THE PROS AND CONS ABOUT LEGALIZING MARIJUANA

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THE PROS AND CONS ABOUT LEGALIZING MARIJUANA

Mainstream vs. Alternative Media; who do we
believe? The Journal of Media Studies Writer Discussion of the legalization of marijuana
brings up two main issues,
those who are pro- marijuana and those who are anti- marijuana. These issues have been
covered by both
mainstream and alternative media, mainstream being pro, and alternative being anti. These
two factions have been
arguing over this issue in the halls of justice for many years. Because most of the American
society is mainly
exposed to only mainstream media, they are not aware of other factors of legalizing
marijuana that alternative media
covers. The problem caused by this lack of exposure, is that the public may be deprived
of the truth, and may be
led to believe facts that are not true. Marijuana and Medicine Both pro and anti-
marijuana groups have discussed
whether or not marijuana can be used for medicinal purposes. Mainstream groups do not
believe that there are any
convincing reasons to make marijuana a treatment to sick patients. Their position is that
marijuana can have harmful
long-term effects. The Anti-Legalization Forum explains that some of these effects are:
impairment of the immune
system due to the inability of T-cells to battle off diseases, delaying puberty in both males
and females, and
unhealthy and smaller children born to women who used marijuana during pregnancy. The
Drug Enforcement
Administration believes that since marijuana is not accepted by any American health
associations, there is no reason
to legalize the drug. They think that the main reason why pro marijuana advocates use the
medical use argument is
because the uninformed public can be easily convinced to support the movement. Simply
not enough evidence
proves that marijuana can be used medically (Claim V). Unlike the D.E.A., lobbying
groups such as the Cannabis
Action Network and the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, believe that marijuana is a
beneficial herb, and not a harmful
drug (ICLU). Alternative media sources, such as “Marijuana As Medicine,” state that
marijuana can be used as
medicine for: nausea, appetite stimulation, relief from vomiting, reduction in spasticity,
glaucoma, epilepsy, anxiety,
depression, asthma, multiple sclerosis, stimulation of the immune system, Aids patient and
cancer patients. For
victims with AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis, smoking marijuana is believed to help
reduce emesis, suppress
vomiting, and stimulate the appetite. People with multiple sclerosis are convinced that
smoking marijuana also
reduces the intensity of their spasms. “Marijuana As Medicine,” a Cannabis Action
Network pamphlet, states that,
“Two highly qualified and experienced ophthalmologists have accepted marijuana as
having a medical use in
treatment of glaucoma.” When taken, parts of cannabis lower intraocular pressure in the
eye. There are rumors that
marijuana suppresses the immune system. “Marijuana Myths” dismisses this belief because
the myth was based on
studies where the experimental animals were given near-lethal-doses of cannabinoids, and
these results have never
been repeated on humans. In fact, two studies displayed that the immune system may
actually have been stimulated
by the use of hashish and marijuana. On the other hand, a separate alternative source
stated that marijuana
(Delta-nine-THC) does possess an immunosuppressive effect. Marijuana shuts off some
cells in the liver, instead of
stimulating them. The effect is only temporary and goes away rapidly. According to
“Marijuana As Medicine,”
Approximately 30% of all prescription drugs can be replaced by THC, so pro- marijuana
groups lead to believe
that one of the reasons why the drug is not legalized is because it would take the profit
away from currently used
drugs. These groups suppose that since no one has ever died from marijuana use, it must
be safe. We can already
see the different myths that people read and get confused about. The one thing that pro-
marijuana groups agree
upon is that “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active
substances known to man”
(Marijuana As Medicine). Marijuana and Crime Another issue considered by the mass
media is whether marijuana
has an effect on crime or not. As written in the “Anti-Legalization Forum,” the D.E.A.


believes that drug use
contributes to crime and violence. Many police officers say that criminal activity is not
caused by dealers, but by
those that are under the influence of the drug. A study showed that among males (18-49
years old) those who used
cannabis were ten times more likely to commit violent acts than non-users. Anti marijuana
groups look to the
example of gangs, after the repeal of Prohibition, gangster activity had not decreased.


Experts are positive that
legalizing marijuana would only add to the burden of criminal, health and social services.


