produce it.
George Washington was growing hemp at Mount Vernon three years later presumably for its fiber, though it has been argued that Washington was also concerned in increasing the medicinal or intoxicating potency of his marijuana plants. The argument depends on a curious tradition, which may or may not be sound – that the quality or quantity of marijuana resin (hashish) is enhanced if the male and female are separated before the females are pollinated. There can be no doubt that Washington separated the males from the females. Two entries in his diary supply the evidence. May 12-13, 1765: Sewed hemp at muddy hole by swamp August 7, 1765 – began to separate (sic) the male from the female hemp at do- rather too late. George Andrews has argued in the Book of Grass (1967): an anthology of Indian hemp that Washingtons August 7 diary entry clearly indicates that he was cultivating the plant for medicinal purposes as well as for its fiber. He might have separated the males from the females to get better fiber, Andrews concedes but his phrase rather too late suggests that he wanted to complete the separation before the female plants were fertilized and this was a practice relating to drug potency rather than to fiber culture
Brecher, Edward M. and the Editors of Consumer Reports Licit and Illicit Drugs 1st ed. Mount Vernon, New York: Consumers Union, 1972
The plant has many names: marijuana, hemp, ganja… The list is almost endless. To the ancient Hebrew it was Kaneh Bosm, a name that can still be found in the Hebrew version of the Holy Bible (Exod. chapter 30, verse 23; Isa. chapter 43, verse 24; Jer. chapter 6. verse 20; Ezek. chapter 27, verse 19; Song of Solomon chapter 4, verse 14). The Chinese were using the plant as a medicine 6,000 years ago. The first American law concerning hemp commanded all land-owning citizens to grow a certain amount per year; and taxes could be paid with hemp in all 13 of the original British-owned American colonies. George Washington grew hemp on his estate, as can be seen in a letter he sent to the gardener at Mount Vernon: “Make the most of the Indian hempseed, and sow it everywhere!” Hemp has over 60,000 different uses. Anything that can be made from petroleum can be made more cheaply and cleanly from hemp. The government’s own USDA Bulletin 404 states that an acre of hemp will produce 4.1 times as much paper as an acre of trees. The plant that our own great-grandfathers grew, used, and depended on for food, fiber, medicine, and paper is today illegal to grow or possess in all 50 states.
One of the largest issues concerning hemp is its usefulness as medicine. Today research shows its effectiveness in treating ulcers (Bateman, D.N., 1987. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and gastric emptying. Br. J. Clin. Pharmacol. 15: 139., Glaucoma Colasanti, B.K. et al., 1984. Intraocular pressure, ocular toxicity and neurotoxicity after administration of cannabinol or cannabigerol. Exp. Eye Res. 39: 231-259.), Parkinson’s Disease Frankel, J.P. et al., 1990. Marijuana for Parkinsonian tremor. J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiatry 53: 436., Multiple Sclerosis Meinck, H.M. et al., 1989. Effect of cannabinoids on spasticity and ataxia in Multiple Sclerosis. J. Neurol. 236: 120-122. Asthma Tashkin, D., et al., 1973. Acute pulmonary physiologic effects of smoked marijuana and oral delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in healthy young men. New Engl. J. Med. 289: 336-341., and other illnesses.
Harris, L. Analgesic and antitumor potential of the cannabinoids. In The Therapeutic Potential of Marijuana Cohen and Stillman, Eds. Plenum Press, New York, (pp. 299-305), 1976
Hemp remains an excellent, non-addictive painkiller that is completely non-toxic. In fact, it is physically impossible to overdose on even the most potent marijuana. Marijuana has never killed anyone, in the history of recorded medicine. It is a drug that patients or their caregivers could grow themselves, rather than pay the thousands of dollars per month that other, often less effective, medicines would cost. Since it is so safe, it can be self-administered with no fear of accidental overdose or side effects. In fact, on September 6, 1988 the administrative law judge for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Judge Francis Young, ruled that:
“Marijuana is less harmful than many common foods we eat… Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of he 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.”
DEA document, Accepted Safety For Use Under Medical Supervision.”, Sept. 6, 1988.
Even with all the evidence that shows marijuana to be an effective, safe, and useful medicine, it cannot be prescribed by any doctor. The Drug Enforcement Administration refuses to allow medicinal use of marijuana. Today hemp is categorized as a “Schedule I Drug”, which means the government considers it to be a dangerous drug with a high potential for abuse, with no accepted medical uses. By contrast, cocaine is a much more dangerous drug than marijuana. Thousands die from its use each year. Yet it is placed in Schedule II, the group for drugs that may be prescribed by doctors. Even with overwhelming evidence that marijuana is good medicine, the government refuses to reschedule marijuana so it can be prescribed. Because of this patients have a choice: they may remain law-abiding citizens and suffer, or they can risk arrest and ostracism in order to get their medicine. Today sick people sit in jail because our government refuses to admit the usefulness of hemp as a medicine. New ballot measures have been passed, such as Proposition 215 in California, which allow doctors and patients to make the decision whether or not to use marijuana as medicine, and protect them from state prosecution. However, the federal government has vowed to prosecute patients who grow or use marijuana for medicine under the new law
To illustrate the seriousness the Federal Government attaches to this
substance, here are some interesting statistics:
Average Length of United States Federal Sentences Assault: 3.2 years Manslaughter: 3.5 years Sex Offenses: 5.8 years Drug Offenses: 6.5 years Drug offenders currently make up 62 percent of the federal inmate population, up from 22 percent in 1980,.
Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 1991, p.532
Even with this incontrovertible evidence about the nature of cannabis, which has been proven time and time again, we are still mired in the Reefer Madness mindset started by self-interested parties in the first half of the century. (Some of this notoriety about hemp has been rumored to be initiated by William Randolph Hearst, who feared that paper made from hemp, cheaper and superior in quality, would lessen the value of his vast pulp wood holdings).


