“Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” – DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young 1988, ruling in favor of the medical value of marijuana.
That’s right. Judge Young called it one of the safest therapies known to man. And this was in 1988. Judge Young went on to further state that “the evidence in this record… clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.” Yet it took 8 years from that ruling for California to enact a law legalizing the use of medical marijuana, setting a precedent for the entire country. It subsequently took Michigan 12 more years to join the ranks of the few progressive states that have followed in California’s footsteps.
Now I, personally, have always believed in the palliative effects of marijuana – at least since my undergraduate days at University of Michigan. And I know that Ann Arbor has always had the stereotype of being inhabited by a bunch of hippie stoners. But perhaps, they just did their homework a bit more carefully than countless others who believe the cannabis plant to have no medicinal qualities whatsoever. Take my father for instance. He has suffered with a painful kidney disease for over 20 years. However, he will not even listen to me discuss the benefits that marijuana could add to his quality of life. In his mind, marijuana has been illegal for so long that he cannot wrap his head around the concept of adding such a substance to his daily list of prescription drugs.
Perhaps it is also because, federally, marijuana is still illegal – even for medical purposes. And why is this? Most historians declare that it has nothing to do with addiction or being a danger to one’s health. In fact, much research states that marijuana became illegal in the United States in 1937 for tax reasons. This actually makes sense because for most of human history, marijuana has been completely legal. Its known use goes as far back as 7,000 B.C. If you think of it this way, marijuana has been illegal for less than 1% of the time it has been in use.
On the other side of the coin, let’s look at another potentially mind-altering, perception-altering substance – alcohol. It has also been in use for thousands of years – speculatively since 6,000 B.C. And it too has been predominantly legal worldwide. In the United States, it was illegal for a measly 13 years during the Prohibition Era. Other than that, the only legal constraints have to do with the age of eligibility to consume it.
Now let’s examine both of these substances in a social situation. In my short time on this planet, I have seen and heard about drunk people doing many, many horrible things – things they may never have done had they not imbibed too much alcohol. This includes but is not limited to vehicular homicide, domestic violence, child abuse, fights amongst “friends” escalating to injury and/or death in a parking lot, friends vomiting uncontrollably for hours due to overindulgence of liquor, increases in depression, and suicide. But also in my time, I have seen and heard about many people “high” on marijuana. However I have never seen violence in conjunction with its use. Nor have I seen anyone getting physically ill over it. Nor have I seen anyone cry and threaten to kill themselves on it. Nor have heard about any deaths that resulted solely from marijuana.
On the other hand, just as Judge Young stated in 1988, marijuana has countless medicinal qualities – significantly helping thousands of individuals cope with devastating illnesses like AIDS and cancer. And what therapy can we expect from alcohol? Short of a few extra antioxidants from one or two glasses of red wine – not much. Now, why again is marijuana illegal??