Marijuana has a long, notorious history and is, to this day, one of the most popular and controversial drugs anywhere on earth. People have extremely polarized opinions on the subject of marijuana use. While some campaign for more stringent laws, or outlawing cannabis altogether, there are many others who cry for complete legalization of “Mary Jane.” Ironically, though US citizens of all walks of life smoke marijuana, it is only the rarest of politicians who will declare support for its legalization. This article is intended to provide the reader with a more comprehensive understanding of the origin, function, and pros/cons of marijuana. If the public is more informed about marijuana, it can help governments to create fair and balanced laws regarding the drug and its use.
Marijuana then and now
Marijuana, in the same vein as a multitude of other drugs still used today, has been utilized by some cultures since ancient times. Chinese writings from thousands of years ago discuss the use of marijuana both medically and for leisure purposes. Both written and archaeological clues indicate that marijuana was first grown in Asia, and subsequently spread to Africa and Europe by the year 500 A.D. By one-thousand years later, cannabis had spread across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas, and was being grown, and sold at huge profits, by colonial farmers; at this time, it was largely used in fabric production. For over a century, from the mid-1800s to approximately World War II, it was common for physicians in the United States to prescribe marijuana for a variety of ailments, from gastrointestinal issues to arthritis pain. During this same era, cannabis was also commonly smoked as a recreational drug. The gradual change in the country’s attitude toward marijuana began in 1935 with the enactment of the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act. This law required strict regulations to be placed on marijuana in most states, and by the time World War II began, cannabis was rarely prescribed for medicinal use anywhere in the United States.
It became a drug
In the 1950s and 1960s, marijuana was no longer a mainstream drug and was seen as a mark of the counterculture movement. Though it was not entirely socially proper to smoke marijuana during these decades, the legal issues if you were caught were minimal compared to today’s strict laws. In 1970s Controlled Substances Act, marijuana was aligned with “hard-drugs” such as heroin and cocaine as a Class I substance. This classification has greatly contributed to the stigma marijuana has today amongst some factions of society. The War on Drugs of the 1980s further contributed to marijuana’s negative press. The sentencing laws passed during this decade require mandatory jail sentences of 25+ years for marijuana offenders convicted of possession three times.
One’s opinion of marijuana or use of medix use notwithstanding, it is fact that the majority of marijuana convictions are for possession only, not for violent crimes. These non-violent offenders are often held in the same prisons as dangerous felons, including murderers, heinous drug traffickers, and armed robbers. Furthermore, they are facing extreme sentences and rarely have access to any form of proper drug-rehab program. Clearly, something must be done to remedy this situation, and proper education of the public is the first step.