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Drug Policy in America: The Issue of Marijuana Legalization

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Throughout American history drug laws and policies have impacted the research of controlled substances along with our justice system. Over the past century, the US has stepped up border security, increased arrests and lengthened sentences for drug offenses. Many current illegal drugs like opium and psychedelics were used for thousands of years for medical and spiritual purposes. The first anti-cocaine laws were created in the early 1900’s followed by anti-marijuana laws in the 1920’s; these laws were directed at black men in the south. Similarly, today black and Latino communities are still subject to disproportionate enforcement and sentencing practices. Since the 70’s when Nixon declared the “War on Drugs” there has been a political hysteria about drugs. Due to this the rates of incarcerations and the number of people in prison for nonviolent drug law offenses has increased. But during the presidency of Barack Obama, his administration was devoted to the prevention and treatment of drug abuse.

Today marijuana has undergone an unprecedented reform by becoming legal in many states. Drug policies are constantly changing and adapting to our society, these laws do however affect the way we research controlled substances. Research on controlled substances is something that must be done to ensure the safety and importance of “drugs”. Sometimes state laws differ from federal and this can impact the way people research controlled substances. Currently, it is extremely difficult to research drugs classified as schedule 1. To be a schedule 1 drug it must have protentional for abuse, have no accepted medical use and lack safety under medical supervision. Even if the medical use has been found there is no agreed policy to move drugs out of schedule 1; this is also true for marijuana.

Many believe the difficulty in researching drugs is due to politics. For example, in the UK to do the research you need a license that can take up to a year to receive and costs thousands of pounds (Nutt p. 579). Similarly, in Canada, it took 4 years to import MDMA from Switzerland to be tested for research (Nutt p. 579). This difficulty impedes not only research but results and development of society. Studies have shown that people who suffer from PTSD can be helped with the use of MDMA; this is because MDMA can reduce brain response to threats (Nutt p. 581). Similarly, marijuana has shown to help people with HIV regain appetite and reduce nausea (Andreae p. 36) while LSD helped people with terminal cancer “cope better” (Nutt p. 581). These facts are ignored because governments want to control the population and not benefit it. Not only is research slowed by the requirements of schedule 1 drug laws, but we are also studying the wrong aspects. More research is done to prove how addictive something is rather than its benefits.

Although it is important to know the adverse effects of drugs it’s also crucial to understand their benefits too. My father served in the Marines during the Vietnam war; unfortunately, when he returned he suffered and continues to suffer from PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD often have a high prevalence of drug or alcohol abuse. There is a complex relationship between substance abuse, addiction, and PTSD that affects about 8 in 100 people. Exposure to combat increased one’s drug use as forms of avoidance and numbing (Meisler p. 2). Many of who suffer from PTSD self-medicate with alcohol to try and decrease anxiety levels. Personally, I think there should be more programs in place for when people return from war to help them cope with any trauma. Besides that, there also needs to be more research done on drugs that might be able to subside the effects of PTSD; for example, MDMA. “Traumatic memories are so powerful and distressing that they cannot tolerate the emotions resulting from the recall..” (Nutt p. 581).

MDMA can be used to reduce the brain response to these threats! From my personal experience families and real lives are affected by PTSD and drug usage. We need to increase our knowledge of the use of drugs to help benefit people who suffer from PTSD. An increase in studies using schedule 1 drugs to cope with PTSD can assist families but more importantly people who’ve served. Social views and usage of drugs have changed drastically over time. It is very obvious that certain schedule 1 drugs have important therapeutic potential. Some drugs can relieve people of certain symptoms from chronic conditions. With this knowledge, there should be constant studies searching for the benefits of certain drugs not just their negative aspects. As discussed before studies can be done more easily if the laws and licensing rules permitted it. Policymakers should allow research to proceed without being swayed by political agendas. Preconceptions and prejudices are a suppression of justice. Scientific research and discovery are necessary and vital for the future of our society and the human race!

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