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Money, Lies, and Medicine

Cannabis legalization in America has been the subject of debate for more than a decade and slowly gaining momentum in several states like Colorado, Arizona, California, Virginia, New York and about 20 other states as of this year.

For states like Arkansas, there still remains a significant struggle to pass legislation for the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, making it legal for people to self-medicate or simply use it as a recreational drug as much as they want within the privacy of their home.

The biggest obstacle for making this controversial drug legal in Arkansas is the misinformation surrounding it; but, for many Americans, it is not publicly known why the drug was ever made illegal to begin with.

For a drug that can be naturally grown, has no severe side effects, and is known to provide relief or decrease medical ailments, it is a wonder why this plant has been deemed illegal for so long.

In order to get that answer, research points to the 1800’s for answers. According to an online article published by the History Channel, “Anglo-Americans and Europeans have known about marijuana’s medicinal benefits since at least the 1830s.”

The article continues by stating, “By the late 19th century, Americans and Europeans could buy cannabis extracts in pharmacies and doctors’ offices to help with stomach aches, migraines, inflammation, insomnia, and other ailments.”

This welcoming attitude toward cannabis changed after 1910, according to this article. During this period, there was also a significant migration of people from Mexico into America as a result of Mexico’s Revolutionary War that began in 1910 and lasted for 10 years. Like any other country at war, refugees fled their home and brought with them their own culture and habits. For some Mexicans, their habits included the recreational and medical use of cannabis.

Unfortunately for them, America used the fear of Mexican immigrants as a propaganda to ban cannabis by making unsubstantiated claims, and even going as far as renaming cannabis, marijuana, to associate it more closely to Mexican immigrants.

Some of the claims by law enforcement reported that cannabis incited violent behavior and that it would give users “supernatural” strength. Adding to the list, and to ensure its fear would impact families, they even gave false claims of “Mexicans selling marijuana to school children.”

The propaganda and fear tactics used by law enforcement and politicians resulted in the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937; but, according to this article, states had begun banning cannabis by 1916. By 1931, 29 states had banned marijuana use, showing the bigotry toward Mexicans was more important than the health and freedom of Americans.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon began the “war on drugs” by informing Congress that drug use was “public enemy number one,” and asked for $84 million to tackle it, as reported by Ed Vulliamy for The Guardian.

But again; this fear and propaganda was based on a lie, and Americans were left suffering again because of bigotry being prioritized over rationality. In an article written by Tom LoBianco in 2016 for CNN, domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman revealed in a 1994 interview that the war on drugs was “a political assault designed to help Nixon win, and keep, the White House.”

According to an article published by Scientific American, Attorney General John Mitchell listed marijuana as a Schedule I drug in 1972. Schedule I drugs are assumed to have no medical benefits and an increased rate of abuse.

As quoted in the article, Ehrlichman stated, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people… You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities… We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Medical marijuana is available as an oil, pill, vaporized liquid and nasal spray, as dried leaves and buds, and as the plant itself. The herb is typically used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with cancer treatment, loss of appetite, and weight loss associated with HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, chronic pain and muscle spasms.”

The Mayo Clinic also offers these considerations in relation to marijuana for medical usage, “Evidence has shown that marijuana can effectively treat chemotherapy-induced nausea. It might also reduce muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis and decrease the intensity of neuropathic pain. However, marijuana use can cause cognitive impairment and should be used with caution if you have a mental health condition. In many places, marijuana use is considered illegal for any purpose. Medical marijuana use is generally considered safe; but, different strains of marijuana have different amounts of THC. This can make dosing marijuana difficult.”

In terms of marijuana being labeled a gateway drug, that simply is not true. In a 2022, an article written by Jenna Fletcher for Medical News Today, the concept of marijuana or alcohol as a gateway drug has not held up to scientific research in recent history, and stated that the causes for drug usage or addiction could be due to environmental or social factors.”

Considering the facts, it is clear that many people who benefit from the medical usage of marijuana have been denied pain relief and comfort, which impacts their quality of life and their ability to function in a reasonable manner because of the bigotry and racism of social and political leaders.

If America wishes to learn from its mistakes, it must legalize marijuana and eradicate the criminal records of everyone who has been convicted and imprisoned for the usage, transportation, distribution and sale of this natural drug that has not proven worthy of being deemed illegal solely because of its own attributes.

America must also hold people accountable for using racism and bigotry as political and social justifications of denying people their rights. In all of its history in America, marijuana has been surrounded by controversies involving lies, although its revenue has proven to improve cities and states on its own and provide genuine medical benefits to those in pain and suffering.

-Cliff A. May


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