Contributions Of Marijuana Term Paper

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Throughout history marijuana has been used to serve various purposes in many

different cultures. The purposes have changed over time to fit in with the current

lifestyles. This pattern is also true in American history. The use of marijuana has

adapted to the social climate of the time.

Marijuana, whose scientific name is cannabis sativa, was mentioned in historical

manuscripts as early as 2700 B. C. in China. (Grolier ,1995). The cultivation of the

marijuana plant began as far back as the Jamestown settlers, around 1611, who used hemp

produced from the marijuana plant's fibers to make rope and canvas. It was also used in

making clothing because of it's durability.

These uses fit in with the social climate of the time, because the main focus was on

survival rather than for psychoactive purposes. During the prohibition, marijuana was

widely used because of the scarcity of alcohol. Prohibition was repealed after just thirteen

years while the prohibition against marijuana lasted for more than seventy five years. This

double standard may have resulted from the wishes of those in power. Alcohol prohibition

struck directly at tens of millions of Americans of all ages, including many of societies

most powerful members. Marijuana prohibition threatened far fewer Americans, and they

had relatively little influence in the districts of power.

Only the prohibition of marijuana, which some sixty million Americans have

violated since 1965 has come close to approximating the prohibition experience,

Nadelmann wrote marijuana smokers consist mostly of young and relatively powerless

Americans (Nadelmann , 47). Alcohol prohibition was repealed and marijuana prohibition

was retained, not because scientists had proved that alcohol was the less dangerous of the

various psychoactive drugs, but because of the prejudices and preferences of most

Americans (Nadelmann, 47). In 1937 the government issued the Marijuana Tax Act,

which levied a dollar an ounce tax on marijuana, coupled with fines of $2,000 for drug

possession and jail sentences for evasion of the tax. For this reason marijuana use in the

United States appears to have gone into decline in the late 30's (Grolier, 54). Then

marijuana was outlawed in 1937 as a repressive measure against Mexican workers who

crossed the border seeking jobs during the Depression. The specific reason given for the

outlawing of the hemp plant was it's supposed violent "effect on the degenerate races"

(Nadelmann, 86).

Beginning in the 60's marijuana use saw a resurgence which may be attributed to

many causes. One of the main causes was the rebellion of youth against the Vietnam

War. They used marijuana as an escape from war to peace. It was easy at this time

to depict marijuana as a beneficial and completely harmless substance whose effects were

far less harmful than those of legal drugs such as alcohol and nicotine because there was

not enough scientific research done during the 60's (Grolier, 54).

Another cause may have been the discovery of the psychoactive component of

marijuana- tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC. Users found the relation

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between the doses and the effects (Grolier, 1995). The current atmosphere provides for

doctors to suggest synthetic marijuana (THC) in a pure and standardized form by

prescription (called Marinol) for the treatment of nausea associated with cancer

chemotherapy. Also, although there is no scientific evidence that shows marijuana is

beneficial in the treatment of glaucoma, it may prevent the progression of visual loss.

Marijuana, along with alcohol and a host of other substances, can actually lower

intraocular eye pressure. The medication however, must be carefully tailored to the

individual to prevent further eye damage. The evidence has clearly shown that marijuana

has been around for a great deal of time and has served multiple purposes throughout


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