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Possible Legalization of Marijuana

Possible Legalization of Marijuana

Marijuana is a psychoactive drug made from the dried leaves and flowering parts of the hemp plant. It is one of the most strictly classified illegal drugs in the United States. Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug, which defines it as having “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use. Marijuana is thus classified more severely than morphine and cocaine, which as Schedule II drugs are also banned for general use but can be prescribed by doctors. It is illegal to buy, sell, grow, or possess marijuana in the United States. Marijuana probation comprises a large part of the federal government’s War on Drugs.

Police made 600,000 marijuana-related arrests in 1995. Four out of five arrests being for possession alone. Under federal and state laws, many of which were strengthened in the 1980’s, people convicted of marijuana offenses face penalties ranging from probation to life imprisonment, plus fines and forfeiture of property. Also, criminal justice efforts, the federal government, state governments, and local communities spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on preventative programs. Programs such as, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), in which local police officers visit schools to teach young people to abstain from trying marijuana and other drugs.

Public controversy has been growing over the two assumptions, high abuse potential and no legitimate medical use, that underline marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug. In turn, disputes over the abuse and medical potential of marijuana have shaped differences of opinion over public policy.

Many of those who question one or both of these assumptions about marijuana have advocated a full or partial relaxation of the government’s blanket prohibition of the drug, while those who accept these assumption generally are opposed to any full or partial legalization of marijuana. Supporters of marijuana’s continued prohibition argue that the drug is easily abused and can lead to numerous physical and psychological harms.

Short-term health effects of the drug listed in Marijuana: Facts for Teens, a publication of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), include memory loss, distorted perception, problems with learning and coordination, an increased heart rate, and anxiety attacks. Long term effects, according to NIDA, include increased risk of lung cancer for chronic marijuana smokers and possible damage to the...

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Category:   Drug Policy

Length:   5 pages (1,107 words)

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