Fredrick Cambell, an attorney, stated legalizers’ spirit perfectly by stating, “Legalization would not mean that addictive drugs would be legally available to everyone. The purpose of legalization would be to place better controls on access to such drugs. Addiction would be recognized as a disease or physical addiction . . . For non-addicts, the substances would remain illegal in the some way that it is now criminal to sell or use prescription drugs without a prescription.” Legalization simply means the entire illicit drug trade would become legal: making, buying, using, pushing, possession. Yet as any pharmacist or drug company knows it can be regulated. If heroine and cocaine were legalized, and were available over the counter, the price must be held to government intervention to be sure addicts or anyone else can easily afford all they want. Illicit drugs are considered immoral not because they harm people; plenty of approved substances have that drawback. Illicit drugs are immoral because users feel better than normal and because people fear the allure. If we want a free society to function, we must permit people to make bad decisions and suffer the consequences. People have a right to ruin their lives. We might even benefit from a little humility when judging people, finding paths to happiness different from our own. The truth is the tougher enforcement gets, the worse trouble will get. The answer is to let go.
Dangerous drugs, however, must be accepted as a part of the American heritage. Just as Prohibition created organized crime, today’s drug laws keep organized crime alive. Before drugs were illegal, Americans handled them with few problems and treated them as a fundamental right in their production, distribution, and consumption. All of the hard drugs were legal before 1914, and there were few addicts. Drug houses did not blight neighborhoods, no drug gangs were on street corners and “drug related” crime did not exist. This is talking about America just before World War 1, when it was a country suffering from many problems. Our own history proves we have nothing to fear but much to gain from legalization. Foreign experiences with drug legalization are encouraging, but the differences between them and the US may be more important than the similarities. For example, India is a country with a long history of social marijuana and opium use, but drugs attract no blame for their problems. The same can be said of opium in Iran. In the country of China unsatisfactory levels of national productivity in the nineteenth century have been attributed to widespread opium use. After the country of Hawaii became an American territory it legalized the opium trade making drugs legal to anyone. Consumption rose somewhat, but the High Sheriff pointed out that they were better served with legalization. In the US the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 federally prohibited marijuana even though it became widely and acceptably used in the 60’s and 70’s. The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 placed all illicit and prescription drugs into five categories called schedules. Marijuana was placed in Schedule 1, defining it as having a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use in treatment in the US, and a lack of safety under medical supervision. At the time of the Act marijuana had been illegal for more than three decades and its medical uses were forgotten so the definition was false.
There are many positions on the legalization of drugs and perspectives on the issue of what should be done now. Some people feel drug abuse should be treated as a heath problem rather than a law enforcement issue and eliminate criminal penalties. A favor goes out to taking more aggressive measures to prevent drugs from crossing our boarders to help regulate sales and hopefully allow them to be used for medical purposes. In order to this is has been suggested to demand international cooperation in cutting off the drug supply even though this might hurt the economy of several countries where it is legal to grow drugs. It seems impossible to stop the supply of drugs and so there has to be a way to dry the appetite for them. In many communities, law enforcement officials are currently outnumbered. The use of illegal drugs can partially be linked to school failure, AIDS transfer, and injuries to self. The harm done by drugs is predominantly caused by the fact that they’re illegal. Decriminalizing will permit the law to regulate and control them easier, while law enforcement officers will focus on other issues.
While some citizens feel legalization will increase drug abuse, both users and anti-drug crusaders want to avoid pain. There is strong public support for doing everything possible to intercept drug supplies and harsher punishment for dealers even though the nation’s prisons are filled with criminals serving time for drug-related crimes. On the other hand in November 1996 it was shown, by voters in California (56% vs. 44%) and Arizona (65% vs. 35%), that the majority wanted to legalize marijuana for medical use. Also in the same year the majority of voters in Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington voted to remove criminal penalties for seriously ill people growing or possessing medical marijuana. In November 1998 voters in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona voted the same way. Voters in Colorado and Washington DC also approved but their votes were ignored. In 1999 medical marijuana legislation had passed 69% vs. 29% and voters in Maine voted 61% vs. 39% for medical marijuana.
