It was first used in China and India, then brought to America as a gift from a Turkish sultan. It's explicit use causes no deaths; it's not addictive, it has few negative immediate side effects other than dry mouth and red eyes, and there's no conclusive evidence of an adverse effect on youth.
So why is marijuana illegal?
Let's Take It Back: To The Original Law
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 was not the first act to ban marijuana. A man named Harry J Anslinger, the commissioner of the Treasury's Department of the Federal Bureau of narcotics, headed the effort toward banning marijuana. He was unmotivated by any real risks of weed, though. His reasons for pursuing the movement against marijuana were founded in racial concerns directed at Mexicans in Southwest states. Anslinger effectively tied a distrust of immigration with outlandish claims that the drug makes people "crazy", is a gateway to other drugs such as cocaine and heroine, and is an "assassin of youth". He manipulated the media, driving the public into a fear frenzy.
Around this time, a ban on machine gun tranfer was being created. This ban stated that a person could only transfer a machine gun if they paid for and possessed a special stamp from the government, a stamp that the government was not making. The act was certainly deceiving in practice, but the Supreme Court upheld it as Constitutional.
This ban is what led the way to the first ban on marijuana, the Marijuana Stamp Act of 1937. Following in the footsteps of the law used before it, this act required anyone transporting, using, or possessing marijuana to have a stamp purchased from the government. The problem was, in order to get the stamp, you had to show proof of the marijuana in question. Since possessing the marijuana was against the law until you had the stamp, you were incriminating yourself by producing evidence. I can't help but wonder where the Fifth Amendment was when all this was happening. I plead the fifth...
In 1970, however, Timothy Leary challenged the constitutionality of this act and won. It seemed like things had taken a turn for the better for marijuana smokers. Alas, this was not to stay, as this victory was followed by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This act classifies narcotics in schedules and declares their possession, use, transport or sale illegal.
Marijuana is a Schedule I hallucinogen, which under the act means that it (a) has a high potential for abuse, (b)has no currently accepted medical treatment in the United States, and (c) is not safe for use even under medical supervision.
Those Were Just The Facts...
The case for legalization of marijuana rests in the midst of a he say, she say battle. Advocates of legalization think that because it isn't addictive, it won't kill you, and it has few other side effects, it should be legal. They also rely heavily on the use of alcohol and tobacco, pointing out that these two substances are way more powerful and dangerous than marijuana. Those against legalization think that marijuana is dangerous because of its hallucinogenic properties and that it's use causes a marked enough difference in normal functionality that it presents a danger to those around anyone under the influence of the substance.
I take issue with government criminalization of marijuana because of the process that was taken to go about it. Marijuana wasn't banned because it genuinely had adverse effects that would be potentially harmful to the American people; it was banned because a government was afraid of an immigrant minority. The (first) ban on marijuana was nothing but an empty campaign based on racism and prejudice.
I take issue with the second ban because marijuana is placed with the likes of methamphetamine, heroine, and cocaine, to name a few. The criteria for determining a Schedule 1 drug, listed above, don't describe the attributes of marijuana. If anything, marijuana is the opposite of these characterizations.
Legalizing marijuana would certainly make it easier for those who wish to obtain it. But it seems to do very well illegally.
My only fear in legalizing marijuana is that it will not become a dream world of open marijuana smoking should it be legalized. We have to be realistic. If we could convince the government to legalize marijuana, it would not be a "Weed For All" bonanza. The government would create rules, regulations, and laws, just as it applies to alcohol and tobacco. And it would likely be sold in stores on shelves, meaning no new jobs would be created by the sale of the drug. In fact, because the government would tax it, the money would be going out of the community and instead into the government's hands.
But look at it from another point of view. Drug dealers are made out to be horrible, money hungry people. I look at them as entrepreneurs, simply because they are in control of their "business". They handle transactions and must budget, just as a business owner would. They have to decide the value of their product, then attempt to make a profit based on their estimated value. It's a store; what these people do isn't dumb. Drug dealers are seldom dumb because they risk losing profit if they aren't careful. The only problem is that they are using an illegal substance to channel their abilities.
I don't think marijuana is really as harmless as the government wants everyone to believe, but I certainly don't think it should just run around rampant. Honestly, I'd rather the government only regulates what happens to you if you get caught versus regulating the obtaining and use of the drug. In other words (and yes, I'm really making this case), keep marijuana illegal JUST to keep the government from having more control over it.
Backwards, I know. But that's just me. I think weird sometimes.
What do you think?
*Note: I am not a marijuana smoker. But I know enough people around me to know its effects, and to have a look into the life of a drug dealer. May I also note that my facts came from a Wikipedia article and a wonderful documentary entitled Hooked: Illegal Drugs And How They Got That Way. Check it out on Youtube.