Wow, what an election. With the passing of referendums to legalize marijuana in two states, Washington and Colorado, it makes me want to know more about the history of marijuana and what our forefathers thought about the plant. So off to research I went and here is what I found.
There are two schools of thought regarding marijuana, and most of us fall into one of them, or we simply don’t care. 1. It’s a plant that grows in the ground, how bad can it be? 2. It’s a mind-altering, dangerous drug. Before we can decide whether legalizing marijuana is the right thing to do or not, we should consider what marijuana is today and the consequences of legalizing it. To do that, you need some history.
I found similar histories at various websites, most of which state something similar to this:
The first direct reference to a cannabis product as a psychoactive agent dates from 2737 BC, in the writings of the Chinese emperor Shen Nung. The focus was on its powers as a medication for rheumatism, gout, malaria, and oddly enough, absent-mindedness. Mention was made of the intoxicating properties, but the medicinal value was considered more important. In India though it was clearly used recreationally. The Muslims too used it recreationally for alcohol consumption was banned by the Koran. It was the Muslims who introduced hashish, whose popularity spread quickly throughout 12th century Persia (Iran) and North Africa. http://www.narconon.org/drug-information/marijuana-history.html.
So how did it end up in America? Supposedly the Spaniards brought it in 1545. They probably took it from Asia after they slaughtered a few thousand people. After the Spaniards brought it to the New World, cannabis would eventually become a commercial crop and would almost replace cotton by producing hemp. It was also used in medical solutions in small percentages. By the 1920’s, marijuana was very popular, especially due to Prohibition.
Its recreational use was restricted to jazz musicians and people in show business. ‘Reefer songs’ became the rage of the jazz world. Marijuana clubs, called tea pads, sprang up in every major city. These marijuana establishments were tolerated by the authorities because marijuana was not illegal and patrons showed no evidence of making a nuisance of themselves or disturbing the community. Marijuana was not considered a social threat.
Marijuana was used in medicinal ways for the treatment of labor pains, nausea and rheumatism. But in the 1930’s, the federal government began its war against marijuana and criminalized it. In 1937, the government instituted a tax on medicinal marijuana and releasing propaganda related to its harmful effects and prosecuted the first marijuana cultivator. This created a decline in its medicinal use. In 1970, The Controlled Substances Act was passed classifying Marijuana as a Schedule I Drug, in the same Schedule as LSD and heroin, with no medical purpose. Id.
Of course, things have gotten a lot worse since then. The Mexican government tried to eradicate the cultivation of Marijuana, which consequently created stronger trades of the plant in other countries, like Columbia and the United States. Although Mexico tried to help, the war on drugs seems to have escalated. Despite the war on drugs, at least 5 states have approved marijuana for medicinal purposes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_history_of_cannabis_in_the_United_States.
Now we have come full circle. From the time of the revolutionary war and before to the 1930’s, marijuana was legal, albeit some states criminalized it between 1915 and 1925. Here we are in 2012, 80 years later, with the opposite phenom, some states have legalized it and the federal government is still criminalizing it. But are they really? Although marijuana cultivation and possession is a criminal offense as defined by the feds, marijuana dispensaries in states that allow medicinal marijuana use have been tolerated to a certain extent.
So if we legalize marijuana in the US, what kind of issues will it create or will it end the war on drugs? Well, in reality it could create new issues. Drug lords do not just sell marijuana, they push lots of drugs including cocaine, heroin, etc. Which begs the question, will we be winning the war, winning a battle, or joining those we cannot beat?
Another consideration is the potency of marijuana in today’s standards. Marijuana contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), thus the name Cannabis. In 1983, a test was conducted to determine the average content of THC, which at the time was only 4%. Today, hydroponically grown marijuana can contain up to 25% or more of THC. That is a lot. Of course, then you don’t need to smoke as much to feel the effects. http://www.narconon.org/drug-information/marijuana-history.html.
Okay, now comes the Cynthetic advise. 1. Is it just a plant? or 2. Is it a horrible drug? My own opinion is that marijuana is no worse than alcohol in terms of altering your state of mind, and no worse than tobacco in terms of altering your physical health. In fact, alcohol is twice as bad as marijuana and tobacco in that it causes both alterations to the mind and the body and can kill. As plenty of people have pointed out to me over the years, you never see anyone dying from side effects or an overdose of marijuana. You see people dying daily from alcohol abuse, drunk driving, emphysema and lung cancer from smoking and diseases from second-hand smoke.
I’m not suggesting we all head out to our local drug dealer and light up yet, but I think there needs to be serious consideration to legalizing marijuana to solve some big issues. Consider the government spending alone on the control of the borders, drug trafficking, the prison systems full of men and women convicted of possession. My point? It is a plant. It tends to make people mellow. Maybe we should reconsider the positive effects marijuana has on medicine, farming and the jazz industry. We might be a much happier country.
To be updated.