Over the past decade, there has been a growing debate over the legalization and use of marijuana. Questions have been raised on why is marijuana illegal, and the answers have often fuelled more debate than answers. Various movements and prominent persons in government have campaigned for the legalization of weed. This has been seen through demonstrations against marijuana prohibition and tabling of bills in multiple parliaments around the world. Today in many federal states and in Canada, marijuana has been legalized. Most of the world, however, still classifies the herb as illegal with hefty punishments for any association with it. So why is weed illegal? Well, to better answer this question, we need to look at the history of the herb as well as the cultural view different countries around the world have towards it.
History of Marijuana
Marijuana or also referred to as cannabis by most has been with us as far back as prehistoric times. Cannabis plants are argued to have come from central Asia more specifically the areas of Mongolia and southern Serbia. As early as when people started cultivating crops, they have started using marijuana. This goes back to nearly 12,000 years. Weed has been found in the tombs of noble people in China, dating back to approximately 2500 B.C. During the period, it was either used as a medicine, for spiritual purposes or for its psychoactive effects. The plant spread to India through coastal farmers at around 2000 B.C and became widely used. The plant also spread to the Middle East nearly the same time and is believed to have been used by the Scythians. It quickly spread to Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and Britain in the 5th Century. In the centuries preceding that period, cannabis seeds spread all over the world, reaching the United States in the 20th century through refugees of the Mexican revolution that took place in 1910.
The plant was widely used by ancient communities to aid in several medical issues. These include easing pain during childbirth and providing relief to toothaches. Marijuana was also used as an anesthetic during surgery. The different communities found different ways of consuming the drug with most of them smoking it.
Most communities among which cannabis was widely used, adopted the use of the herb for various religious and cultural purposes. Marijuana held a sacred status among many communities. This is especially so in the Indian region during the Vedic period in time dating as far back as 1500 B.C. The Greeks also believed that the drug eradicated the feeling of sorrow and anguish after the loss of a loved one. Currently, cannabis is a central item in the Rastafarian movement with most of its ceremonies involving heavy use of marijuana to aid in meditation.
How did weed become illegal?
As we mentioned earlier, marijuana was brought into the United States by fleeing immigrants from the Mexican revolution. With time, however, racist fears began cropping up. The migrant Mexicans were blamed for crimes such as murders, burglary and seducing children after the use of marijuana. Police officers in Texas State claimed that marijuana gave the users a lust for blood and violent behaviors that led to committing violent crimes. The immigrants were also accused of spreading the substance to American children. The substance was eventually outlawed in 29 states in the United States. Marijuana prohibition occurred between the years 1916 and 1931. Despite the illegalization, marijuana was still widely used. In the late 1960s, the substance was prevalent among college students. Most countries around the world also went on to illegalize the drug, citing various adverse effects of the drug.
Same as is the case with most other drugs such as heroin and cocaine, marijuana is classified as being addictive. It is therefore seen to have a high potential for abuse. Once users engage in continuous use of the drug, they get addicted and find it hard to stop. This reasoning has however been challenged and is a double standard when it is compared to alcohol. Alcohol has the potential to dominate the lives of the users and bring with it serious negative effects. Even so, alcohol is legal in almost every country and state in the world. There are claims, that marijuana is less addictive than most other drugs out there.
Marijuana Prohibition Due to Historical racisms
In the early 1930s when there was a large influx in Mexicans into the United States, there was a largely negative perception towards them by the American people. Many American were afraid of growth in Mexican-American cultures as it was seen as an encroachment on their white culture. A ban on Marijuana was therefore seen as a good way to discourage their growth. Over the next decades, however, Marijuana use had spread among the American population despite the Marijuana prohibition.
Grouping with other harmful drugs
Marijuana has for a long time been linked with Narcotics that include Morphine and Heroine. This, therefore, created a negative perception among the minds of the population against the substance. This is unlike the attitude towards other recreational drugs such as caffeine and alcohol, which are generally accepted despite their potential adverse effects. Therefore, changing the perception people have towards the drug is a difficult task. This is especially so, even if there are scientific studies to show that some variants of the plant are good medicine for various ailments.
When the law against cannabis was passed in America, there was insufficient knowledge of the medicinal and non-medicinal aspects of cannabis. The herb was generally classified as harmful and dangerous in whatever form. However, scientific studies have shown that medicinal marijuana can be used as a treatment for various ailments such as glaucoma, easing the pain for arthritis patients and improving appetite for AIDS patients. In the 18th century, some medical journals actually suggested the use of hemp seeds, which is a cannabis variant, to patients with inflamed skin and venereal disease.
With sufficient technical know-how, the medicinal components of Cannabis can be extracted and used. Such components include cannabidiol which is an excellent remedy for anxiety and chronic pain. The extract has no negative effects and is considered to be perfectly safe for consumption. Most medicinal marijuana will lack Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the component of marijuana that brings about undesired psychoactive effects. With the increased knowledge of Marijuana, laws surrounding it have been structured around marijuana used for medicinal purposed and recreation purposes. The use of marijuana for recreational purposes is mainly for the user to experience the psychoactive effects that come about. These include the feeling of relaxation, euphoria and increased libido. It is important to note that there are some undesired effects such as short term memory, drying of the mouth and impaired motor skills that come about.
Laws against cannabis in different areas of the world.
The medicinal use of Marijuana is legal in several European countries such as Germany, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands. Medicinal use of marijuana is also legal in Australia and Thailand. In these countries, there are restrictions on the particular type of cannabis that is being used. This is the case for several states in the USA. Generally, the use and possession of marijuana in the United States are legal. Different individual states, however, have different restrictions regarding the drug. The use of cannabis under a doctor’s prescription is legal in 33 states in the US in addition to the district of Colombia. Other states have laws regarding the level of THC that should be present in the Marijuana consumed. Recreational use of the drug is however legal in 10 states. These different regulations regarding marijuana use contribute to federal marijuana laws.
In Canada and Uruguay, marijuana is fully legal. This means that people are allowed to use the drug for recreational or medicinal purposes and well as distribute it. In Ethiopia, which is the birthplace of the Rastafarian movement, possession of the drug results in 6 months imprisonment. Japan has very strict regulations regarding the possession and distribution of the drug. Using marijuana in Japan results in 5 years of imprisonment while transport and sale of marijuana can result in a higher punishment of seven to ten years imprisonment.
The laws around marijuana, in regard to its use and distribution, have been fuelled by the different cultural views towards it. There are people who criminalize it due to the negative effects it has on the human body and subsequently the action of the user. There are others, however, as was historically the case with America, that criminalized it for racial reasons and the desires to preserve the white culture. As more scientific research is carried out, however, the strict regulations are changing the promise to keep changing. More countries and people are exploring the beneficial components of marijuana and studying the history of marijuana. They are looking for constituents that can treat various ailments without necessarily causing the undesired psychoactive effects.