“There is no denying the
fact that drug use changes behavior and exacerbates criminal activity” (Claim I). “Hemp
for Food” claims that
marijuana supporters believe that the only criminal activity caused by marijuana is done
because of the illegal status
of the drug, and not because of any influence that the drug may have on users. They think
that legalization would
eliminate black market activity. In Holland, marijuana is legal and so far, the Dutch crime
rate has declined and not
increased as one would anticipate (87). Supporters of the legalization of marijuana say that
the United States
government can profit from legalizing marijuana because they can tax the drug. A study
done by Vera Rubin, of the
Coptic study, found no links of cannabis to criminal behavior. She said that smokers and
non-smokers had identical
extroversion scores and work records. There was no proof found that marijuana impairs
motor skills, so she
believes that large doses of marijuana cut short one’s motivation to work (86). Marijuana
and Behavior Behavior is
altered by using marijuana. The Medical Post states that “marijuana has always been
depicted as producing a
lethargic, mellow, laid-back effect rather than acting as a stimulant.” A study was done on
young, male marijuana
users to show any signs of stimulation. These participants engaged in antisocial behavior.


The doctors concluded
that these drugs could possibly disturb social interactions. Anti- marijuana groups feel that
legalizing drugs
encouraged non-users that drugs are acceptable (Anti-Legalization Forum Claim III).


“Hemp for Food,” an
alternative source printed that subjects in a Jamaican study described marijuana as having
the effect of making them
smarter, more energetic, happy, and more conscious. They believe that the drug produced
an overall sense of
well-being and self-defense. The subjects used it as a work motivator (86). The
implication for legalization is that
the drug has different effects on different groups of people, so we are not able to predict
outcomes for individuals
(Now Research). Marijuana and the Brain Mainstream media believes that marijuana
produces flat brainwaves.
“Marijuana Myths” asserts that the Partnership for a Drug-Free America ran an ad that
tried to display this belief. A
few years ago they made a commercial that first showed a normal brainwave, then they
showed a second
brainwave that supposedly belonged to a 14-year-old marijuana user. It was a flat
brainwave that tried to show that
the brainwaves or a drug user is the same as a comatose human being. ABC got the group
to admit to lying, yet
they still ran the ad. “Marijuana Myths” wrote about a study that was done to show that
marijuana causes damage
to the brain. The study was thrown out because of its insufficient experiment. There were
too many criticisms,
particularly because the study was done on only four monkeys. Real studies on humans do
not show any damage to
the brain. In actuality, smoking marijuana has the effect to increase alpha wave activity by
a small amount. Alpha
waves are related to relaxation, which can be associate with human productivity. Experts
are unsure if marijuana
affects short-term memory, but they think that any effect disappears when the person is no
longer under the
influence, similar to the immune system effect. According to “Hemp for Food,” a study
done in 1981 showed that
the subjects tested actually believed that smoking potent marijuana 16 times a day had
improved their minds over a
time period of 10 years. Their brains have been tested, and the results showed that there
was no difference between
their brains and one of a non-smoker. There is also no proof of an increase in IQ by
smoking marijuana. Another
study said that there was no impairment of physiological, sensory and perceptual-motor
performance, tests of
concept information, abstracting ability or cognitive style and tests or memory. The study
states that heavy and
prolonged use of ganja does not damage one socially or psychologically (86). Marijuana
and the Reproductive
System There are many claims that say that marijuana causes damage to the reproductive
system. The D.E.A.
states that smoking marijuana can make young children go through puberty much later than
normal children. They
also state that the drug can cause difficulties in babies born to mothers who smoked during
pregnancy. From this
source, Peter Fried, Ph.D., found that “Marijuana use during pregnancy has harmful
effects on children’s intellectual
abilities a decade or more after they are born.” The harm done by drugs is real and
long-lasting. Dr. Drew from the
TV program Loveline, had said that marijuana can cause birth defects if either the male or
female used it, even if it
was used four months prior to conception. He also believes that smoking marijuana can
lower one’s sex drive, and
that it does not help if the man has an impotency problem. Marijuana use may lower the
sperm count in males, but
not to the point to be used as birth control. “Marijuana Myths” responds to the belief that
marijuana causes
developmental problems in children, by claiming that it was a false rumor created by anti
marijuana groups in order
to steer people away from drug use. They state the studies done on this subject to be
faulty or misread. However,
they do admit that there may be some effects to childhood development, but they say that
they are not drastic and
are rare. They say that marijuana does not make men impotent or sterile and that for
some, it enhances their sex
lives. Feelings and emotions become more colorful to them. Bill Drake, author of
“Marijuana: An Herb for the
Aging,” states that marijuana may actually arouse an interest in sexuality in the elderly.


