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Shifting American Views on Marijuana Use

With popular opinion of this marijuana changing, Americans may want to take another look at what cannabis is, what it is for, and how it’s affecting our culture. In 2012 the citizens of Washington and Colorado voted to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana in their states. With federal government approval, these states are working out the means in which they sell and tax cannabis use. In Oregon and California similar laws were barely defeated and it’s only a matter of time before public opinion continues to sway in favor of less legal restrictions on pot use by private citizens. Other states, such as Maryland, are decriminalizing possession of 10g or less. It seems lawmakers are shifting their perception in this area of the “War on Drugs.” Perhaps our jails are better filled with violent offenders and not area bakers who like to add a little something to their brownies.

Marijuana, also known as pot, weed, Mary Jane and many other names, is a preparation of the cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug for medicinal or recreational use. Cannabis is often consumed for its psychoactive and physiological effects, which can include heightened mood or euphoria and relaxation. Another symptom, increase in appetite known in pot-smoking circles as “the munchies,” may be wanted or unwanted depending on the user. Additional unwanted side-effects can sometimes include a decrease in short-term memory, dry mouth, impaired motor skills, reddening of the eyes and feelings of paranoia or anxiety.

What makes this list of poor side-effects so much worse than those caused by alcohol or tobacco? If these items can be legal with government restrictions, then perhaps citizens can be trusted with the legalization of marijuana as well. Gone are the days when pot smoking was only associated with the “dazed and confused” hippies or slackers. Perception began to shift with the growing popularity of using cannabis medicinally. The irony that tobacco, proven to cause cancer is legal, whereas marijuana, believed to help cancer patients, was not, has finally become apparent to a “high” percentage of citizens. (Pardon the pun.) Cannabis has been used to reduce nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy and people with AIDS and to treat pain and muscle spasticity.

Even so, the medicinal value of cannabis is disputed, the cannabis plant has a history of medicinal use dating back thousands of years across many cultures. Its usage in modern times is controversial. In recent years the American Medical Association, the MMA, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and other medical organizations have issued statements opposing its usage for medicinal purposes dismissing the concept of medical cannabis because the plant fails to meet its standard requirements for approved medicines. Which is probably why the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government still has the right to regulate and criminalize cannabis even for medical purposes. But presidents dating back to Nixon and Carter have spoken in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana. President Carter has said, “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself; and where they are, they should be changed. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marijuana in private for personal use.”

As cultural perception of marijuana use continues to shift, don’t be surprised if more states move toward decriminalizing the possession and use of cannabis. Perhaps more Americans will come to understand what legendary pot smoker Bob Marley meant when he said, “When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself.”

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