On January 1, 1932, the newly established Bureau of Narcotics, a unit in the Treasury Department, took over from the Alcohol Unit of the department the enforcement of the federal anti-opiate and anti-cocaine laws; and former Assistant of Prohibition Commissioner Henry J. Anslinger took over as Commissioner of Narcotics. Commissioner Anslinger had no jurisdiction over marijuana, but his interest in it was intense. Through his efforts, an optional restriction of the traffic in Indian Hemp was urged on the states and state after state complied. By 1937 forty-six of the forty-eight states as well as the District of Columbia had laws against marijuana. Under most of these state laws marijuana was subject to the same vigorous penalties applicable to morphine, heroin and cocaine and was often and erroneously designated as a narcotic. Many false and exaggerated stories about marijuana were used to achieve Anslingers goal e.g. blanket statements that marijuana addicts went crazy, or that several mass murders and numerous rapes were directly attributable to the effects of smoking marijuana cigarettes. Indeed only one physician was called to testify at the 1937 Congressional hearings of the proposed federal anti-marijuana law, he was a member of the American Medical Association and he opposed the bill
Brecher, Edward M. and the Editors of Consumer Reports Licit and Illicit Drugs 1st ed. Mount Vernon, New York: Consumers Union, 1972.


The proposed federal anti-marijuana law was also considered by the American Medical Association at the June 1937 Convention of the American Medical Association in Atlantic City. The report of the AMA Committee on Legislative Activities at that convention noted:
There is positively no evidence to indicate the abuse of cannabis as a medicinal agent or to show that its medicinal use is leading to the development of cannabis addiction. Cannabis at the present time is slightly used for medicinal purposes but would seem worthwhile to maintain its status as a medicinal agent for such purposes as it now has. There is a possibility that a restudy of the drug by modern means may show other advantages to be derived from its medicinal use.

The Report of the AMA Committee on Legislative Activities at the 1937 Convention of The American Medical Association.


We are feeling the effects of this hasty ill-advised decision to our present day. When it comes to any rational discussion of marijuana, a purely objective study is impossible to have properly funded and the ones done by previous groups have had their results ignored or somewhat patronized. Witness the findings of the study done in 1972 under President Nixon which found that “there is little proven danger of physical or psychological harm from the experimental or intermittent use” of marijuana. On the question of law enforcement, the panel recommended a “decriminalization” of possession of marijuana for personal use on both the state and the federal levels. Specifically, it recommended that: “Federal and state laws be changed to no longer make it a crime to possess marijuana for private use. “The distribution in private of small amounts of marijuana for no remuneration or for insignificant amounts should no longer be an offense. State laws should make the public use of marijuana a criminal offense punishable by a $100 fine. Under federal law, marijuana smoked in public would merely be subject to seizure.”
Report of The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse , 1972 The “Nixon Marijuana Commission”
One rather puzzling fact is the number of dedicated advocates of legal (and in many cases, state-funded) abortions using the logic: my body, my choice, who go into near hysteria when the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana is mentioned. Surely the same argument could be used for one as logically as the other. Another measure of the degree of our ignorance concerning this substance is exemplified by the fact that under our current drug laws marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance (along with heroin and LSD) while cocaine is placed in Schedule II in the confusing hodgepodge we refer to as our National Drug Policy.


