Legalization of Marijuana
By: Sarah Regester

Legalization of marijuana has been an issue for a long time.

Marijuana was first brought up as an issue in 1915. It had since then became

a much bigger issue in the 1960’s and is now being considered for medical

purposes in the 1990’s. Some of the issue’s faced can be described as:

Legalization for medical purposes and legalization for insufficient reasons

(i.e.: smoking it just for own joys ). ( Brownell, 71 ).

As a classroom exercise in an upward division university course in

abnormal psychology, an instructor began assessing students attitudes

toward marijuana in 1965. Periodic surveys were continued since that time

because of their value in guiding classroom discussion on drug issues.

( Sommer, 67 ).

An additional issue in the analysis discussed above is the effect of the

increased reduction on marijuana penalties that took place in 1976, in

California. Up until this time people could be arrested on felony charges

and faced possible prison terms for marijuana possession. After the law

changed possession of an ounce or less of marijuana became minor and was

punished by a maximum fine of $100.00. Opposing sides argued that

reduced penalties would result in greater public acceptance of marijuana.

That would mean that there would be an increase in the amount of people

who would be caught and punished for possessing marijuana.

( Sommer, 67 ).

The annual survey of freshman, which has been sponsored by

American Counsel on Education since 1966, includes an item relating to the

legislation of marijuana. Austin, Green, and Korn ( 1987 ) indicated that

results over a twenty year period show distinctly conservative trends.

( Sommer, 67 ).

In 1968, for example, fewer than one in five students supported

legislation. The base of support increased consistently over the next decade

and by 1977 the majority of freshman ( 53% ) favored legislation. Since that

time there has been an equally sharp decline in interest. In 1985, only 22%

of entering freshman supported legislation. A national survey of high school

seniors found increasing approval of marijuana between 1975 and 1977,

followed by a substantial reversal of that trend. ( Johnston, O’malley, and

Bachman 1986; Johnston, Bachman, and O’malley 1980 ). ( Sommer, 67 ).

The possession of marijuana has always been punishable in some way.

For half a century, California strictly punished marijuana offenders, and

prison sentences were not uncommon, especially if you were a poor white or

of racial and cultural minorities. During the 1950’s marijuana penalties

were at their harshest in most of the nation, although use was not that

widespread among white Americans. From 1961 till 1968 the laws reached

their climax in California when simple possession of as little as one

marijuana cigarette could land you a minimum mandatory sentence of one

year in a state prison. Then the dam broke. Despite the incredibly harsh

penalties that accompanied marijuana use in the 60’s arrests in California

jumped 13 fold--- from 3,794 in 1961 to 50,327 in 1968--- when the costs of

enforcing California’s marijuana laws hit an estimated $72 million annually

from approximately $6 million in 1961 ( California Senate Select

Committee, 1974 ) ( Brownell, 71 )

Now in the 1990’s marijuana is still a major issue but this time it is

legalization for medical purposes. In August of 1996, two months after

proposition 215 qualified for California ballot, drug “Czar” Barry

McCaffrey offered his first public assessment of the medical-marijuana

initiative. “ There is not a shred of scientific evidence that shows that

smoked marijuana is useful or needed,” he said. “ This is not science. This

is not medicine. This is a cruel hoax that sound like something out of a

cheech and Chong show.” ( Sullum, 42-4 )

Voters in California and Arizona passed initiative approving the

medical use of pot. Since then , a National Institutes of Health panel has

heard testimony from researchers, physicians, and activists—as well as

patients who smoke marijuana as a relief to their medical problems. ( Zieger,

70 ).

One case is in Hollywood, Florida where a 57 year old woman suffers

from glaucoma and smokes weed as medicine. Her doctor said, “ it has

helped her out .. not only with the glaucoma but it has also helped to save

her one good eye.” ( Zieger,