In response to the election victories in 1996, the “drug czar,” the Office of National Drug Control Policy of the US, commissioned a $900,000, 18-month study to settle if marijuana is medicine in 1997. The study, “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” proved that it does have medical advantages for certain medical conditions while also disproving that marijuana is highly addictive, a gateway to harder drugs and would lead to non-medical use. Yet efforts to obtain FDA approval of marijuana have been thwarted by prohibitionist agencies. Instead of the National Institute on Drug Abuse supplying the FDA with marijuana to study on they deny them of it. If Marijuana was placed in Schedule 2, as DEA’s chief administrative law judge Francis L. Young stated that the Controlled Substances Act permits and requires, it would enable doctors to prescribe it to patients. Unfortunately, on February 18, 1994, it was ruled that the DEA was allowed to reject the notion and set its own criteria, keeping marijuana in Schedule 1. By keeping marijuana in Schedule 1 people who would benefit from taking medical marijuana would have no way of receiving it. As a result of a case in 1975 with Robert Randall when he was arrested for growing his own medical marijuana and won with “medical necessity defense” the Investigational New Drug (IND) compassionate access program was established. It was established to help patients to receive marijuana from the government. Unfortunately, through the Bush administration in 1992 closed the program to new applicants. On December 1, 1999, the Clinton administration restated that the IND program would not be reopened. There are only 8 patients in the US whom the Federal government supplies with 300 marijuana cigarettes every month. Every other year the University of Mississippi grows some 700 square meters of marijuana plants for the U.S. government. There are 67 million blind people worldwide who lost their eyesight because of glaucoma, and marijuana is the most affordable drug that could have saved their sight.
Cannabis hemp (marijuana) has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. It was mentioned as a medicine in the susruta of India before the 8th century A.D. In Japan hemp used to have numerous medical applications, until after WW2 Japanese doctors prescribed cannabis for asthma and other respiratory diseases and as a mild laxative. In the US it was a legal medicine until 1969 and in Britain until 1971. The ancient weed is still being cultivated by the city of Tokyo at the Tokyo Metropolitan Medicinal Plant Garden. In 1996, Californians approved a ballot proposition allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana for specific illness, such as glaucoma, even though federal law prohibit it, five more states followed. Nationwide, two-thirds of the public supports the use of marijuana to ease severe pain yet, a solid majority opposes general legalization of marijuana, and even more substantial majority opposes the overall legalization of drugs.
Even though marijuana is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known scientists did warn that marijuana smoke was even more toxic in the long term than tobacco smoke. No one has ever died from an overdose, and it has a wide variety of therapeutic applications such as relief from nausea, increase of appetite, reduction of muscle spasms, relief of chronic pain and reduction of intraocular pressure. There are also many benefits for many serious diseases such as AIDS, Cancer and Epilepsy as shown in the chart on page 14. According to Fredrick Bastait in 1845, “The government offers to cure all the ills of mankind . . . All that is needed is to create some new government agencies and to pay a few more bureaucrats. In a word, the tactic consists in initiating, in the guise of actual services what are nothing but restrictions; thereafter, the nation pays, not for being served, but for being disserved.”
Some people may ask if it’s safe to be used as a medicine and except for the harms of smoking, all other effects are of those tolerated for other medications. On one hand the fact that terminal patients suffering from debilitating pain or nausea and for whom all indicated medications have failed to provide relief, the benefits might outweigh the harm. On the other hand doctors are allowed to prescribe much harsher drugs such as cocaine, morphine, and methamphetamines. Even though no other drug, at this time, is inhaled and there are hazards with smoking, not all medicines have to be completely safe to be approved. Medical marijuana users don’t need to smoke so much that they pose a risk to themselves. Some only need a couple of puffs or by using it in another way such as eating marijuana. In the 20th century stramonium cigarettes were used to treat asthma showing this isn’t the first drug created to be inhaled and the effects have been looked at.
Legalization removes that incentive to stay away from a life of drugs could be argued in that it may send the message that marijuana is for the sick people and the dying. Children and teenagers may not feel as cool as a dying cancer patients as they would if their friends did it. Researchers have asked drug users what effect would legalization have on them. Controlled (as opposed to compulsive) users said their consumption would be unaffected; they already had all the drugs they wanted. Compulsive users indicated concern that their consumption might rise – – even though they apparently have access already to whatever quantity they wanted. Plus the federal government’s annual National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found marijuana use did not increase among young people in California since the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996, it is actually lower than the national average.
Illegal drugs can never be completely eliminated. As long as drugs are illegal and very profitable, there will be dealers willing to sell them. Even if they were taxed and made expensive, there would still be the black market and the crime problems present today, solving nothing. When our forbears saw the Prohibition was causing more harm than benefit, they did not wring their heads in bewilderment and wonder if legalization was wrong or surrender. They simple saw that tactic did not work and something else would have to be tried instead. Blum put it this way, “Drugs seem to be the final path of expression for almost any other social problem – – poverty, race, families, social class. Drugs, I’ve come to think, are the tracer that diagnoses the problems of society.” If there is to be a free society to function, people must permit people to make bad decisions and suffer the consequences. People have a right to ruin their lives and it may even benefit others in the long run. After all many medical practices that seemed absurd at one time are now generally accepted such as acupuncture, herbal medicines and hypnotherapy, so what makes medical marijuana any different?