Since 1991 the rate of violent crime in the United States has fallen by about 20 percent, while the number of people in prison or jail has risen by 50 percent. In the past 30 years, 10 million people have been arrested for marijuana offenses in the U.S., the vast majority of them for possession and use. Indeed, in 1996, the most recent year for which figures are available, there were 641,600 marijuana arrests in this country, 85% of them for possession; more than in any previous year!
Ira Glasser Executive Director of the ACLU, ACLU Spring 1998 National ACLU Members’ Bulletin Issue 3
Prison construction has become a growth industry and some states presently contract out their penal systems to private contractors who provide the actual services (guards and administrators) in running the institutions. The prison boom has its own inexorable logic. Steven R. Donziger, a young attorney who headed the National Criminal Justice Commission in 1996, explains the paradoxical thinking thusly: “If crime is going up, then we need to build more prisons; and if crime is going down, it’s because we built more prisons — and building even more prisons will therefore drive crime down even lower.”
Our national character, as reflected in our folk heroes, our games and indeed in our Armed Forces military strategy is one more geared to action rather than to reaction, to offence rather than defense And so throughout the last half century, whenever we have a problem we perceive as a grave threat to the country, we declare a war on the said menace, e.g. President Johnson and his War on Poverty, President Nixon and his War on Cancer, and in keeping with this pattern, what more natural response to the increasing use of drugs starting in the Flower Children and The Age of Aquarius Sixties than :A War on Drugs?
If war is whats needed, then it follows that a strategy must be formulated. If war is whats called for, than it is necessary that the enemy must be defined. And if war is the best answer to the problem, than our resources must of necessity be allocated in the most efficient manner. Of course, none of these measures has been put into effect. For, as Boake Carter observed, In time of war, the first casualty is truth.
Here are some of the more prevalent myths about marijuana and the truth about these myths from one of the best books recently published on the subject:
The Myth: Marijuana is an Addictive Drug
It is now frequently stated that marijuana is profoundly addicting and that any increase in prevalence of use will lead inevitably to increases in addiction.
The Fact
Essentially all drugs are used in “an addictive fashion” by some people. However, for any drug to be identified as highly addictive, there should be evidence that substantial numbers of users repeatedly fail in their attempts to discontinue use and develop use-patterns that interfere with other life activities. National epidemiological surveys show that the large majority of people who have had experience with marijuana do not become regular users. In 1993, among Americans age 12 and over, about 34% had used marijuana sometime in their life, but only 9% had used it in the past year, 4.3% in the past month, and 2.8% in the past week.
A longitudinal study of young adults who had first been surveyed in high school also found a high “discontinuation rate” for marijuana. While 77% had used the drug, 74% of those had not used in the past year and 84% had not used in the past month.
Of course, even people who continue using marijuana for several years or more are not necessarily “addicted” to it. Many regular users – including many daily users – consume marijuana in a way that does not interfere with other life activities, and may in some cases enhance them.
There is only scant evidence that marijuana produces physical dependence and withdrawal in humans.
When human subjects were administered daily oral doses of 180-210 mg of THC – the equivalent of 15-20 joints per day – abrupt cessation produced adverse symptoms, including disturbed sleep, restlessness, nausea, decreased appetite, and sweating. The authors interpreted these symptoms as evidence of physical dependence. However, they noted the syndrome’s relatively mild nature and remained skeptical of its occurrence when marijuana is consumed in usual doses and situations. Indeed, when humans are allowed to control consumption, even high doses are not followed by adverse withdrawal symptoms.
Signs of withdrawal have been created in laboratory animals following the administration of very high doses. Recently, at a NIDA-sponsored conference, a researcher described unpublished observations involving rats pretreated with THC and then dosed with a cannabinoid receptor-blocker. Not surprisingly, this provoked sudden withdrawal, by stripping receptors of the drug. This finding has no relevance to human users who, upon ceasing use, experience a very gradual removal of THC from receptors.
The most avid publicizers of marijuana’s addictive nature are treatment providers who, in recent years, have increasingly admitted insured marijuana users to their programs. 65 The increasing use of drug-detection technologies in the workplace, schools and elsewhere has also produced a group of marijuana users who identify themselves as “addicts” in order to receive treatment instead of punishment.
The Myth:Marijuana is a “Gateway” to the use of other drugs
Advocates of marijuana prohibition claim that even if marijuana itself causes minimal harm, it is a dangerous substance because it leads to the use of “harder drugs” such as heroin, LSD, and cocaine.
The Fact
Most users of heroin, LSD and cocaine have used marijuana. However, most marijuana users never use another illegal drug.
Over time, there has been no consistent relationship between the use patterns of various drugs.
As marijuana use increased in the 1960s and 1970s, heroin use declined. And, when marijuana use declined in the 1980s, heroin use remained fairly stable.
For the past 20 years, as marijuana use-rates fluctuated, the use of LSD hardly changed at all.
Cocaine use increased in the early 1980s as marijuana use was declining. During the late 1980s, both marijuana and cocaine declined. During the last few years, cocaine use has continued to decline as marijuana use has increased slightly.
In 1994, less than 16% of high school seniors who had ever tried marijuana had ever tried cocaine – the lowest percentage ever recorded. In fact, as shown below, the proportion of marijuana users trying cocaine has declined steadily since 1986, when a high of more than 33% was recorded.
Proportion of Marijuana Users Ever Trying Cocaine
High School Seniors, 1975-1994
1975: 19%1980: 27%1985: 31%1990: 22%
1976: 19%1981: 28%1986: 33%1991: 22%
1977: 20%1982: 27%1987: 30%1992: 18%
1978: 22%1983: 28%1988: 26%1993: 17%
1979: 25%1984: 29%1989: 23%1994: 16%
In short, there is no inevitable relationship between the use of marijuana and other drugs. This fact is supported by data from other countries. In the Netherlands, for example, although marijuana prevalence among young people increased during the past decade, cocaine use decreased – and remains considerably lower than in the United States. Whereas approximately 16% of youthful marijuana users in the U.S. have tried cocaine, the comparable figure for Dutch youth is 1.8 percent. Indeed, the Dutch policy of allowing marijuana to be purchased openly in government-regulated “coffee shops” was designed specifically to separate young marijuana users from illegal markets where heroin and cocaine are sold.
The Myth: Marijuana Policy In The Netherlands Is A Failure
Marijuana offenses are not severely punished. Few marijuana law violators are arrested and hardly anyone goes to prison. This lenient treatment is responsible for marijuanas continued availability and use.
The Fact
Marijuana arrests in the United States doubles between 1991 and 1995.In 1995, more than one-half million people were arrested for marijuana offenses. Eighty-six percent of them were arrested for marijuana offenses. Eighty-six percent of them were arrested for marijuana possession. Tins of thousands of people are now in prison for marijuana offenses. An even greater number are punished with probation, fines, and civil sanctions, including having their property seized, their drivers licenses revoked, and their employment terminated. Despite these civil and criminal sanctions, marijuana continues to be readily available and widely used.

