THE RECREATIONAL POISON
The debate is whether or not marijuana and other drugs should be legalized for personal use. The marijuana plant may serve several beneficial uses to us, but there is one use in which it is only harmful. Marijuana should not be legalized for personal use because people do not understand, or care about the effects it causes on them and the people around them.
While the War on Drugs attempts to dissuade people from using drugs primarily in economic terms (Boyle, 3), I want to inform people on the more scientific side of this debate. Users view marijuana as harmless because it s natural. While it may be natural, so are the chemicals it produces which are natural poisons. That s right, the chemical Tetrahdrocannabiol (THC), that gives people their high is a natural poison. Think about it, why would a plant prod
Marijuana, like most plants has developed ways to defend itself against attack and predation just like animals. An animal s first instinct is to run away from the danger as quickly as possible. When the animal can t get away, it takes a stand and fights with whatever weapons it has at its disposal. Of course, plants can t run away, so they developed weapons to protect themselves (Boyle, 2). These weapons may be as simple as spines on a cactus, but are often complex chemical compounds. These chemical compounds are often found in of the alkaloid family (nitrogen containing organic bases), which includes quinine, cocaine, atropine, and morphine (Boyle, int.).
By producing these chemicals, the plant protects the next generation by concentrating the toxin in the seeds and surrounding tissues. The toxin then serves to improve the chances of survival of the next generation of the plant (Boyle, 1).
You will mostly find these toxins in wild plants like marijuana. This is because we have breeding programs for agricultural crops to get a low or totally absent production of these toxic chemicals in domesticated plants. The elimination of the plant s ability to protect itself is one of the factors in the development and use of man-made pesticides.
Studies have provided information on the quantity of each toxin. Many toxins can be safely used, but side effects can be expected (Boyle, int.). Of course these same studies provide information on the lethal doses of the toxins. Under prescribed conditions, the results can be quantified.
A major part of the issue is the manner in which the toxin is ingested. When one eats plants with these natural toxins, the quantities ingested are usually small. The toxins are not concentrated, and following ingestion, are transferred to the stomach for digestion. This dilutes and reduces the toxicity of the plants toxins. But when these toxins are introduced into the body in an improper manner, such as in the lungs or the sinus membranes, they can be extremely harmful and deadly depending on the dosage.
Researchers have established that short-term effects of marijuana are problems with memory and learning, distorted perception (sight, sound, time, and touch), loss of motor coordination troubles with thinking, such as problem solving (NIH). It has been found that the THC changes the way in which sensory information gets into and is processed by the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a compound of the brain limbic system that is crucial for learning, memory, and the integrations of sensory experiences such as emotions and motivation. This study has shown that the THC suppresses nerve fibers in the information processing system of the brain.
For 15 years, Donald P. Tashkin of the University of California has studied the respiratory systems of hundreds of long term, heavy marijuana smokers. His conclusion is puff for puff, smoking marijuana is even harder on the lungs than smoking tobacco. Tashkin says, Smokers of marijuana had as frequent systems of chronic bronchitis as smokers of tobacco, despite the fact that tobacco smokers smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day, compared with 3 to 5 joints a day used by marijuana smokers. In the latest reports found, research shows that one joint is four times more carcinogenic than tobacco cigarettes (Boyd). Marijuana smokers also had more microscopic damage to the lungs. Since marijuana joints don t have filters and are usually smoked down to the last fraction of an inch, they deliver more irritating particulates to the lungs. Recreational users further magnify the damage by inhaling it in as long as possible (Consumer Reports).
Other long-term problems effect the heart and blood pressure. The heart rate of a subject using marijuana increased 29 beats per minute. Which can be related to cocaine, which will increases the heart 32 beats per minutes. This increases the risk of overloading the cardiovascular system. This research shows that lifetime user s are 5 times more likely to have a heart attack.
While I do agree that legalizing marijuana will eliminate the drug dealers along with the murders and violence associated with it, I don t believe it is worth encouraging people to believe it is safe to smoke marijuana. That is exactly what legalizing marijuana will do, make the drug readily available to everyone. We already see the problems that alcohol and cigarettes bring. Do we really need to add to these problems with another harmful substance?
Studies have shown that regardless of age, gender, or race, there is a definite pattern of progression from alcohol to marijuana, then to the use of other more harmful drugs. We can see the problems of what legalizing drugs can do by looking at the evidence produced by Holland, where so called soft drugs have been legalized. In 1997, the University of Amsterdam surveyed some 22,000 Dutch citizens above the age of 12. In the city of Amsterdam itself, almost 37 percent were found to take drugs on a regular basis, and almost 42 percent had tried heroin at least once. This compares with less than 1 percent in the UK (McDaniel). When people become more familiar and are able to withstand the drug, they then move on to a harsher drug. What is going to happen when the government regulates the amount of THC to a lesser amount than found in today s marijuana? People will eventually look to other drugs for a better high, causing the illegal market to continue.
It is often disputed that marijuana and other illegal drugs do not kill as many people as tobacco and alcohol related deaths. But that is not an argument for legalizing substances which carry their own dangers. Rather it is an argument for even greater efforts at educating our people as to the very real dangers of socially accepted drugs and perhaps for new radical thinking on how to make them less socially acceptable (Boyd).
There definitely is a beneficial place for marijuana in our society, i.e., for medical use. However, marijuana is not meant to be used as a drug for recreational purposes. As long as people do not understand or care what harm they are causing to themselves.