"Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to the individual than the use of the drug itself" said President Jimmy Carter in a message to Congress in 1977 (Family Council on Drug Awareness). Unfortunately, congress did not and has not listened to him. Even though numerous government-sponsored studies have proven that the use of the cannabis plant is safe and has many benefits, it is still illegal. Cannabis sativa is a flowering plant that has two main variations: marijuana and hemp. Marijuana contains the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which alters the mind when smoked, eaten, drank, or taken in the pill form. It is often called grass, pot, reefer, Mary Jane, herb, weed, or one of over 200 slang terms (National Institute of Drug Abuse). Hemp is bred to have lower THC content so that it does not have mind-altering capabilities. It is often used to make fibers, clothing, oil, ropes, and to aerate the soil in crop rotation. The qualities of both strains of the cannabis plant are not new discoveries to humankind. In fact, the Chinese first recorded use of marijuana in the year 2727 B.C. (Schleichert 5). People in every inhabited continent legally used marijuana for recreation and medicine for thousands of years. It was not until after the "Reefer Madness" campaign of the 1930s that marijuana became illegal in the United States. The campaign gave exaggerated stories and false information to scare people away from the use of cannabis. Ever since, studies have shown that marijuana is safe and beneficial and activists have pushed for legalization, but governments refuse to legalize it. Instead, they have harsh laws prohibit...
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