The Myth: Dutch law, which allows marijuana to be bought, sold, and used openly, has resulted in increasing rates of marijuana use, particularly among youth.


The Fact
The Netherlands Drug Policy Is the most Non-punitive In Europe. For more than twenty years, Dutch citizens over age eighteen have been permitted to buy and use cannabis (marijuana and hashish) in government-regulated coffee shops. This policy has not resulted in
dramatically escalating cannabis use. For most age groups, rates of marijuana use in the Netherlands are similar to those in the United States. However, for young adolescents, rates of marijuana use are lower in the Netherlands that in the U.S.

The Dutch people overwhelmingly approve of current cannabis policy, which seeks to normalize rather than dramatize cannabis use. The Dutch government occasionally revises existing policy, but it remains committed to decriminalization. (pg.49)
Zimmer, L. ; Morgan, J.P. Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts New York: NY: Lindesmith Center, 1997
In 1972, President Nixons Shafer Commission concluded that for marijuana users, the harm of an arrest was significantly greater than the harm from using marijuana. It recommended that state and federal laws be changed to remove criminal penalties for possession of marihuana for personal use and for the casual distribution of small amounts of marihuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration not involving profit. In 1982, a national Academy of Sciences report on marijuana possession concluded that criminal justice approaches were inappropriate and harmful it recommended not only that marijuana possession be decriminalized, but that lawmakers give serious consideration to creating a system of regulated distribution and sale. (Like tobacco cigarettes)
Since the Shafer Commissions report in 1972, ten million people have been arrested for marijuana offenses in the United States. Federal law enforcement officials-from the DEA, the FBI, The U.S. Customs, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Park Service—focus mainly on growers, distributors, and large-scale sellers. For example, in 1994, about two-thirds of the marijuana offenders sentenced in federal court possessed two hundred pounds or more of marijuana. These federal marijuana arrests account for only a fraction of marijuana arrests in the U.S. less than 5%. At the state and local level, where most marijuana arrests occur, the vast majority are for simple possession, not cultivation, trafficking or sale. An all-time high was reached in 1995, when state and local police officers arrested nearly 589,000 people for marijuana offences almost 86%- were arrested for possessing marijuana. Because of plea-bargaining, some people convicted of marijuana possession may be marijuana sellers. However, most people arrested for possessing marijuana are users, who possess small amount for personal use. (Zimmer & Morgan 1997:38-40)
There has been an increase in arrests for marijuana usage nationwide from 1990 1996. Criminal penalties for marijuana offenses vary across the country. In ten states, possessing small amounts of marijuana (usually less than one ounce) is punishable by a fine. In other states, incarceration is possible, although probation and fines are often given. Under federal law, possessing a single joint (or less) of marijuana is punishable but a fine of from $1,000 to $10,000 and up to one year in prison-the same penalty as for possessing small amounts of heroin, powder cocaine, and crack cocaine. State penalties for possessing a few ounces or more of marijuana range form a low of six months imprisonment in some states to possible life imprisonment in others.


Penalties for marijuana sale also vary from state to state. Ten states have a maximum sentence of five years or less and eleven states have a maximum penalty of thirty years or more. Under federal law and in six states, marijuana importers and traffickers can be punished with life in prison. In some states, cultivation of a few marijuana plants for personal use is punished as severely as large-scale trafficking and sale.
National Criminal Justice Association, A Guide to State Controlled Substances Acts, Washington, DC (1991) ;Bureau of Justice Statistics, Drugs, Crime and the Justice System, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice (1992),pp.178-81;
Thomas, C., Citizens Guide to Marijuana Laws, Washington, DC; National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (1994).
There has been no systematic compilation of imprisonment rates for marijuana offenses in the U.S. However, data from the federal prison system and from a number of states indicate that substantial numbers of marijuana law violators are being incarcerated. The trend is toward increased incarceration not only for marijuana sale, but also for possession. For example:
