The debate over the legalization of Cannabis sativa, more commonly known as marijuana, has been one of the most heated controversies ever to occur in the United States. Its use as a medicine has existed for thousands of years in many countries world wide and is documented as far back as 2700 BC in ancient Chinese writings. When someone says ganja, cannabis, bung, dope, grass, rasta, or weed, they are talking about the same subject: marijuana. Marijuana should be legalized because the government could earn money from taxes on its sale, its value to the medical world outweighs its abuse potential, and because of its importance to the paper and clothing industries. This action should be taken despite efforts made by groups which say marijuana is a harmful drug which will increase crime rates and lead users to other more dangerous substances.

The actual story behind the legislature passed against marijuana is quite surprising. According to Jack Herer, author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, the acts bringing about the demise of hemp were part of a large conspiracy involving DuPont, Harry J. Anslinger, commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), and many other influential industrial leaders such as William Randolph Hearst and Andrew Mellon. Herer notes that the Marijuana Tax Act, which passed in 1937, coincidentally occurred just as the decoricator machine was invented. With this invention, hemp would have been able to take over competing industries almost instantaneously. According to Popular Mechanics, "10,000 acres devoted to hemp will produce as much paper as 40,000 acres of average [forest] pulp land." William Hearst owned enormous timber acreage so his interest in preventing the growth of hemp can be easily explained. Competition from hemp would have easily driven the Hearst paper-manufacturing company out of business and significantly lowered the value of his land. Herer even suggests popularizing the term "marijuana" was a strategy Hearst used in order to create fear in the American public. Herer says "The first step in creating hysteria was to introduce the element of fear of the unknown by using a word that no one had ever heard of before... 'marijuana'".

DuPont's involvement in the anti-hemp campaign can also be explained with great ease. At this time, DuPont was patenting a new sulfuric acid process for producing wood-pulp paper. According to the company's own records, wood-pulp products ultimately accounted for more than 80% of all DuPont's railroad car loadings for the 50 years the Marijuana Tax Act was passed. It should also be said that two years before the prohibitive hemp tax in 1937, DuPont developed nylon which was a substitute for hemp rope. The year after the tax was passed DuPont came out with rayon, which would have been unable to compete with the strength of hemp fiber or its economical process of manufacturing. "DuPont's point man was none other than Harry Anslinger...who was appointed to the FBN by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who was also chairman of the Mellon Bank, DuPont's chief financial backer. Anslinger's relationship to Mellon wasn't just political, he was also married to Mellon's niece" (Hartsell).

The reasoning behind DuPont, Anslinger, and Hearst was not for any moral or health related issues. They fought to prevent the growth of this new industry so they wouldn't lose money. In fact, the American Medical Association tried to argue for the medical benefits of hemp. Marijuana is actually less dangerous than alcohol, cigarettes, and even most over-the-counter medicines or prescriptions. According to Francis J. Young, the DEA's administrative judge, "nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal affects, but marijuana is not such a substance...Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care" (DEA Docket No. 86-22, 57). It doesn't make sense then, for marijuana to be illegal in the United States when alcohol poisoning is a major cause of death in this country and approximately 400,000 premature deaths are attributed to cigarettes annually. Dr. Roger Pertwee, Secretary of the International Cannabis Research Society states that as a recreational drug, "Marijuana compares favorably to nicotine, alcohol, and even caffeine." Under extreme amounts of alcohol a person will experience an "inability to stand or walk without help, stupor and near unconsciousness, lack of comprehension of what is seen or heard, shock, and breathing and heartbeat may stop." Even though these effects occur only under an extreme amount of alcohol consumption, (.2-.5 BAL) the fact is smoking extreme amounts of marijuana will do nothing more than put you to sleep, while drinking excessive amounts of alcohol will kill you.

The most profound activist for marijuana's use as a medicine is Dr. Lester Grinspoon, author of Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine. According to Grinspoon, "The only well confirmed negative effect of marijuana is caused by the smoke, which contains three times more tars and five times more carbon monoxide than tobacco. But even the heaviest marijuana smokers rarely use as much as an average tobacco smoker. And, of course, many prefer to eat it." His book includes personal accounts of how prescribed marijuana alleviated epilepsy, weight loss of AIDs, nausea of chemotherapy, menstrual pains, and the severe effects of Multiple Sclerosis. The illness with the most documentation and harmony among doctors which marijuana has successfully treated is MS. Grinspoon believes for MS sufferers, "Cannabis is the drug of necessity." One patient of his, 51 year old Elizabeth MacRory, says "It has completely changed my life...It has helped with muscle spasms, allowed me to sleep properly, and helped control my bladder." Marijuana also proved to be effective in the treatment of glaucoma because its use lowers pressure on the eye.

"In a recent survey at a leading teaching hospital, 'over 60 per cent of medical students were found to be marijuana users.' In the same survey, only 30 per cent admitted to smoking cigarettes" (Guardian). Brian Hilliard, editor of Police Review, says "Legalizing cannabis wouldn't do any harm to anybody. We should be concentrating on the serious business of heroin and amphetamines." "In the UK in 1991, 42,209 people were convicted of marijuana charges, clogging courts and overcrowding prisons...and almost 90 per cent of drug offenses involve cannabis...The British government spends 500 million pounds a year on "overall responses to drugs" but receives no tax revenue from the estimated 1.8 billion pound illicit drug market" (Guardian). Figures like this can be seen in the United States as well. The US spends billions of dollars annually on the war on drugs. If the government were to legalize marijuana, it could reasonably place high taxes on it because people are used to buying marijuana at extremely high prices created by the risks of selling marijuana illegally. It could be sold at a convenient store just like a pack of cigarettes for less than someone would pay now, but still yield a high profit because of easy growing requirements.

An entire industry could be created out of hemp based products. The oils extracted from seeds could be used for fuels and the hemp fiber, a fiber so valued for its strength that it is used to judge the quality of other fibers, could be manufactured into ropes, clothing, or paper. Most importantly, the money the government would make from taxes and the money which would be saved by not trying to prevent its use could be used for more important things, such as serious drugs or the national debt.

The recreational use of marijuana would not stimulate crime like some would argue. The crime rate in Amsterdam, where marijuana is legal, is lower than many major US cities. Mario Lap, a key drug policy advisor in the Netherlands national government says "We've had a realistic drug policy for 30 years in the Netherlands, and we know what works. We distinguish between soft and hard drugs, between traffickers and users. We try not to make people into criminals" (Houston Chronicle).

We can expect strong opposition from companies like DuPont and paper manufacturers but the selfishness of these corporations should not prevent its use in our society like it did in the 1930's. Regardless of what these organizations will say about marijuana, the fact is it has the potential to become one of the most useful substances in the entire world. If we took action and our government legalized it today, we would immediately see benefits from this decision. People suffering from illnesses ranging from manic depression to Multiple Sclerosis would be able to experience relief. The government could make billions of dollars off of the taxes it could impose on its sale, and its implementation into the industrial world would create thousands of new jobs for the economy. Also, because of its role in paper making, the rain forests of South America could be saved from their current fate of extinction. No recorded deaths have ever occurred as a result of marijuana use, it is not physically addictive like alcohol or tobacco, and most doctors will agree it is safer to use. Marijuana being illegal has no validity at all. Due to all the positive aspects of marijuana it should be legalized in the United States.
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