Should Marijuana Be Legal? 

Should Marijuana Be Legal? 
Posted by CN Staff on March 23, 2006 at 09:59:51 PT
By Marta Paczkowska, HN Teen Correspondent
New Jersey -- When most parents hear the word marijuana they immediately yell "Don't do drugs!" and change the subject. Of course, parents are only looking out for the well-being of their children, but merely discussing drugs does not inject any chemicals into our veins or shoot smoke into our lungs. As America's government continues to wage a costly war on drugs, it is necessary to objectively acknowledge that legalization of marijuana is an idea that should receive serious consideration, without succumbing to the subjectivity of propaganda.
Therefore, in the interest of opening our propaganda-blinded eyes to the issues that directly affect teenagers, here first are the facts from the National Institute on Drug Abuse: Marijuana is a product of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, which contains some 400 chemicals, including the brain-altering THC. Researchers have found that THC changes the way in which sensory information gets into and is acted upon by the hippocampus, the component of the brain's limbic system that is crucial for learning, memory and the integration of sensory experiences with emotions and motivations; as a result, learned behaviors deteriorate.Another interesting fact, reported in this newspaper in Dr. Robert Wallace's "Tween 12 and 20" column, is that one marijuana cigarette can cause as much lung inflammation as seven to 20 cigarettes, depending on how deeply the smoker inhales. Advocates against the legalization of marijuana use such evidence to support their cause; however, they fail to note that cigarette addicts may smoke around a pack a day, or 20 cigarettes, while marijuana smokers might smoke one or two joints. So the question remains, Which is more harmful to a regular, daily smoker -- illegal marijuana or legal cigarettes? Wallace also notes the distinction that needs to be made between psychological and physical addiction. While regular cigarettes are physically addictive, marijuana is only psychologically addictive; a cigarette smoker needs and craves nicotine, whereas a marijuana smoker enjoys the high and is thus drawn to smoking the drug based on the memory of that experience. The harm that smoking marijuana poses, therefore, depends partially on one's self-control. Can the smoker resist "high" temptations?And could they resist temptation if marijuana were legal? Well, consider the Netherlands, which decriminalizes possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana and sale of up to 5 grams per person per day (both are technically illegal but not prosecuted), and permits smoking it in public places or where the owner of the property does not object. The Dutch drug policy, which states an anti-drug message but supports nearly 1,000 marijuana coffee shops, has accomplished at least one thing that the United States is still striving toward: separating the markets for hard and soft drugs.Freed up resources once used to chase marijuana are now used by the Dutch government to combat the production and smuggling of hard drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.And although the coffee shop system is looked upon with skepticism by anti-marijuana activists, studies by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Netherlands Institute for Mental Health and Addiction illustrate obvious success for the Dutch government in its anti-drug ventures. Recent surveys found that 3.6 percent of people aged 12 years and older in the Netherlands said they used cocaine at some point in their lives, compared to 11 percent in the United States. The numbers for heroin were 0.4 percent in the Netherlands compared with 0.9 percent in the United States. But most ironic of all, these agencies' surveys put the "drug state's" use of marijuana at 17 percent while abstinent America registered 36.9 percent.Even if you look only at the people who said they had used marijuana in the month preceding the survey -- which as the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted is far smaller number than have ever tried it -- the Dutch still come in much lower at 3 percent, compared to 5.4 percent in the United States.Considering these statistics, one may question the effectiveness of America's approach toward lowering its drug use and why such extensive measures are being taken here to keep marijuana illegal? Is it violence? The U.S. murder rate dwarfs that of the Dutch, even with recent declines. Could it be the prospect of more school dropouts? While 10.9 percent of the 16-to-24-year-old population in the United States had not completed high school in October 2000, the Netherlands had almost no drop-out problem. The Netherlands must convey the popular anti-drug message "Don't Get High. Aim High" a little more effectively than we do.This is not America's first battle over legalization. For another comparison that's closer to home, we can look to our own history when attempts were made to obliterate the use of alcohol during the Prohibition Era of the 1920s. "Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased," Mark Thornton, a senior faculty member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, states in his article "Alcohol Prohibition Was A Failure." Contrary to hopeful expectations, "no measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism," he