An average of 3,677 marijuana offenders have been put in federal prison each year since 1990. This compares to an average of about 1,900 per year in the 1980s and about 1,200 per year in the 1970s. (Federal Bureau of Prisons) Given a current average sentence of about four years as many as sixteen thousand marijuana offenders may now be in federal prison, comprising about 17 percent of the federal prison population.
In Michigan, in 1995, 22% of those sentenced for marijuana offenses were sent to prison. The same year, in N Y State, 34 % of the people convicted of marijuana offences were incarcerated. Sentences for Marijuana Convictions in 1995, N Y State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York, July 1996
In Texas, 33 % of those convicted of marijuana possession were sent to prison. A slightly higher proportion of sellers and distributors (43%) were imprisoned, and half of them possessed two ounces or less of marijuana at the time of arrest.
In Georgia, where marijuana arrests have doubled since 1990, about four hundred marijuana offenders were sent t prison in 1995, more than half of them for possession.
Of more than 1,500 people now in prison for a marijuana offense in California, half were convicted of possession. Under Californias three strikes law, more people have been sent to prison for possessing marijuana than for all violent offenses combined.
In addition to ten of thousands of inmates sentenced to state and federal prisons for one year or more, tens of thousands of marijuana offenders are serving sentences of less than a year in local jails around the country.
The hemp plant (Cannabis Sativa/Indica/Ruderalis), or “marijuana” as it is known in America today, has been illegal in the U.S. since 1937. Up until this point, it was the second most used pain medication in America, and one of the greatest cash crops of states such as Kentucky. The first U.S. flags were made of hemp, as were the first Gutenberg Bibles and the first Levi pants. In 1943 hemp was made legal again, as the government rolled out its “Hemp For Victory” war program. Complete with a patriotic film that urged farmers and youth groups to grow cannabis, the program raised thousands of tons of hemp for the war effort. Today, there is another marijuana arrest every 65 seconds, and about 85% of these are for simple possession of the plant. In several states, any marijuana “crime” is considered a felony, and the person caught will spend jail time and lose his or her rights to vote and to bear arms. Today the American government spends billions of dollars to prosecute, arrest, and detain otherwise law-abiding marijuana consuming citizens. Thirty-five states have declared their wish to legalize marijuana in one form or another, from medicine to full recreational use. However, these states are still stymied by the federal government’s vendetta against hemp. It is once again, time for hemp to be legal in the United States.
The first step in a rational approach to the drug problem is the immediate decoupling of marijuana from the other Schedule I drugs as heroin, and morphine and a federal decriminalization with a view toward legalization. It is nothing short of absurd that people have been indelibly branded as criminals and in some cases are actually serving sentences in penal institutions for doing exactly what our own Chief Executive has admitted to (I have often mused what a Queens County Criminal Court Judge would react to a defendants statement:
but Your Honor, I never inhaled ..) The list of politicians, present and wouldbe office holders, sports and entertainment figures who have flippantly admitted to past and current marijuana use is too lengthy too be quoted but is common knowledge. This has had a devastating effect on the average citizens perception of our justice system. If what an inner city youth is arrested and put through the court system for doing what is a source of recreation for those in a higher socio-economic bracket, what perception of the equality of justice are we giving these kids?
If marijuana were to go head to head against alcohol in terms of effects both beneficial and detrimental, it would be declared No Contest. There is no known lethal level of TCH. There is no known death attributable directly to an overdose of TCH Deaths caused directly from alcohol doses every year range from youths to college students to street lushes. There is also no equivalent of the delirium tremens that often lead to an alcohol abusers death; no sudden pot induced rages akin to that caused by alcohol that any medical, or law-enforcement person knows as Alcohol-induced psychosis.

