What is marijuana? According to Harvard Medical Professor Lester
Grinspoon, it is a “miracle drug”, one that prevents blindness, acts as an
appetite stimulant for AIDS patients, and prevents muscle spasms in epileptics.
When speaking of the same plant, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for
over thirty years, Harry J. Anslinger said that this “evil weed” led to killings,
sex crimes and insanity. How can two such highly respected experts have such
night and day outlooks on the same thing? While Anslinger presided as America’s
leading anti-drug official his McCarthyish hunt down of Marijuana users led to
the downfall of many well respected Americans. During the 1900’s the United
Stated has committed itself to and unprecedented war on marijuana that is costly,
unjustified and impossible to win.
The topic of Marijuana is quite broad. It encompasses history,
legislation, and the benefits as well as the harms of the plant itself.
Marijuana is the name of the plant known to botanists as Cannabis Sativa.
Other names for the plant exist throughout the world. In Africa, Marijuana is
known as “dagga”, in China as “ma”, in Northern Europe as “hemp” and in the
United States as either “pot”, “buds”, “reefer”, “weed” or the more direct,
“smoke”. Marijuana goes back over five thousand years. It is one of the oldest
agricultural commodities not grown for food. Hemp, first cultivated in China as
early as 2800 B.C., soon stretched to central Asia where it spread like milkweed
or thistle. Marijuana soon began to crowd out neighboring grasses and reaching
heights of three to twenty feet stretched over large plains. Local people began
to use the plant for its strong, durable fibers which they used for rope and to
construct material similar to linen. Early in the Christian Era, Marijuana
reached the Mediterranean countries of Europe. Its cultivation spread through
the rest of Europe during the Middle ages. Hemp’s progression to Africa can
easily be marked through the Middle East where it remains a major cash crop. It
is unknown how the plant found its way to the America’s. One of the most
popular theories is that European explorers brought the seeds along with them.
The cultivation of Marijuana has been successful in almost every climate. It is
the unbounded growth of Marijuana that will later lead to its difficulty in
legislation. The Hemp plant has dozens of uses. It can be made into canvas,
paper, rope, twine, cable, yarn artificial sponges and clothing. The seed of
the plant can be made into Hempseed oil, paints, soaps, carnishes and birdseed.
For all of its usefulness it is the Hemp plant’s leaves for which it has been
condemned. It is this part of the plant that yields the sticky yellow resin,
rich with cannabinoids. This resin contains more that sixty compounds unique to
Marijuana. The most prominent is delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol. This substance
otherwise known as delta-9-THC which causes Marijuana’s psychoactive effects.
“The effects of Marijuana”, according to Leo Hollister, former president of the
American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and current professor at the
University of Texas “poses no greater risk that moderate consumption of
Alcohol.” Harvard Professor Lester Grinspoon in his book, Marihuana, the
Forbidden Medicine, claims that the drug has countless benefits, among which
are: relief of nausea associated with chemotherapy, preventing blindness induced
by glaucoma, serving as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients, warding off
asthma attacks and migraine headaches, relieving chronic pain and deduction of
the muscle spasticity that accompanies multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and
paraplegia, the list continues. Through the 1900’s, specifically the 1970’s, a
number of studies were done on Pot which claimed that it kills brain cells,
damages chromosomes, caused impotence in men and prompts men to grow breasts.
These conclusions, as stated by Eric Schlosser a writer for The Atlantic Monthly
and authority on Marijuana, “…were based on faulty research.” However, there
are real consequences to smoking Reefer. One of these consequences is a
psychological dependence in some users. The compound delta-9-THC has a half-
life of five days. This means an occasional user can fail a drug test three
days after smoking, a heavy user can fail for over a month. There have been no
immunosuppressive of reproductive effects linked to delta-9-THC. Some studies
have shown short-term memory deficiency, although reversible, in heavy smokers.
The biggest health concern with Pot smoke is its damage to the respiratory
system. The risks run parallel with tobacco smoking.
Category: Social Issues