Marijuana, known by such names as pot, grass, reefer, weed, and herb is said to come from the various parts of the hemp plant with the scientific name Cannabis sativa, and has for its active ingredient the mind altering substance called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC (National Institute on Drug Abuse 1).
The use of marijuana has been the subject of much debate and controversy in the past. Young people are drawn to it, musicians, movie stars and rock stars endorse it discreetly, and the general population as a whole is divided over whether it is good or bad for people, and whether it should be legalized or not. Some say that marijuana was involved in the production of various industries of fiber, fabric, lighting oil, paper, incense and medicines. Marijuana was also primarily used in most of the religions and cults (Columbia History 1981).
Yet, the many disadvantages outweigh the supposed benefits it does. Some also say that the hearing, suits, stakeouts and rewards for those who tip the authorities costs the government a lot (Fighting for the Legalization 2000). They claim that there are better ways to spend the citizen’s money than following all users of marijuana. Yet, what happens to society when authorities do not have any control of forces that need their immediate attention?
Yet, a website devoted exclusively to marijuana use recently ran an article weighing the pros and cons of legalizing it, and came up with the conclusion that legalizing has several economic benefits, and brings with it the ability of government to properly regulate its use (Shalom). This essay takes the latter position, and argues against the legalization of marijuana because of its overall ill health and social effects.
II. Social and Health Considerations
Marijuana is said to be the most used illegal drug in the United States, with 40 percent or 94 million of Americans aged 12 years or older having tried it at least once, and adolescents and teenagers in particular being particularly vulnerable to abusing the drug (National Institute on Drug Abuse 1, citing the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health).
Some say that the theory that it can be a gateway drug to hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine has not been proven true (Lowry, 2001). Yet, the ill health effects of marijuana have been well-documented. Heavy use of marijuana has been directly linked to the impairment of a person’s ability to shift the focus of his attention from one thing to another, ability to recall events, and ability to form memories (National Institute on Drug Abuse 3).
Marijuana is also said to impair balance, posture, coordination of movement and reaction time, because THC affects the proper functioning of the parts of the brain responsible for those functions (National Institute on Drug Abuse 4). Such ill effects are said to be precursors of accidents.
Another ill effect of marijuana use is its link to difficulty in quitting tobacco smoking. Still another ill health effect is the predisposition of marijuana smokers to the same health problems that plague tobacco smokers such as chest illnesses, daily, cough and phlegm, obstructed airways, lung infections, and cancer of the lungs and respiratory tract (National Institute on Drug Abuse 4).
The heightened risks are said to be the result of marijuana smoke containing 50 to 70 percent more carcinogens than regular tobacco smoke, and because THC is said to impair the immune function thus, making smokers more susceptible to cancer and infectious diseases (National Institute on Drug Abuse 5). Also, marijuana smoking has also been linked to an up to a four-fold increase in the risk of having a heart attack within an hour of smoking it (National Institute on Drug Abuse 5).
The ill social effects of smoking marijuana are also varied and grave. Student smokers are said to perform more poorly than other students, while workers who smoke marijuana are said to have more problems with work performance (National Institute on Drug Abuse 5). Ill emotional and psychological effects such as depression, anxiety, and personality disturbances spill over into poor ability to acquire job and social skills, poor ability to cope with emotional problems because of poor problem solving and emotional skills, and lower levels of satisfaction with life in general (National Institute on Drug Abuse 5-6). Most people do not get caught in their nonconformity and remain “secret deviants.”
One of the most important steps in the process of involvement in a deviant career, according to Becker, is “the experience of being caught and publicly labeled as deviant.” Thus, those caught using this can be forever labeled as a deviant. (Social Response Theories).
This paper concludes that given the many ill health and social effects of marijuana smoking, marijuana should be rightfully classified as an illegal drug. We oppose its legalization because it jeopardizes the health and overall well-being of many.
“Columbia History of the World.” End Marijuana Prohibition. Harper and Row: NY. (1981). Article Retrieved Oct. 7, 2006 at:
“Fighting for the Relegalization of cannabis in Ireland.” Article Retrieved Oct. 7, 2006
at: The Cannabis Ireland Alliance website
Lowry, Rich, “Weed Whackers: the Anti-Marijuana Forces, and Why They’re Wrong.” National Review. August 7, 2001.