Legalization of Marijuana From a Nonsmoker's Point of View
I am 39 years old and have dabbled in my fair share of illegal substances, with most of this experimentation occurring between the ages of 19 and 23. By "dabble," I mean to use at least once but not more than half a dozen times. I've tried LSD (acid), 'shrooms (hallucinogenic mushrooms), marijuana, the marginally legal JWH-018 substances (commonly known as Posh, Spice, or K2), cocaine, crystal meth (methamphetamine), and a variety of prescription medications like oxycodone (OxyContin and Percocet) and hydrocodone (Lortabs and Vicodin). Some of the drugs I thoroughly enjoyed, like LSD and crystal meth, and because of the fact that I enjoyed them so much, I haven't gone near them since first experimenting with them (I have an 'addictive' personality). Some were enjoyable on a short-term basis but the cost involved in maintaining a "buzz" was prohibitive (cocaine, for example). Others didn't really have much of an effect at all (Ritalin and Adderol, also known as "kiddie cocaine"), and others had a taste that wasn't appealing (marijuana).
I have friends who are avid marijuana smokers. I don't begrudge them their vices but don't partake of the substance myself. I've also had friends who have become enmeshed in the legal system through their use of marijuana, and I've performed extensive research (general and legal) and the subject so I'm rather well-versed in the pros and cons of marijuana usage, legality and illegality, legislation for/against legalization, and other legal and social issues relating to the substance.
Occasionally commercials will appear on television showing a young person acting ridiculously stupid, doing dangerous things, making statements that are farfetched, outlandish, and extremely out of character, and behaving in a boisterously obnoxious and potentially harmful way. At first glance, one would think these commercials portray someone under the influence of crystal meth, ecstasy, LSD, or some other potent hallucinogenic. At the end of the commercial, a public service statement is made regarding the dangers of marijuana. Marijuana! Clearly, the people who thought up, created, produced, and endorsed these commercials have never in their life tried marijuana and obviously don't know or associate with anyone who has, because I've yet to see anyone under the influence of marijuana exhibit any of the "signs" alleged in these commercials (and I've seen MANY people under the influence of marijuana).
Marijuana is on Schedule I of the Federal controlled substance classification system, which is the highest classification a drug or controlled substance can receive. Other substances in this same class include Fentanyl, China White (trafficking name of an almost 100% pure variety of cocaine), Psilocin (the hallucinogenic component of psychedelic mushrooms), Peyote (the cactus which contains mescaline, which is also in Schedule I), quaalude, LSD (acid), ecstasy, and synthetic (man-made) heroin. Possession, distribution, and use of substances on Schedule I have a harsher penalty than any other Schedule.
By comparison, here are the other Federal classification Schedules (http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/scheduling.html) and some of the substances in those categories:
Schedule II: PCP, Dexedrine, Cocaine, Codeine (an esther of morphine), Hydrocodone, Demerol, Methadone, Methamphetamine, Ritalin, Morphine, Opium, Oxycodone, Seconal
Schedule III: Ephedrine ("speed"), anabolic steroids, Ketamine, Lysergic acid (LSD precursor), Secobarbital
Schedule IV: Alprazolam (Xanax),Clonazepam (Klonopin), Diazepam (Valium), Sonata, Ambien, and almost every substance that ends with "lam" or "pam"
Schedule V: consists of "preparation" substances that use small percentages of drugs contained in higher classification schedules
Other than the poppy-based substances in Schedule II, it appears that any substance that is wholly organic is found in Schedule I. For those who don't know, opium, morphine, codeine, and heroin come from the poppy plant. Also, marijuana is perhaps the only substance in Schedule I that a person absolutely CANNOT overdose from, no matter what amount they ingest. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the "mood altering" constituent of marijuana and it is a naturally occurring chemical in the human body, so it is also practically impossible to even have an allergic reaction to marijuana. At most, a person who "overdoses" from marijuana will simply fall into a deep sleep (not a coma) or get sick to their stomach.
Despite marijuana being illegal on a Federal level, which supercedes State law, fifteen states have legalized and decriminalized the use of marijuana (http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=4516) for medical purposes and several other states have legalization legislation pending.
Marijuana has a long history of benficial use to treat various conditions and ailments for which no other substances have a positive or noticeable remedial effect. The most often-cited benefit is marijuana's ability to minimize nausea for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, which stimulates their appetite and allows them to retain a healthy diet. Marijuana also alleviates pain and muscle spasms, which many people rely on heavily prescribed narcotics to treat. For persons with glaucoma, it relieves intraocular pressure. Medical literature available on a worldwide level also provides other ailments and conditions for which marijuana usage has been proven to have a beneficial effect.
Is there a downside? Opponents of marijuana use would like to have you believe that those young men and women screaming and freaking out and becoming paralyzed by a blanket of irrational paranoia in television commercials are the "downside" to marijuana use. While that is a far from accurate portrayal, heavy and regular use of marijuana can have some negative effects on the human body. The most harmful side effect is the fact that marijuana is smoked and any inhalation of smoke can cause respiratory issues. Some opponents claim that marijuana "kills" brain cells or that people under the influence of marijuana are more dangerous and irrationally harmful than the "average" citizen. In my experience being around regular, heavy users of marijuana, I've yet to see anyone who exhibited dangerous or harmful behavior. Usually they get high and then "chill out" on the couch in front of the TV and eventually fall asleep. People under the influence of a much smaller quantity of beer or liquor are much, much more dangerous and harmful.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal substance in the world. This, perhaps is the precise reason why the United States government is so opposed to legalizing it. They cannot regulate or control it and therefore cannot reap any profits from it, so they simply outlaw it and rake in profits from the criminals they create by making the substance illegal. There is no way for the government to prevent people from growing marijuana plants in their closets and basements, in sheds and barns, or in a cluster of trees in a field. There is no way for the government to regulate the flow of marijuana from growers to consumers on a consistent basis.
Perhaps another reason why the government refuses to evaluate the potential decriminalization of the substance is because it does have proven benefits with regard to medical treatment. The pharmaceutical industry is a cash cow for the government in the United States, so they don't want any substance that can cure or treat a disease, condition, or disorder in a more effective and less costly manner than the "legal" drugs being pushed on people by physicians across the country, to the point where "conditions" are being manufactured just as frequently as the pharmaceuticals are, simply so the drug will have a "legitimate" purpose.
The United States consumes more prescription drugs than all the other countries of the world combined. People get a headache or stub their toe and rush to the doctor to get a prescription to treat it. Teenage girls get drugs to treat their imaginary obesity. Children are being force-fed drugs to treat attention and hyperactivity disorders that are nothing more than the result of lazy parenting and a lack of discipline. Men get drugs to treat performance anxiety and penis envy. Women get drugs to treat the "baby blues" and post-partum depression, which is usually nothing more than cabin fever and their insecurity over their ability to raise a child. People get drugs to help them stay awake and fall asleep. People are given drugs to help them overcome addictions to other drugs.
With all the unnecessary overmedication going on in the country, why not take a deeper look at potentially legalizing and/or decriminalizing one that has proven medical benefits and zero possibility of overdose? Because there's no money in it for Big Brother.