The Magical Green Herbs of Life
Imagine this, you are a 70-year-old man/women lying in your deathbed. Your destiny is foreseeable, and you know you will soon die. All your life you have had to deal with the emotional pains of life, and now in the last few weeks of your life, you feel every part of your body aching, your AIDS has gotten worse, you hardly have enough energy to hold up your head. Alas, you realize there is an escape, that magical herb that puts the pain to sleep. Marijuana could help you, too bad its illegal though. Your going to die soon and you just want to be in peace before you go, but you couldn?t possibly want to break the law, after all marijuana is…. is … Well there must be something that pushes it to prohibition. Well to bad, you could have enjoyed your last few weeks on earth in peace, but I guess not. Marijuana prohibition unjustly puts law-abiding citizens in jail, increases taxes, and further more aggravates the sick. When marijuana is enjoyed responsibly, subjecting users to harsh criminal and civil offences provides no public benefit and causes injustice. Some ten million Americans and 6 million Canadians smoke marijuana regularly. Millions more use it occasionally. Some people use marijuana as a medicine while others to, ?Party?. But between these two poles are many other uses and effects that might be described as enhancing, therapeutic, exploratory, and so on. All this controversy lies on sixty years of a prohibitive atmosphere, which has surrounded the medical use, of this wonderful, natural herb.
Marijuana prohibition disproportionately impacts minorities. According to the government statistics Blacks and Hispanics are over-represented in bot the number of arrests and the number of incarcerations due to marijuana use. Blacks and Hispanics make up 20% of the marijuana users in Canada, yet they make up 58% of the offenders who are sentenced under federal law for the use. Nonviolent offenders often receive longer prison sentences than those of violent offenders. By stubbornly defining all marijuana smokers as criminal, including people who smoke in the privacy of their own home, we are wasting police time, and court resources, we are filling costly and scarce jail and prison space and needlessly wrecking the lives and careers of genuinely good citizens. Every time a marijuana arrest occurs, two police officers are taken off the street for several hours to prepare the paperwork and process the defendant. If one assumes that there are 600 000 marijuana arrests, than this means that marijuana prohibition costs law enforcement a minimum of 2 400 000 man-hours annually. These hours could be better spent targeting violent crimes.
Marijuana smokers are no different than their non-smoking peers, except for the fact that they use marijuana. Like most they are responsible citizens who work hard, raise families, contribute to their communities, and want to live in, safe, crime free neighborhoods. They are otherwise law-abiding citizens who live in fear of arrest and imprisonment solely because they choose to smoke marijuana for relaxation instead of drinking alcohol. A 1982 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on marijuana reaffirmed 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. Law enforcement arrested over 450 000 Canadians for violating marijuana laws that year. William Foster of Oklahoma was sentenced to 93 years in jail in January 1997 for growing 10 medium-sized marijuana plants and 56 clones (Cuttings from another plant planted in soil) in a 35-square-foot underground shelter. Foster maintains that he grew marijuana to alleviate the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Federal laws prohibiting marijuana are also severe. Under federal law possessing one marijuana cigarette or less is punishable by a fine of up to $10 000 and one year in prison, the is the same penalty for possessing small amounts of heroin and cocaine.
Marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers at least $7.5 billion annually. This is an enormous waste of federal money that should be used to target violent crimes. Annual Federal Expenditures on the ?war on drugs? average $15.7 billion annually. Also, state and local governments also spend 16 billion per year enforcing drugs laws. In 1995, nearly 600 000 of the total 1.5 million drug arrests in Canada were marijuana offences. 25 to 40 percent of the total $31 billion annual costs are related to marijuana prohibition.
Marijuana prohibition applies to everyone, including the sick and dying. Of all the negative consequences of marijuana prohibition, none is as tragic as the denial of medical marijuana. It is clear from available studies and rapidly accumulating anecdotal evidence that marijuana is therapeutic in the treatment of a number of serious illnesses and is less toxic and costly than the other medicines, which are use in its place. In many cases marijuana is much more effective than other available commercial drugs. Prestigious groups such as the American Public Health Association, the Federation of American Scientists, The British Medical Association, and the New England Journal of Medicine editor Jerome Kassirer, publicly endorse the medicinal use of marijuana.
In 1988, the Drug Enforcement Administrations own chief administrative law judge, Francis L. Young, declared that marijuana was ?one of the safest therapeutic active substances known to man?. In 1991 Dr. J. B. Mattison, indicated the benefits of smoking marijuana in the treatment of migraines, gastric ulcers, delirium and tremors due to alcoholism. He found the same effect carried over in treating other serious addictions such as morphine or heroin addictions. In 1990 Dr. J. R. Reynolds found marijuana to be an excellent aid in combating a number of problems associated with aging. He sated, ? I have found nothing comparable in utility to a moderate dose of marijuana?. Dr. Reynolds noted marijuana?s usefulness in overcoming senile insomnia as well as it?s psychological benefits in helping older people cope with some of the feelings and emotions associated with growing older.
The tens of thousands of seriously ill presently use marijuana as a therapeutic agent to help them with there symptoms of cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, Epilepsy, spinal injuries, Anorexia, Paraplegia, Quadriplegia, Chronic pain, or multiple sclerosis risk arrest and jail to obtain and use their medication. Many AIDS and cancer patients use marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering. Often, because of there illness, it requires that the person taking care of them obtain the marijuana for them. Many of the caregivers could serve a mandatory prison sentence if convicted under existing marijuana laws.
Marijuana alleviates the nausea, vomiting, and the loss of appetite experienced by many AIDS patients without accelerating the rate at which HIV positive individuals develop clinical AIDS or other illnesses. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and others concluded that marijuana reduces intraocular pressure (IOP) in patients suffering from glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness in Canada.
It is time to end marijuana prohibition and to stop arresting law-abiding marijuana smokers. The ?war on drugs? is not really about drugs; if it were, tobacco and alcohol would be the primary targets. They are the most commonly used and abused drugs in Canada and unquestionably cause for more harm on the user and society than does marijuana. Yet neither is illegal. Prohibition of marijuana puts innocent people in jail, brings forth a great cost to our society in regards to money, and most importantly puts the sick in needless physical and emotional pain that can easily be avoided. Marijuana remains the third most popular drug of choice in the United States despite 60 years of criminal prohibition. Only alcohol and tobacco are regularly consumed by a greater percentage of the population. Responsible marijuana smokers present no threat or danger to society, and there is no reason to treat them as criminals. Twenty years later the former U.S president’s words ring as loud as ever, ?After 60 years of failed destructive policy, it is time to once and for all end marijuana prohibition.?