Number of American Deaths Nationwide Per Year From Drugs
Tobacco……………..340,000 TO 450,000 deaths
Alcohol……………..150,000 (not including 50% of all highwaydeaths and 65% of all murders)
Aspirin……………….. 180 to 1,000+ (including deliberate overdoses)
Caffeine ……………. 1,000 to 10,000 (from stress, ulcers and triggering irregular heartbeats, etc.)
“Legal” drug overdoses…14,000-27,000 (deliberate or accidental, including from mixing with alcohol)
Illegal drug overdoses…..3,800-5,200
Marijuana……………………….0
world almanacs, life insurance actuarial (death) rates, and the last 20 years of U.S. Surgeon Generals’ reports.(Figures are for 1994)from the federal government’s Bureau of Mortality Statistics and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, et al.- the last complete year on hand.)
None of this should be taken to support the idea that marijuana is a benign substance only that it is on a par with alcohol and nicotine and should be classified as such.


The zealots in the Drug War seem to believe that the legalization of marijuana would herald the beginning of the complete breakdown of our moral standards, and the presence of drugs in every area of our life. With all these facts in mind, I believe that a new approach to the Drug Problem is needed urgently. An impartial and extensive investigation is called for and our present policies examined to determine whether their effects are beneficial or not.


I believe that marijuana should be decoupled from the demonstrably more dangerous drugs such as heroin, cocaine et al., immediately. It is time to stop pandering to those drug warriors who shamelessly use children as propaganda for their own agenda, whether its to aggrandize the power, influence and funding of their own particular agency, or their sincere, albeit misguided, desire to shape the country in the form they have decided it should be. These advocates are seemingly even unwilling to accept the possibility that cannabis might possess therapeutic value in cases of nausea, glaucoma, or anorexia. As a result of their efforts, most studies start with a decidedly negative approach, with the burden of proof on the drug, which is certainly in direct opposition to the scientific examination of any experimental new substance looking for FDA approval.


