When Olympic officials decided to give snowboarder Ross Rebagliati his gold medal back, the cheers drowned out the boos. It was a minor scandal involving a minor sport, but it spoke volumes about the world’s shifting relationship with its favorite illicit drug. Marijuana. A decade ago, Rebagliati would have been ostracized regardless of whether cannabis was on the list of his sport’s banned substances. What’s changed today is that our attitudes towards illegal drugs are becoming more sophisticated and discriminating. After thirty years of research into the harmful effects of cannabis, there can be no hidden dangers left to discover.
We know that it is plain nonsense to regard cannabis as a performance-enhancing drug, just as it is a myth to think the substance rots the brain or leads inexorably to harder substances. The issue of cannabis legalization has been debated ever since the substance was made illegal on April 14, 1937. Reformers still press legislation today to make the psychoactive plant available to medical patients as well as the general adult population. One of the more prominent groups that lobbies for the legalization of marijuana is NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).
NORML has been a voice for nearly thirty years for Americans that oppose marijuana prohibition. Essentially, it is a non-profit interest lobby that represents the interests of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens who smoke marijuana responsibly. Ever since that fateful day in 1937 there has also been millions of Americans that supported the governments choice to criminalize this plant. One major contributor to the spread of anti-legalization information is the Drug Enforcement Agency. The DEA is unequivocally opposed to the legalization of illicit drugs.
The DEA and other agencies seeking to promote the status quo claim the legalization argument is a cyclical trend that resurfaces, heats up and then dies down again, only to come back at a later date. It claims legalization would be a devastating defeat to the commitment that so many have made to living free, healthy and unfettered in our nation. The issue remains as alive and debatable today as it has ever been. The publics growing fascination and acceptance of this plant adds fuel to the fire of the controversy.
The latest piece of legislation reviewed involving Marijuana legalization was September 6, 1999 in the state of Maine. There are many questions that still need to be answered in the realm of cannabis legalization, and pressure to find those answers is another thing that fuels the debate over decriminalization. The pressure for legislation reform is not specific to any demographic location. It has been argued by all ages, races, and sexes. There are those that argue for the medical legalization, economical legalization, and of course, recreational legalization.
Those that lobby for reform carry large amounts statistical evidence and personal testimony to show the beneficial elements of this plant. The push for marijuana reform has come from doctors and lawyers as well as skateboard toting teens. Those that push for the decriminalization of marijuana base their arguments on a number of proven facts, refuted opposing arguments, and positive personal experiences. There are some groups that support the removal of all penalties for the private possession and responsible use of marijuana by adults, cultivation for personal use, and the casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts.
They back their arguments with claims like : Cannabis has proven to be addictive to a very small portion of the overall user population, and when put in contrast with other addictive over-the-counter drugs (such as alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine), the addictive potential of cannabis is far below those accepted levels. Marijuana supporters also argue that its been in use (documented) for 5,000 years and during that span there hasnt been one single documented overdose case. Still others argue for the medicinal use of marijuana. They wish to change the classification of marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance to a Schedule II.
A Schedule I substance is one that: a) has no current accepted medical use, b) has a high potential for abuse. Reformers wish to lower cannabis to a Schedule II which is: a) a drug that has excepted medical value, b) has a medium potential for abuse. It is scientifically accepted (IOM Report March 24, 1999) that marijuana proves useful for pain management, suppression of nausea in AIDS and Cancer patients, and can act as an anti-spasmodic, as well as flatly disproves the gateway theory, which stated that users of cannabis would go onto harder drugs.
This illustrates Federally Sanctioned medical uses of marijuana (Schedule II). Those that support the legalization of marijuana have a very strong argument, but there are however, some fallacies in their logic. From the NORML homepage one would gather that there are only two choices that the American people have with marijuana: 1) legalize it in its entirety, 2) keep it criminalized. Coming from one of the most prominent groups advocating decriminalization there appears to be only two choices, which is a fallacy of Distraction.
False dilemma is a fallacy where two choices are given when in fact there are three options. NORML does not support the idea of legalizing it for medicinal purposes, which is the third choice. They need to realize that recognizing the medical value of marijuana is a step in the right direction, an advancement for their cause. Another fallacy that erupts from the pro-legalization argument is the fallacy of Ignorance. The fallacy of ignorance states that because something is not known to be true, it is assumed to be false.
It is not known if marijuana does foster amotivational syndrome (laziness, uninformed, nonproductive behavior) or have lasting harmful long-term effects, and those that support legalization assume that since it hasnt been scientifically proven yet, its not true. This type of rational is also a Fallacy of Distraction. On the other hand, Legalizing marijuana, even for medical purposes, could be the single worst decision our country has ever made, according to Dr. Lynn Thomas. They fail to see that legalization would lead to increased crime, health problems, and economic instability.
The legalization of marijuana would aggravate some of the same problems that it is intended to help. Marijuana use can result in lung cancer and a decreased ability to recall information. It can also damage cells and tissue in the immune system, and affect the reproductive hormones. They argue that the money made from the taxation of marijuana would not come close to the amount of cash lost in treatment programs for addicts and lost worker productivity. The pressure of unchanged legislation also comes from such reputable sources such as: The DEA, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and various religions.
These groups hold tight the moral issues associated with the criminalization of marijuana. The arguments against legalization stemming from the DEA homepage are also guilty of persuasion fallacies. The Slippery Slope fallacy which is a series of increasingly unacceptable consequences is drawn, is demonstrated in the DEAs argument. They project that the legalization of marijuana will lead to a breakdown of moral fibers, which leads to the legalization of other drugs, which leads to increased crime, which leads to tremendous amounts of money spent, which leads to distrust of the legal system, which leads to anarchy.
The initial argument was just of the legalization (even just for medical purposes) of a plant, and suddenly we have anarchy. This type of fallacy is a Fallacy of Distraction. The anti-legalization platform is also guilty of Inductive Fallacies. The Slothful Induction Fallacy is the conclusion of a strong inductive argument is denied despite the evidence to the contrary. This platform argues that our society couldnt survive and function with the legalization of this drug.
The fallacy is represented by the anti-legalizationists in the fact that evidence dose prove that societies can thrive and prosper with marijuana being legal. The Netherlands is one example of a society that is actually better off with legalized cannabis. They have a lower crime rate, and believe it or not, lower addictions rate per capita than we have here in the United States. There is strong evidence to show that a society can live in harmony with marijuana legalized, but Slothful Induction is represented clearly in their arguments.
My personal feelings about the legalization have changed dramatically over the past couple years. I once believed that Marijuana was devil weed, and everybody associated with it was immoral. I believed the D. A. R. E. programs claims of, Only losers use drugs. This attitude changed my freshman year of college. This was my first year away from home and sort of a blooming stage if you will. After repeated use of marijuana I did a complete 180 degrees and was pro-weed. I went on to write my congressmen many times adding to the legalization movement.
Legalization of Marijuana1 I started to change my speech, dress, and friends to being more smoker-friendly. Since that year I have matured and learned some of the errors of my ways. I have come to realize that there is in fact a negative side to smoking herb. I have had some repercussions of smoking marijuana. Presently I believe that the use of this plant has a time and place in society. I still believe that Marijuana has many desirable effects for medicinal use. I do not condone the recreational use of this substance, but I believe that cannabis should be legalized for medicinal purposes.