Jamaican studies, from
“Hemp for Food,” have displayed that mothers who use marijuana believe that their
children are healthier. The
experiment that was done that claimed that marijuana is harmful to the reproductive system
was rejected by the
scientific community because the controlled animals were given near-lethal doses. Once
off of the drug, the animals
returned to normal. When done on actual human beings, experiments have not shown
damage to the reproductive
system. Not all mainstream claims are false, and not all alternative claims are true, but
people would rather get their
news from the television than from a piece of paper that they found in their mailbox. The
majority of the population
gets its information from mainstream media sources because they believe that it is more
credible than alternative
media sources. Evidence shows how the public is provided with contradictory facts, so
one can see that it can be a
difficult in choosing the which source to believe. The news has to make stories short, due
to limited time, but
alternative media sources have plenty of time to gather hidden or unbroadcasted
information. In contrast to TV
news, documentaries done on this topic are able to spend unlimited hours researching
since they rarely have
deadlines. People should be presented with facts only if they are in complete detail and
have been thoroughly
investigated. Alternative media seem to have this ability, yet are sometimes doubted for
their information because
people usually believe things that are said on either TV, radio, or other sources of
mainstream media. There is not
much that can be done to fix this problem. Alternative media groups are constrained in the
medium of their
production. They have small budgets and are unable to spend the same amount of money
that mainstream media
sources spend. Since they don’t have expensive equipment to work with, they are forced
to make the best out of
what they have. Because their projects may appear unprofessional, people assume that
what they have to say
cannot be trusted. What people can do is try to educate others of this issue and attempt to
get people to change
their attitudes toward alternative media. What might be effective is if these alternative
groups put their effort into
creating a video or display that exhibited why alternative media is restricted, and why
people should start looking at
their claims from a different perspective. People would be better off if they are faced with
both sides and come to a
reasonable conclusion derived from both sources. Since the topic being discussed is on
the legalization of marijuana,
we need to use this information in creating a solution for this dilemma. Because marijuana
is illegal, there are few
mainstream groups that will go against the law and promote the legalization process.


Perhaps groups like C.A.N.
can create a video or anything as effective to reach out to the public and make them aware
of what they are missing
out on. The pamphlets that are already being distributed by these groups are a small step,
yet people are still
hesitant in believing any information printed on them. However, people might change their
minds if the information
written on these pamphlets informed them of reasons to credit them. Alternative media
groups are getting this idea
across slowly. It is only a matter of time until people start taking their claims into account.


Works Cited Cannabis
Action Network. Cannabis Action Network – Strategy and Objectives. New Orleans.


—. Lies Lies Lies.
Berkeley, Lexington, New Orleans. —. Marijuana As Medicine. New Orleans. —.


Restriction Lifted on Growing
Hemp. New Orleans: 1993. —. This is What The Government Says About Marijuana.


Berkeley, Lexington, New
Orleans. Cronin, Russell. “High Hopes for the First Legal Cannabis Crop.” The
Independent 12 July 1993: 6.
Drake, Bill. “Marijuana: An Herb for the Aging.” 1986. Online. Netscape. 10 Feb 1997.


Florida Legalization
Organization. Hemp for Food, Fuel, Fiber & Medicine, The Economy and the
Environment. Lacrosse, Florida:
1989: 1-3, 5-8, 15, 80, 86-89. Gettman, John. “Marijuana & the Brain.” High Times
March 1995: 33-36. Hager,
Paul. “Marijuana Myths.” Indiana Civil Liberties Union Drug Task Force. Online.


Netscape 9 Feb 1997. Hilts,
Philip J. “Relative Addictiveness of Drugs.” New York Times 2 Aug 1994, sec. 3:3+.


“Now Research Indicates
Marijuana is a Stimulant.” Medical Post 15 Oct. 1991. Loveline. Prod. David Sittenfeld.


With Dr. Drew, Adam
Carolla, and Kris McGaha. MTV. 25 Feb. 1997. Rotstein, Arthur H. “Pot Studies Called
Likely Key to Brain’s
Secrets.” Arizona Daily Star 12 Nov 1995: C12+. United States. Drug Enforcement
Agency. Anti-Legalization
Forum. FBI/D.E.A. Training Academy: GPO, 1994.
Word Count: 2473
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