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War On Weed Essay

1432 words - 6 pages

The legalization of marijuana is, and has been a heavily disputed issue for decades. On one hand, marijuana could lead to a medical breakthrough, or at least provide relief to cancer and AIDS patients. On the other hand, legalizing a drug could expose it to too broad an audience. As a drug, marijuana has never proven to be anywhere near as harmful as cigarettes or alcohol. Each year in the United States, 400,000 people die from tobacco, 50,000 from alcohol, and from marijuana, zero. Regardless of what side one may take to this argument, there are some causes to this marijuana debate that everyone should know. Marijuana was not always illegal, and the reasons behind the history of narcotic ...view middle of the document...

During the Kennedy administration in the 1960's, Vietnam was a major issue, and the public, especially college students, turned to marijuana as a form of dissent. As this happened, enforcement lessened; courts dismissed marijuana charges or imposed only "modest fines." (Gerber) In 1960, there were only 169 marijuana related convictions in the entire United States. During this time, marijuana was seen more as an escape and protest. Time Magazine saw marijuana use as an attention worthy means of protest. (Time) Crime rates did not rise, and no major health problems had appeared to be caused by the drug. The 1962 White House Conference on Drug Abuse concluded that there was only "weak" evidence indicating that marijuana leads to using harder drugs. (Eldridge) At that point in time, it almost seems as if we were the closest we've ever been as a nation to decriminalizing the drug.
By the 1970's, however, the war on drugs took a turn towards the more conservative end of the spectrum. The Nixon administration chose to attribute crime to drug use; Nixon personally disliked all illegal drugs, and convinced Americans that if more arrests were made on drug related charges the crime rates would go down. It is almost unbelievable that the drug has been unable to shake this stigma. Compared to the policies Nixon introduced, policies nowadays are even worse. (Gerber) For years, the government was feeding the people these lies about marijuana, and those who supported it were silenced. This trend continues well into the present day.
The 1980's saw the rise of the Reagan administration, which made some of the most restricting policies about marijuana use. These policies are still very relevant to current times. In 1986, Reagan's then-drug advisor, Carlton Turner, gave an interview with Newsweek magazine about marijuana use in the United States. He mentioned that while visiting a drug treatment center, he found that 40% of the patients had engaged in homosexual acts. (Gerber) The cover of Newsweek that week read "REAGAN AIDE: POT CAN MAKE YOU GAY." This is by far the most ridiculous claim made by any administration as to the effects of marijuana. If this statement were to be made by a member of the Bush administration today, there would be gay rights protesters enraged by it, and that member would almost surely step down from his position. The public did not necessarily accept that statement as fact, but making an association between homosexuality and marijuana use no doubt worsened the drug's image in some people's minds. The extreme stance that the following administrations took regarding marijuana shows that these sentiments were not forgotten.
George Bush Sr. was the next president of the United States. His running mate, Dan Quayle, was by his side, supporting his desire to "set out to destroy" the country's narcotics empire and to ensure that marijuana would not be legal while they were in office. (Cong. Quarterly) However, in 1977, just twelve years...

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