Marijuana prohibition applies to everyone, including the sick and dying. Of all the negative consequences of prohibition, none is as tragic as the denial of medicinal cannabis to the tens of thousands of patients who could benefit from its therapeutic use.
Written references to the use marijuana as a medicine date back nearly 5,000 years. Western medicine embraced marijuana's medical properties in the mid-1800s, and by the beginning of the 20th century, physicians had published more than 100 papers in the Western medical literature recommending its use for a variety of disorders. Cannabis remained in the United States pharmacopoeia until 1941, removed only after Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act which severely hampered physicians from prescribing it. The American Medical Association (AMA) was one of the most vocal organizations to testify against the ban, arguing that it would deprive patients of a past, present and future medicine.
Modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of clinical applications. These include pain relief -- particularly of neuropathic pain (pain from nerve damage) -- nausea, spasticity, glaucoma, and movement disorders. Marijuana is also a powerful appetite stimulant, specifically for patients suffering from HIV, the AIDS wasting syndrome, or dementia. Emerging research suggests that marijuana's medicinal properties may protect the body against some types of malignant tumors and are neuro protective.
Currently, more than 60 U.S. and international health organizations -- including the American Public Health Association  , Health Canada and the Federation of American Scientists -- support granting patients immediate legal access to medicinal marijuana under a physician's supervision. (Click here for a complete listing of organizations.) Several others, including the American Cancer Society and the American Medical Association support the facilitation of wide-scale, clinical research trials so that physicians may better assess cannabis' medical potential. In addition, a 1991 Harvard studyfound that 44 percent of oncologists had previously advised marijuana therapy to their patients. Fifty percent responded they would do so if marijuana was legal. A more recent national survey performed by researchers at Providence Rhode Island Hospital found that nearly half of physicians with opinions supported legalizing medical marijuana.
Virtually every government-appointed commission to investigate marijuana's medical potential has issued favorable findings. These include the U.S. Institute of Medicine in 1982 the Australian National Task Force on Cannabis in 1994 and the U.S. National Institutes of Health Workshop on Medical Marijuana in 1997.
More recently, Britain's House of Lord's Science and Technology Committee found in 1998 that the available evidence supported the legal use of medical cannabis. MPs determined: "The government should allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for medical use. ... Cannabis can be effective in some patients to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and against certain forms of pain. ... This evidence is enough to justify a change in the law." The Committee reaffirmed their support in a March 2001 follow-up report criticizing Parliament for failing to legalize the drug.
U.S. investigators reached a similar conclusion in 1999. After conducting a nearly two-year review of the medical literature, investigators at the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine affirmed: "Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs ... for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation. ... Except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range tolerated for other medications." Nevertheless, the authors noted cannabis inhalation "would be advantageous" in the treatment of some diseases, and that marijuana's short- term medical benefits outweigh any smoking-related harms for some patients. Predictably, federal authorities failed to act upon the IOM's recommendations, and instead have elected to continue their long-standing policy of denying marijuana's medical value.
NORML supports the removal of all penalties for the private possession and responsible use of marijuana by adults, including cultivation for personal use, and casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts. This policy, known as decriminalization, removes the consumer -- the marijuana smoker -- from the criminal justice system, while maintaining criminal penalties against those who sell or traffic large quantities of the drug.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon's National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommended that Congress adopt this policy nationally in the United States. Since then, more than a dozen government-appointed commissions in both the U.S. and abroad have recommended similar actions. None of these commissions have endorsed continuing to arrest and jail minor marijuana offenders. Summaries of these studies are available here.
Since 1973, 13 state legislatures -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon -- have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization. In November 2008, Massachusetts voters passed a statewide initiative making the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana an infraction punishable by no more than a $100 fine. The law took effect on January 2, 2009. In each of these states, marijuana users no longer face jail time (nor in most cases, arrest or criminal records) for the possession or use of small amounts of marijuana. According to national polls, voters overwhelmingly support these policies. In Oregon, voters recently reaffirmed their state's decriminalization law by a 2-1 margin in a statewide referendum.
More than 30 percent of the U.S. population lives under some form of marijuana decriminalization, and according to government and academic studies, these laws have not contributed to an increase in marijuana consumption nor negatively impacted adolescent attitudes toward drug use. Summaries of these findings are available here.
Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers an estimated $10 billion annually and results in the arrest of more than 829,000 individuals per year -- far more than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. This policy is a tremendous waste of national and state criminal justice resources that should be focused on combating serious and violent crime. In addition, it invites government unnecessarily into areas of our private lives, and needlessly damages the lives and careers of hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens. NORML believes now, as former President Jimmy Carter told Congress in 1977, that: "Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use."
Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America (behind only alcohol and tobacco), and has been used by nearly 100 million Americans. According to government surveys, some 25 million Americans have smoked marijuana in the past year, and more than 14 million do so regularly despite harsh laws against its use. Our public policies should reflect this reality, not deny it.
Marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. Around 50,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning. Similarly, more than 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to tobacco smoking. By comparison, marijuana is nontoxic and cannot cause death by overdose. According to the prestigious European medical journal, The Lancet, "The smoking of cannabis, even long-term, is not harmful to health. ... It would be reasonable to judge cannabis as less of a threat ... than alcohol or tobacco."