Certainly, not least important is that when an adolescent is told as scientifically proven fact that pot heroin, LSD, PCP, and crack cocaine and the new synthetics as Ecstasy all pose the same danger to his health and psychic well-being, we have immediately risked the danger of losing all credibility with that particular youngster. If he ever does experiment with marijuana, and suffers none of the dire consequences he was warned about, it is not to great a leap of logic to assume that he will subsequently think that what he was told about the other substances is also suspect.
Another troubling fact, though documented in 1970, is still true today:
The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 reduced Federal penalties for marijuana possession. However, as in the case of similar penalties for the possession or sale of heroin these mandatory penalties were in fact rarely invoked; the offender was usually allowed to plead guilty to a lesser offense. When extreme penalties were handed down, there usually appeared to be some other reason – some conduct or advocacy aside from the involvement with marijuana. Ordinary people, it is commonly agreed, rarely draw such sentences. In California, one youth cynically explained, it is illegal to smoke marijuana unless you have your hair cut at least once a month. The children of governors, senators and others in the public eye, when arrested for marijuana offenses, rarely receive even short prison terms. Inequities of sentencing are no doubt among the factors bringing the marijuana laws, and drug enforcement generally, into disrepute.

Brecher, Edward M. and the Editors of Consumer Reports Licit and Illicit Drugs 1st ed. Mount Vernon, New York: Consumers Union, 1972
Applying the lessons of history to the marijuana laws, we can observe that any attempt to repeal marijuana prohibition must be approached carefully. For instance, granting the existence of problems with alcohol and tobacco legalization, it may be appropriate to first reform those systems of regulation and control in order to facilitate the effort to discourage use of those two drugs. Then, after making these changes, a similar system should be put in place that would regulate and control the use, production, and distribution of marijuana, while at the same time discouraging abuse and first use of marijuana.
Such discouraging mechanisms include, yet are not limited to, the following: age limits; restrictions against some forms of marketing and merchandising that may be seen as glamorizing the drug; a complete ban on advertising; prominent display of medically legitimate health warnings; and pricing structures that discourage consumption while denying criminal drug dealers market supremacy.
The system for legal marijuana would need to be flexible, since the effects of marijuana legalization, pro and con, can only be guessed at – yet, it is vital to get past initial objections and begin coming to grips with the practical necessities of dealing with drugs. It is easy to dismiss the notion of marijuana legalization as long as no plan has been officially formulated at the federal level to handle such a change in policy.
Efforts at the federal level should thus be directed toward developing a scheme for marijuana distribution, regulation, and control that would be acceptable to a plurality of the public. States would then have the option of adopting such a system or maintaining some sort of prohibition, much as states have the option of prohibiting alcohol sales and production. Appropriate taxes and user fees would be levied in order to fund substance abuse prevention efforts. Such a system, with appropriate discouraging mechanisms built in, would send the message that marijuana is no more acceptable when legal than it was when illegal. It is only the current methods of control that are inappropriate and must be altered.
Once the stigma of criminalization is removed, the relatively few users who develop abuse or dependence problems could come forward and get help. Taking the marijuana market out of criminal hands would ensure purity, quality controls, and the like. It would also eliminate the possibility that the dealer, motivated by greed, would entice the marijuana user to try harder, more dangerous (and more profitable) drugs.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Books:
Brecher, Edward M. and the Editors of Consumer Reports Licit and Illicit Drugs 1st ed. Mount Vernon, New York: Consumers Union, 1972.


Harris, L. Analgesic and antitumor potential of the cannabinoids. In The Therapeutic Potential of Marijuana Cohen and Stillman, Eds. Plenum Press, New York, (pp. 299-305), 1976
Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 1991, p.532Zimmer, L. & Morgan, J.P.
Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts New York: NY: Lindesmith Center, 1997
National Criminal Justice Association, A Guide to State Controlled Substances Acts, Washington, DC (1991) ;Bureau of Justice Statistics, Drugs, Crime and the Justice System, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice (1992),pp.178-81;
National Criminal Justice Association, A Guide to State Controlled Substances Acts, Washington, DC (1991) ;Bureau of Justice Statistics, Drugs, Crime and the Justice System, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice (1992),pp.178-81;
Documents and Reports:
USDA Bulletin 404
DEA document, Accepted Safety For Use Under Medical Supervision.” Sept. 6, 1988.


The Report of the AMA Committee on Legislative Activities at the 1937 Convention of The American Medical Association.

Report of The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse , 1972 The “Nixon Marijuana Commission”
Ira Glasser, Executive Director of the ACLU, ACLU Spring 1998 National ACLU Members’ Bulletin Issue 3
Sentences for Marijuana Convictions 1995 N Y State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York, July 1996

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