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            It is safe to say that marijuana use will never be agreed
upon; some view it as beneficial, while others deem it as harmful to our
society. Those who do use it, may use it for different reasons. A person may
use it for medical reasons, such as for glaucoma or even for social anxiety,
while another person may use it recreationally, to “get high” and have fun.
Whatever it may be, people will always have their differences about the drug,
which is completely understandable. Unquestionably, however, the path cannabis
has taken to become legalized is truly unique.

            Cannabis remains illegal under federal law, regardless of
whether it is used for medical or recreational use. The Controlled Substances
Act, CSA, is the statute that
created five classifications that lists substances into categories based on
different qualifications. For example, marijuana is classified as a schedule 1
drug, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and is perceived to have
no medical use. Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 and was
signed into law by President Richard Nixon, becoming effective on May 1, 1971. The
drug was classified as Schedule 1,
along with LSD and heroin. President Nixon’s motive for this was due to his
dislike of the culture which he associated marijuana with, rather than for
scientific, medical, or legal opinion. On March 22, 1972, chairman Raymond P.
Shafer of the Shafer Commission, also known as the National Commission on
Marihuana and Drug Abuse, appointed by Nixon, presented a report to Congress that
recommended that marijuana be decriminalized. During that time, the public held
more negative views of marijuana, seeing it as a dangerous drug. In this
report, it was stated that cannabis users were found to be more drowsy, timid,
and passive, and therefore cannabis did not cause a danger to society. The Commission’s
proposition, however, was rejected in 1974.

            As time went on, support from citizens for access to
marijuana for medical and recreational use grew, from activism to petitions. Moreover,
state interest in medical marijuana began to grow in the 1970’s. In February of
1978, New Mexico became the first state to pass a law that recognized the
medical value of marijuana. This whole time, the federal government had deemed
marijuana as “evil,” prohibiting its use and restricting much research. The
Baby Boomer generation, unlike the previous generation, realized through either
personal experience or observation of other users that marijuana was not
actually as bad as the federal government was making it out to be. At this
time, many activist groups such as
the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, began to advocate for the legalization of medical
marijuana. Fast forward to 1996, California became the first state to legalize
medical cannabis. Today, there are 29 states in the US that have legalized
medical cannabis. In recent years, as even more people saw that marijuana was
becoming legal for medicinal use and that it was not causing dangers to
society, more activist groups were started to promote efforts to legalize cannabis
for recreational use. In many states, these efforts have led successful campaigns;
the recreational use of marijuana is legal in 9 states. Colorado and Washington
were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 years or
older in 2012. Many are happy about this as they feel like punishments for the
nonviolent users are too harsh and simply unnecessary. There have been many
calls to reschedule the drug as many people now believe that cannabis does have
some medical value. However, no large-scale clinical trials on marijuana have
been conducted, so there is no way to be certain of its medical value. As
cannabis is still strictly regulated by the federal government as a Schedule 1
drug, it makes it more difficult to conduct these studies. Regardless of all
this, the US has come a long way with cannabis- more states are legalizing its
use, whether it be for therapeutic effects or recreational use.

            It is unquestionable that the public has had a tremendous impact on the legalization of cannabis.
Public sentiment has changed within the past 30 years; prior to the early 70’s,
the public viewed cannabis as a rather dangerous drug, strongly influenced by
the federal government. Over time, however, as more people began to experiment
first hand with marijuana, they believed that it was not all that bad, so there
was more public effort to legalize it. In many states, these advocates were
successful as those states have legalized it for recreational or medical use. As
cannabis use is becoming more acceptable and legal, calls to reschedule
cannabis are being made, but with no large-scale clinical trials, this will be
nearly impossible to happen. The path that cannabis has taken to become
legalized is truly unique.


Caulkins, Jonathan
P., Beau Kilmer, Mark A. R. Kleiman, Robert J. MacCoun, Greg Midgette, Pat
Oglesby, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, and Peter H. Reuter. Considering Marijuana
Legalization: Insights for Vermont and Other Jurisdictions. Santa Monica, CA:
RAND Corporation, 2015.

Lopez, German.
“Marijuana Is Illegal under Federal Law Even in States That Legalize
It.” Vox. N.p., 22 Jan. 2018. Web. 22 Jan. 2018.

Martin, Scott C.
“Marijuana in the United States: How Attitudes Have Changed.” Time.
Time, 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 22 Jan. 2018.

Siff, Stephen. “The
Illegalization of Marijuana: A Brief History.” Origins 7.8 (2014): n. pag.
The Illegalization of Marijuana: A Brief History | Origins: Current Events in
Historical Perspective. May 2014. Web. 21 Jan. 2018.