Marijuana has had a relationship with mankind throughout history all over the world. The amazing plant has brought mankind food, clothing, fuel, medicine, building materials, and has the ability to affect our perception and views of the world. According to Rowan Robinson (1996), the marijuana plant, also called hemp, has been found in forms of rope and cloth in the oldest tombs, was written about as a healer in the earliest medical texts, was used for sails for the first explorers’ ships, and was used to make the paper that the United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence were written on. Today marijuana has the potential to lessen deforestation, can be used as a substitute for certain fuels, and help in health care problems as varied as glaucoma, cancer, and A.I.D.S. As more research is being done on marijuana’s therapeutic use in medicine, new laws are being considered to protect it and society’s views on marijuana have changed over the years.
Mankind has used marijuana as a medicine for thousands of years, but in 1937 the Marijuana Tax Act was passed making it illegal to posses in the United States. According to Lester Grinspoon (2000), the rebirth of medicinal marijuana began in the early 1970’s when patients who were being treated with newly developed chemotherapies smoked marijuana instead of using the medicine they were supposed to be taking for the intense nausea that came with the treatment. Since then marijuana is constantly being researched and tested for several different kinds of pain relief for several different ailments.
Marijuana has great potential for pain relief and the American people need to realize that it is useful. In Robert Dreyfus’s (1999) article he states, “Perhaps they didn’t inhale, but many Americans gasped when a scientific study funded by the White House’s drug czar reported in March that marijuana’s active ingredients seem to have medical value, ‘particularly for?pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation (p.1).’” This report has put a new light on marijuana as medicine. The only risk factor is the smoke entering the lungs, but this is outweighed by the drug’s overall safety.
Marijuana is a much safer drug than the majority of drugs it is used to replace because of the small amounts of side effects and the fact that you cannot die from using it. According to Grinspoon (2000), Aspirin, the first of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) replaced marijuana in the 19th century, but today NSAIDs take 7,000 lives annually, and marijuana has taken none. These facts help new laws to be formed for marijuana’s medical use.
Even though marijuana has been used all over the world for thousands of years as medicine and is now being scientifically proven to have medicinal value, there are still laws against the use, possession, and sale of the drug, but now there are laws that are being considered to protect the drug. According to Rowan Robison (1996), in 1994, the Public Health Service proclaimed they would not lift their ban on marijuana, but they would allow privately funded experiments to decide if there was a value to medical marijuana. This decision opened up new doors for the research on this drug.
Organizations such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) work with state representatives and other organizations to help change the laws of marijuana. In 1999, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) worked with NORML Executive Director, R. Keith Stroup, on the bill, HR 912. HR 912, the “Medical Use of Marijuana Act,” would change marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under federal law (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws [NORML], 2000). This change would allow physicians to prescribe marijuana legally. If this bill passes medical marijuana become available for the people who are currently suffering.
Marijuana is still an illegal drug, but the government cannot keep from hearing the voice of America’s people. For the most part the public is all for medical marijuana. The majority of recent polls usually range from 60 to 80 percent of people that do support medical marijuana (Dreyfuss, 1999). If enough people realize the need for medicinal marijuana the laws will have to change in favor of the drug. This increase of people favoring marijuana only shows how society’s views have changed on the drug
Even though marijuana has been a part of human society for thousands of years, America’s view on the plant has been popular for some but for the greater part negative. According to Andrew Weil and Winifred Rosen (1993), marijuana smoking in the United States primarily came from Mexican migrants and was concentrated in the south in the early 1900’s. The drug was considered extremely dangerous. Against contrary belief, marijuana did not raise much attention to America’s people even after it became illegal with the Marijuana Tax Act. The attention did not truly rise until the 1960’s (Jerome Himmelstien, 1983). Public perceptions greatly changed in the 1960’s and 70’s.
In the early to mid 60’s the public realized that marijuana was not as dangerous as it was previously considered. Before the 60’s the penalties for the users of marijuana were extremely harsh, but the laws significantly became lighter after the realization that the drug was not extremely dangerous. Before this time drug users were just seen as “users” and not as human beings. The increase of marijuana users was extremely large and was due to the middle-class youth. The people that were using marijuana were not violent criminals; they were educated, organized people that were not drug addicts (Himmelstien, 1983). This event lightened the previous outlook on marijuana.
Today marijuana is still viewed as a dangerous drug that should not be used as recreation, but now with new research it is being used is some states and considered in others for medical use. People are now realizing that marijuana has great potential as it has been in the past. According to Weil and Winifred (1993), complaints about marijuana have more to do with politics then actual facts. The government is more concerned with what is “right” rather than the right of people who choose to use the drug. The number of marijuana users continues to increase, and they are still going to fight for their right to use the drug with hundreds of organizations for the decimalization of the drug. Society’s views have constantly changed and will continue to change one way or the other.
Marijuana will always be a part of society. The American people need to decide what is truly important to them. With newly found medical uses, legislation formed to protect marijuana, and the society’s more accepting view of the drug maybe some day the users of marijuana can smoke with out worrying about being a “criminal”. The right to use a substance that is not extremely dangerous, not to mention potentially helpful, should and quite possibly will someday become a reality.
Dreyfuss, R. (1999, May 13). Another Victory for Medical Marijuana. Rolling Stone. Grinspoon, L. (2000, Spring). Whither medical marijuana? Contemporary Drug Problems.
Weil, A., & Rosen, W. (1993). From Chocolate to Morphine. Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.