Marijuana is the name given to the drug scientifically known as cannabis sativa or simply cannabis. This name refers to the variety of products of the cannabis plant that are taken by a person through various methods such as ingestion or smoking and are meant to give a psychoactive effect to the user. The parts of the plant that are usually used are the leaves stems and flower buds, these are processed into various forms such as powder, a resin like paste, oil and the resin formed through its burning. The drug can also be taken in its raw dried form where it is usually smoked.
Marijuana is touted as the most widely used illicit substance in the world, it is illegal to grow possess or use the drug in its various forms. However there is an increasing debate as to the practicality of the illegality of the drug.
The first argument that proponents of the drug have pushed are that the drug is not as dangerous as the authorities and other parties against it have made it seem. In comparison to other drugs such as alcohol and tobacco that are legal in many countries: marijuana has the same if not slightly less adverse effects to a user’s body. Studies have been conducted on the chemical compounds contained in marijuana such as the British Medical Association, and they found that the nicotine found in cigarettes is a lot more addictive than THC: the active compound found in cannabis. Another argument on the dangers of these legal drugs are the numbers of deaths that have been attributed to alcohol and tobacco use mainly through disease and accidents caused while under the influence of these substances. It is shown that more people have died through lung cancer, ulcers, drink driving accidents and other alcohol and tobacco related incidents than the total number of people that have succumbed as a result of marijuana use.
The second point that supports the legalisation of the drug is many studies finding an increase in its use as medicine. Marijuana has shown to be helpful in some cases as a result of its various properties such as pain relief and also the fact that its use results in a drastic increase in appetite. This has been put to use in cases where patients are suffering from various chronic ailments such as multiple sclerosis and some later stages of certain types of cancer. The legalization of cannabis has been pushed by people who believe in its use as a medical substance.
Another argument that proponents of legalisation have pushed forward is that the legalisation of the drug will have many economic advantages to the government through the freeing up of resources that are currently used in the fight against marijuana and in the incarceration of those convicted on marijuana related charges. Another economic benefit is that the legalisation of the drug will bring about an increase in job opportunities and also through taxation increase the revenue that the government gets.
Many groups that are against the use of cannabis have stated its role as a “gateway drug.” This means that users of the drug are more likely to find themselves moving on to harder, more dangerous substances such as heroin and cocaine. For this reason, these groups have pushed for increase in efforts against marijuana as a way of ensuring that many people are not enticed into the use of other drugs. However, there have not been any studies or other concrete evidence that show that the use of marijuana encourages the use of these hard drugs in any way. The figures that are available on the use of various substances however, show that this notion is farfetched. This is because for the number of hard drug users such as cocaine and heroin, the numbers of people that use marijuana are tens or even a hundred times more. This shows that the use of marijuana does not result in the use of other more dangerous and addictive substances.
There is no debate that marijuana is indeed a drug and that its use should be controlled, however the illegality of marijuana results in a lot more burdens to the society than if it was legalized and people allowed to use the substance without fear of legal ramifications. The legalisation of the substance will generally be better for society as it will provide a basis for control and monitoring as well as a much needed relief to the country’s legal system that is already burdened by crimes of a greater magnitude such as violent crime and theft.
- Douglas N. Husak, Peter De Marneffe. The legalization of drugs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
- Inciardi, James A. The drug legalization debate. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1999.
- Johnson, Bankole A. Addiction Medicine: Science and Practice. Warren: Springer, 2010.
- Levinson, Martin H. The drug problem: a new view using the general semantics approach. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.