adds. And while underground businesses met the forbidden demands of the public, "Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending."Images of federal agents emptying casks of alcohol have been replaced today by police and the Drug Enforcement Administration targeting marijuana crops. The efforts are considerable: According to an article in The Record last October, the New Jersey DEA reported that its agents seized 17,076 pounds of marijuana in the state in 2005, more than the agency seized in 2002, 2003 and 2004 combined.Again the issue arises of allocating limited policing resources. Michael Pasterchick, who heads the New Jersey DEA was quoted as saying: "We are an import state. ... We don't go after marijuana smokers, we go after marijuana traffickers." But what about securing our ports against terrorist threats and harder drugs, such as heroin?"In New Jersey, the DEA, along with other law enforcement and emergency rooms, know that we have the best and cheapest heroin in the country," Carolann Kane-Cavaiola, assistant commissioner for the state's Division on Addiction Services, told the Herald News in September. With the deadly drug at their fingertips, New Jerseyans between the ages of 18 and 25 use heroin at more than twice the national average, 5 percent statewide compared to 2.5 percent nationally, the article reported.At a time of serious security concerns and government deficits, a hard look needs to be given to ensuring that public funds are spent effectively. The government must also learn from its past and meet its people's demands, or else time eventually will. Although the demand for alcohol is now satisfied, as is the demand for cigarettes, marijuana is still lagging behind in its own Prohibition Era. No one can deny that alcohol and cigarettes lack any significant benefit for our society, but these commodities have been made legal. We live in a country where freedom of choice takes priority and, ultimately, cannot be denied. Consider the words of former President Woodrow Wilson, a New Jersey native: "Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance." Source: (NJ)Author: Marta Paczkowska, Herald News Teen CorrespondentPublished: Thursday, March 23, 2006 Copyright: 2006 North Jersey Media Group Inc.Contact: internet northjersey.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #7 posted by b4daylight on March 25, 2006 at 15:57:53 PT
One very important thing this missed. The dutch treat drug users as patients, not crimnials. They belive in true harm reduction. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by rchandar on March 23, 2006 at 16:15:33 PT:
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by rchandar on March 23, 2006 at 16:13:42 PT:
Well, I'm not a parent, but--I think saying that--repeatedly, and I still get hell from my parents at my age--is that "don't do drugs" doesn't always have to do with the drugs themselves. When a parent says things like "drugs destroy people's lives," it's not really the drugs, but the people who sell and encourage their use. Because drugs are a criminal offense in the US, naturally the people who deal are criminals. People who usually don't care what happens, if the user gets caught, if their experience is one of horrifying paranoia and self-destruction.  These days I see lots of kids who adopt the "gangsta" style of talking/acting. I admit, I don't always like it. They think it's "cool" to lie, to pretend they're something different, to play obnoxious music and practice indiscriminate and loveless sex. In this sense the parents are right; its a failure of our moral values. But the drugs themselves aren't really what is complicit; to me it's almost like telling a 15-year old girl "don't date boys". The danger is a human danger, not a chemical one.  Marijuana is harmless. It doesn't ruin your brain or make you act crazy at all. But the culture--and kids will conform rigorously to anything that will include them in "adult" life--is what a lot of them are afraid of.--rchandar
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by rchandar on March 23, 2006 at 15:59:57 PT:
i really admire the dutch...
...for standing up to the prohibition rhetoric and retaining their current policy. it's a show of enlightened thinking, despite the antagonism of some in the government today. i know that many people look at Holland as a "mecca," that's fine. but you got to admire a people that are so level-headed and reasonable.--rchandar
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by MaRkAyNe on March 23, 2006 at 11:35:05 PT
Not really most but...
This article is not an in depth article. I didn't learn anything from it. BUT- it was aimed at getting beople involved. People who don't know anything about the struggle for legalization. No, "most" parents probly don't do that, but probably a higher percent of the people who will read it where it is being printed. A fairly well written article over all... Just the basics pure and simple.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by Hope on March 23, 2006 at 11:15:43 PT
"Most", you say?
"When most parents hear the word marijuana they immediately yell "Don't do drugs!" and change the subject."I did not know that. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by Truth on March 23, 2006 at 11:08:22 PT
Should Marijuana be legal?
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment