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Unlawful or Unconstitutional?  
Ron Kappy

“I love orgasms when I’m stoned. They’re better, they last longer, and they’re just more intense. I think it’s easier for me to come when I’m high,” says Amanda, a twenty-six year old sales person from New York City. 

Another New Yorker, Karen, is an assistant editor of a small publishing company. She claims that marijuana helps her to write, making her more creative and insightful. “Getting high,” also helps her to relax after a long days work (Malone 1990). 

Whatever the reason, more and more people, like Karen and Amanda, are searching out their local dealer and lighting up, by themselves, with friends and sometimes even with family.

NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) estimates the number of regular users in the United States today at over fifty million people (Gettman 1989)! This is an astonishing figure that raises some serious questions about the current laws governing the sale and possession of marijuana. The time has come to discard the dogma of our forefathers, and the commercialized brain washing seen on television, and take a serious and objective look at the marijuana problem. A look, that is, at the decriminalization of marijuana. This does not mean the total acceptance and legalization of the drug. Decriminalization suggests more of a partial prohibition, or a meeting place between the two extremes that would benefit everyone in society from the regular user to the entire criminal justice system to the non-user. John Gettman (1989) sums it up best in saying ‘the folly of total prohibition is that it pursues unachievable objectives through previously failed policies’. In other words, the marijuana prohibition working just about as poorly as the prohibition of alcohol (which was repealed over time).

NORML’s plan for decriminalizing marijuana would include the following features:

-Those who are old enough to go to the liquor store and purchase alcohol would also be allowed to plant their own marijuana crop (for personal use only).

-Individual states would set up a commercial market for the drug, just as is done now with the sale of alcohol (i.e. patrons of questionable age would be required to present ID in order to purchase marijuana).

-The Federal Government would create the guidelines by which marijuana was sold and advertised (if at all). Tax dollars from the sale of marijuana could be directed towards the problems of alcohol and drug rehabilitation (mostly cocaine and heroine addicts) (Gettman 1989). The benefits to decriminalization don’t stop there. Many thousands of jobs would be created, and many more materials could be derived from the hemp plant that would benefit society; certain oils, clothing and paper just to name a few. Aside from all the benefits that have been discussed so far, there are also many legitimate question and oppositions to decriminalization that deserve to be addressed. First and foremost of these is health.

Clearly, smoking marijuana can not be a healthy habit no matter how you look at it; however the advantages of decriminalization could far outweigh the disadvantages. Just exactly how bad is marijuana? A countless number of studies have been done in order to answer this question, and many of these studies are the reason ‘Prohibition II’ still exists today.

Initially, scientists and researchers found many disasterous effects that marijuana smoke can have on the human body such as dramatic increase of pulse and blood pressure, permanent brain damage, increased risk of cancer and psychological addiction, just to name a few. More recent and in-depth studies have found that many of the dangers that were thought to exist are actually just old disproven theories that stuck to scare the public into an anti marijuana posture.

For example, Vincent P. Dole and Herman Joseph (included in the New York State Journal of Medicine) conducted an experiment in which they subjected rhesus monkeys to an amount of marijuana equal to one hundred joints per day, over a six month span (an amount much greater than even the avid pot smoker can consume.) Not surprisingly, two of the monkeys died from lung complications, but researchers observed no permanent brain damage in the remaining animals (Street 1983). Another man who did extensive research on how marijuana effects human health was Dr.Lester Grinspoon MD (associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School).

His results, next time….  

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