Critique of Keith Stroup’s “Statement on Marijuana Usage”

Student #44
Prof. Laura Elizabeth
English 102
February 8, 1999

The “Statement on Marijuana Usage”, written by Keith Stroup, was presented to the Subcommittee on Crime and the House Committee on the Judiciary in favor of the legalization of marijuana. This statement can be found in the Current Issues Source File through the University’s library web page. Stroup’s argument presented in his “Statement on Marijuana Usage” consists of different claims supported by factual reasoning to stress the view that marijuana should be legalized because “far more harm is caused by marijuana prohibition than by marijuana itself” (Stroup 1).
Stroup structures his argument in an orderly fashion by opening with his main claim, that “arresting and jailing otherwise law-abiding citizens who happen to be marijuana smokers serves no legitimate societal purpose” (1). He supports this claim by making the point that his organization, NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), does not believe that marijuana is totally harmless or that it can not be abused, but it is much less harmful than the use of tobacco or alcohol. He says this on the grounds that marijuana is not physically addictive, and it does not kill brain cells but relapses them. Stroup begins by addressing the above condition of rebuttal first and then presenting his reason. This makes his point a little harder to disagree with.
After stating that the use of marijuana is not as harmful as the use of tobacco or alcohol Stroup elaborates on facts about recreational marijuana smokers. He explains that they are very common, and millions of middle class Americans prefer marijuana as their recreational drug of choice. Furthermore, many successful people with families and responsibilities such as businessmen, professional leaders, and federal elected officials have admitted to smoking marijuana. To help support the accusation that marijuana smoking is common Stroup states, “According to most recent NIDA data, between 65 and 71 million Americans have smoked marijuana at some time in their lives, and 10 million are current smokers (have smoked as at least once in the last month)” (2). Along with the fact that marijuana smoking is so common Stroup makes the point that they are just like non-smokers except for the fact that they choose to smoke marijuana rather than consume an alcoholic beverage. Because of the laws against marijuana though they have much more to risk than the non-smoker.
Because smoking marijuana is common and not as dangerous as alcohol does not mean it cannot be abused. The aspects of responsible marijuana use are necessary for the reasoning behind Stroup’s claim. He states, “At NORML, we believe that marijuana smokers, like those who drink alcohol, have a responsibility to behave appropriately and to assure that their recreational drug use is conducted in a responsible manner” (2). These aspects consist of the following: that cannabis is for adults only, that one should not drive under the influence of cannabis, that there is a proper set and setting for the use of cannabis, that one should resist the abuse of cannabis, and that one should respect the rights of others. These responsibilities are also true for the use of alcohol.
After describing the responsibilities that are necessary for legal marijuana usage Stroup goes on to give more reasons why the war against marijuana should be brought to an end. Stroup further indicates that people innocent of everything else are arrested everyday plainly for the use of marijuana. He notes 84% of the arrests that were made last year were for possession, not sale. Stroup explains this statistic by saying, “Those were functioning people in society that lead real lives and that support families, but because of the law against marijuana they are now labeled as criminals” (3). Stroup also brings up the issue that the decriminalization of marijuana has been done before which makes things a lot easier for both the police and the smoker. The marijuana smoker is spared the indignity of a criminal charge if caught and the police are free to focus on more serious crime.
Next Stroup attacks the condition of rebuttal that if marijuana were legalized then more kids would have access to it. This is not true because marijuana sales would become a legal affair thus there would