Ganja Essay

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 cannibissativa, was mentioned in historical manuscripts as
early as 2700 B. C. in China. (Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia, 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 its 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repealed after just thirteen years while the prohibition against marijuana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 society 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, but marijuana smokers consist
mostly of young and relatively powerless Americans (American Heritage, pg 47).

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Alcohol prohibition was repealed and marijuana prohibition was retained, not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 (American Heritage, pg 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 posession 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 Wellness Encyclopedia, PG 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” (Schaffer, pg. 86). Beginning in the 60’s marijuana use
saw a resurgence that 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 Wellness Encyclopedia,
pg 54). Another cause may have been the discovery of the psychoactive component
of marijuana-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC. Users found the
relation between the doses and the effects (Grolier Electronic Publishing,
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 history.


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