Explaining Marijuana. Its History and Future within the United States.

The History

Marijuana wasn’t just a 60’s hippie drug that encouraged people to smoke for the next 50 years– Its history is nearly immeasurable. Marijuana use dates back 5,000 years in ancient China, India, and Egypt for many different purposes, especially in relation to medical uses. In America, George Washington farmed hemp in the 1700s and was interested in its potential medical uses. By 1840, marijuana became widely accepted in mainstream medicine and was an ingredient in many over-the-counter products. Ten years later in 1850, Recovery.Org describes the process of Marijuana as such saying,” Marijuana was added to the U.S. Pharmacopeia. It was used as a treatment for opioid withdrawal, pain, appetite stimulation, and relief of nausea and vomiting”. By this time, there weren’t really any concerns about marijuana usage and it was used more for medical purposes. In the early 20th century, however, marijuana became more mainstream and was used pretty regularly for recreational use. The reason for this, as explained by History.com, is that “Immigrants from Mexico to the United States during the tumultuous years of the Mexican Revolution introduced the recreational practice of smoking marijuana to American culture. From here, weed conjured up a negative connotation. Massive unemployment and social unrest during the Great Depression stoked resentment of Mexican immigrants and public fear of the “evil weed.” As a result — and consistent with the Prohibition era’s view of all intoxicants — 29 states had outlawed cannabis by 1931”. Due to the Great Depression, there began to become a negative public opinion towards Mexican immigrants which translated to marijuana usage having that same negative public opinion.

Research and Public Sway

From the 1930s to the 1950s, the hatred and push for marijuana being the “devil’s drug” was elevated with the movie “Reefer Madness”. This film is about how many horrible things happen from marijuana use and further used racial propaganda in order to further the “anti-marijuana” agenda. It is further described in an article about the history of North American marijuana use in the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology,” The film was intended as a morality tale and cautioned parents against the dangers of marijuana use, portraying its users as insane murderers lost in moral turpitude, brought about directly as a consequence of using the drug”. Its portrayal, on top of the Marijuana Tax Act, and doctors who started to discredit the drug’s medical benefits, the reputation of the drug was at an all-time low. However, after the ’50s, public opinion started to sway a bit. According to PBS.org, “Reports commissioned by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson found that marijuana use did not induce violence nor lead to the use of heavier drugs. Policy towards marijuana began to involve considerations of treatment as well as criminal penalties”. This was the first time a “counter-culture” was created in the United States in the political spotlight. It was going to be interesting to see exactly what this public support could lead to.

The Roadblocks Ahead

We know the medical advantages of marijuana and the racial motives that caused the drug to be banned in the first place, but why is it still outlawed? Is there something we are missing? It’s the same thing that is always missing–money! In an article done by Marijuana ProCon, they claim that legalized marijuana creates steep costs for society/taxpayers that outweigh its tax revenues. They back up this claim by comparing it to tobacco saying,” Annual societal costs from alcohol ($223.5 billion) and tobacco ($193 billion) far exceed the $24 billion in tax revenues they raise”. Law-makers believe that legalizing the drug will cost the United States a lot more money than it will make them, but others are quick to disagree. According to Debt.org,” Economist Stephen Easton, who also teaches economics on the university level, penned an article in Businessweek that suggested the financial benefits of pot legalization maybe even bigger than what Miron predicted. Easton guesses that legalizing the drug could bring in $45 to $100 billion a year”. The financial benefits of marijuana are perhaps the most important aspect when it comes to the legalization of marijuana.

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