Legalizing any drug evokes strong emotions from people on both sides. This article is not intended to be an opinion piece, but rather an effort us look at some broad issues, facts, and monetary concerns regarding the potential legalization of marijuana.
In the United States, marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic. That category indicates it has no medicinal use and a high abuse potential. There have been attempts over the past 2 decades to shift it into a different category, but unsuccessful. It is obvious there is lack of a consensus as to whether it has medicinal properties, as 15 states as of 2011 have legalized its usage for multiple medical conditions.
Is it reasonable for the US to continue classifying marijuana as such when other addictive and cancerous substances like nicotine are allowed? That is a hot button topic. The link between tobacco and various cancers is clear, yet it is big business and it does produce tax monies. There are clear labels on these products, yet over 20% of the American public smokes.
A 2002 Time magazine poll showed an amazing 80% of Americans supported legalizing medical marijuana. In the early 20th Century, artists and intellectuals were frequent users of marijuana for the purpose of enhancing creativity. By the mid 1920’s, the American media had latched on to the idea that there was a connection between marijuana and crime, both violent and sexual. It is pretty clear at this point that is not true at all, but then even without any research to back up that fallacy all states had laws by the 1930’s regulating marijuana usage.
The Commissioner of Narcotics at the time, Harry Anslinger, crusaded against marijuana in front of congress, the medical establishment, and the media warning against its dangers to society. As a result, in 1937, congressional hearings ensued with the result being the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This did not make marijuana illegal, but created a hefty tax structure around every part of the marijuana cycle (cultivation, distribution, sale). The onerous nature of the Act pushed marijuana usage to a negligible status.
Finally in the 1940’s research began coming out showing marijuana to be relatively harmless compared to hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. The association with violence became negated and understood to be most likely from the alcohol being consumed in conjunction with marijuana. However, with the legal structure placed around marijuana the general public saw it as dangerous despite an increasing body of research showing it to be relatively (not completely) harmless.