As with alcohol consumption, marijuana smoking can never be an excuse for misconduct or other improper behavior. For example, driving or operating heavy equipment while impaired from marijuana should be prohibited.
Most importantly, marijuana smoking is for adults only, and is inappropriate for children. There are many activities in our society that are permissible for adults, but forbidden for children, such as motorcycle riding, skydiving, signing contracts, getting married, drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco. However, we do not condone arresting adults who responsibly engage in these activities in order to dissuade our children from doing so. Nor can we justify arresting adult marijuana smokers on the grounds of sending a "message" to children. Our expectation and hope for young people is that they grow up to be responsible adults, and our obligation to them is to demonstrate what that means. Further information regarding the responsible use of marijuana is available here.
NORML supports the eventual development of a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers could buy marijuana for personal use from a safe legal source. This policy, generally known as legalization, exists on various levels in a handful of European countries like The Netherlands and Switzerland, both of which enjoy lower rates of adolescent marijuana use than the U.S. Such a system would reduce many of the problems presently associated with the prohibition of marijuana, including the crime, corruption and violence associated with a "black market."
NORML Statement on the Cultivation of Industrial Hemp
"The marketplace, not myopic rules, should determine hemp's future in America."
What is Hemp?
Hemp produces a much higher yield per acre than do common substitutes such as cotton and requires few pesticides. In addition, hemp has an average growing cycle of only 100 days and leaves the soil virtually weed-free for the next planting.
The hemp plant is currently harvested for commercial purposes in over 30 nations, including Canada, Japan and the European Union. Although it grows wild across much of America and presents no public health or safety threat, hemp is nevertheless routinely uprooted and destroyed by law enforcement. Each year, approximately 98% of all the marijuana eliminated by the DEA's "Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program" is actually hemp.
Despite America's bureaucratic moratorium on industrial hemp cultivation, a domestic industry exists and continues to grow. U.S. retailers and manufacturers annually import approximately 1.9 million pounds of hemp fiber, 450,000 pounds of hemp seeds, and 331 pounds of hempseed oil from Canada and other nations that regulate hemp farming. (Federal law permits the importation of hemp fiber, sterilized seeds, and ingestible hemp-based products containing no THC.) In addition, a growing number of health professionals are praising hemp seeds' nutritional value, noting that it's second only to soy in protein and contains the highest concentration of essential amino and fatty acids found in any food. Given the crop's versatility, it's no wonder that hemp has been endorsed by organizations and individuals such as the U.S. Agriculture Department's Alternative Agricultural Research, the National Conference of State Legislatures, environmentalist Ralph Nader and health guru Andrew Weil.
Hemp continued to be cultivated in America until 1937 when Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act outlawing marijuana. Although not a bill specifically aimed at hemp production, legal limitations posed by the legislation put an end to the once prominent industry.
Hemp production briefly re-emerged in 1942 when the federal government encouraged American farmers to grow it for the war effort. Armed with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) film "Hemp for Victory," thousands of farmers grew hundreds of thousands of acres of hemp for wartime needs. Unfortunately, when World War II ended, so did the government's allowance of hemp cultivation. By 1957, prohibitionists had reasserted a total ban on hemp production. That federal ban remains in effect today.
Where does the DEA Stand on Hemp?
In a 1995 USDA "White Paper," the DEA stated that they are "opposed to any consideration of hemp as a legitimate fiber or pulp product," and recommended that any USDA researcher who wishes to explore the issue must first be briefed by White House anti-drug officials. Since then, DEA officials have stonewalled several state efforts to enact hemp cultivation and research bills by threatening to arrest any farmers who attempt to grow it. Most recently, President George Bush's spokesman Ari Flesher answered the question: "Does the President favor the legalization of industrial hemp?" by stating that Bush has not made "any statements ... that would lend one to reach that conclusion."
In recent years, a number of U.S. states have commissioned studies recommending hemp as a viable economic crop. Most recently, legislatures in Montana and North Dakota have enacted legislation licensing farmers to grow hemp (though federal approval still remains necessary), hopefully paving the way for a renewed U.S. hemp cultivation industry in the not-so-distant future.
General – Every day hundreds if not thousands of normal people like you and I are hassled and arrested simply for smoking marijuana. Our government will not respond to the overwhelming majority of it’s own people, who cry out for freedom. We must stop this oppressive government before they try to take more of our rights guaranteed to us in the Constitution.
Medicinal – It doesn’t stop with regular people though. Our government has taken its ridiculous mission and attacked defenseless patients who simply want to obtain the medicine prescribed to them. Our government is stubborn enough to tell doctors how to do their jobs. Every day patients struggle to find the medicine they desperately need. They have to turn to a viscous black market created by the very government who wishes to “protect” us.
Industrial – Somehow this has all translated into virtually banning inustrial hemp, one of the crops this country was built on. With uses ranging from ropes to clean burning gasoline this crop has been dubbed a drug. This easy and profitable crop could bring back the farming industry to this country.
Personal – The bottom line is responsible adults know how to treat their own bodies. Our society deems addicting killer substances like tobacco and alcohol okay even though they kill thousands of Americans every single day. This hypocritical attitude stems from ignorance that must be stopped. Please help our cause and donate today.
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