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The Legalization Of Marijuana: Part I

Ole Miss Is The Center For Growing

Legal Marijuana In The U.S.


Dennis M. Yates

Every person in the United States has heard of the illicit substance called marijuana. Yet, unknown to most people, there is one place in the United States where marijuana is grown legally. That place is the Medicinal Plant Garden, right here at the University of Mississippi.

The Medicinal Plant Garden, a part of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (RIPS) is part of the Marijuana Plant Facility The garden is over 20 years old, but the laboratory was created only four years ago.

According to Dr. Mahmoud Elsohly, research scientist for RIPS, the laboratory of the Medicinal Plant Facility is used to study various applications of marijuana. For example, the scientists grow marijuana to test its physical makeup, analyze marijuana confiscated by the DEA, law enforcement agencies, and various narcotics groups, to find the potency ratings of the drugs, and extract THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) from plants they harvested.

One project that the Medicinal Plant Facility is currently working on is a medicine made from THC for use in a suppository form to replace Marinol, a capsule made of 95 percent THC and used for nausea and vomiting problems in cancer patients as well as fighting the wasting sickness, or anorexia-cachexia, suffered by 70 to 90 percent of AIDS patients.

Another practice done by the lab is to send marijuana to the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina for use in the Compassionate IND program. This program gives marijuana to people who use it to allieviate symptoms of their diseases, such as glaucoma, cancer, and AIDS victims. However, there are only a small handfull (about eight people) receiving the marijuana, out of several thousand who have applied.

Marijuana has been used by many cultures for various ailments. Israeli scientists, for example, found the skeleton of a fourth century woman who they believed died in childbirth. Ashes nearby were found to be the burned remains of the cannabis, or marijuana, plant. The scientists say this suggests that ancient Middle Eastern women used inhaled marijuana smoke to reduce labor pains.

These days, the medical profession have found several applications for the marijuana plant. In medicine, THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) has been found again and again to help patients battling the life-threatening diseases of cancer and AIDS to fight the intense nausea that causes their wasting sickness. Marijuana also helps glaucoma (an eye disease that causes blindness) victims by reducing the interocular pressure. It reduces, sometimes eliminating altogether, the seizures of epileptic patients, along with reducing nerve disorders of multiple sclerosis patients. As a final interesting note, a recent discovery by a South Florida doctor concerns the fact that if THC is placed in a test tube with the herpes virus, the THC will kill the herpes virus.

The Legalization Of Marijuana: Part II

Many Opposed, But Some Support

Making Marijuana A Legal Crop


Dennis M. Yates

On April 6, 1995, ABC News ran a special titled "America's War On Drugs: Searching For Solutions" in which an alternative to the currently failing War On Drugs was given: legalization. It showed the American public a new way to look at the situation. New for most of America, at least. Several people have been saying for years that marijuana should be a legal crop and that possession should no more be a crime than alcohol.

Take for example the case of Judge James P. Gray, a California state superior court judge with what most people would consider conservative views. His proposal to legalize marijuana, along with heroin and cocaine, has generally been well received from the people that have heard him speak on the subject. In an interview, Gray recalled one person in particular.

"I got one letter recently from a man who started out disagreeing with me but by the time he finished his letter he was volunteering to go out and speak publicly in favor of legalization. He basically convinced himself just by going over it."

Several other people, both famous and not, agree that legalization is an answer that deserves consideration. The Board of Directors of NORML (the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws) reads like a "Who's Who" of science. The board consists of Dr. Kary Mullis, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry; Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Harvard Medical School professor and author of Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine; Dr. Louis Lasagna, chairman of the National Academy of Sciences committee that studied marijuana and dean of the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University; Ann Druyan, secretary of the Federation of Scientists and, along with husband Carl Sagan, co-producer of the PBS series Cosmos; Dr. John Morgan, author of the drug abuse section in the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy; David Boaz of the Cato Institute; Dr. Barbara Ehrenreich, columnist for The Guardian in London and essayist for Time; Richard Evans, Esq.; New York State Senator Joseph Galiber; Dr. Dale Gieringer of the California NORML chapter; Dr. Ansley Hamid of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Dr. John Morgan from the City University of New York Medical School; Dan Viets, Esq., of the Missouri NORML chapter; Dr. Lynn Zimmerman of Queens College; and Keith Stroup, Esq., founder of NORML.

Three other people who feel marijuana should be legalized are Robert Randall from Washington and Kenny and Barbra Jenks of Panama City, Florida. All three receive marijuana cigarettes from the medical marijuana fields right here in Oxford, Mississippi. For Randall, the marijuana keeps his glaucoma, a degenerative eye disease that is the leading cause of blindness, at bay, something conventional medications failed to do. In 1988, the Jenkses began AZT treatment for AIDS, a treatment that causes extreme nausea in its users. It caused Barbra to lose 40 pounds within a month, one-third of her body weight. With marijuana, the nausea both suffered from disappeared.

Another person suggesting legalization comes from the Drug Enforcement Agency's own organization. Francis L. Young, administrative judge for the DEA, recommended that marijuana be moved from a Schedule I substance (no therapeudic uses) to Schedule II (a useful drug that can be prescribed by a doctor). In his report, he stated that "In layman's terms...in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much cannabis as is contained in one marijuana cigarette... A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of cannabis to induce a lethal response..." and concluded with "The administrative law judge recommends that the Administrator conclude that the cannabis plant considered as a whole has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, that there is no lack of accepted safety for use of it under medical supervision and that it may be lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II." Unfortunately, in docket number 90-1020 in April 1991, the DEA made their position clear: "The DEA Administrator exercised with a vengeance his prerogative to reject the recommended decision."

The Legalization Of Marijuana: Part III

When Prosecuted, Violators

Face Harsh Penalties


Dennis M. Yates

There is one overriding danger to today's average marijuana consumer. It isn't brain damage, it isn't lung cancer, it isn't going crazy and shooting every thing that moves. No, the largest danger is the fact that, if they are caught, they will be arrested.

Marijuana is illegal for one simple reason: marijuana is illegal. Currently, it is considered by many health officials to be one of the safest therapudic substances known to man. In a nationwide survey of cancer therapists, 50 percent of them said they would prescribe marijuana if it were legal, while 44 percent admitted they did recommend marijuana to patients. Francis L. Young, the administrative judge for the Drug Enforcement Agency, said "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeudically active substances known to man."

Mississippi is a state that has decriminalized marijuana possession, meaning that a first offense for possession for personal useage cannot include prison time or a criminal record. Instead, it is treated much like a traffic violation. For possession of marijuana with a total weight of less than or equal to an ounce, the fine is $100 to $250. From one ounce up to a kilogram, however, the fine goes to $1,000 and jail time for a year can be served. A kilogram or over can give the possessor up to 20 years and a fine from $1,000 to $1,000,000. For sale or delivery of less than one ounce of marijuana, the criminal can be jailed for up to three years and face fines for $3,000. For amounts greater than or equal to an ounce, the jail time jumps to up to 20 years and the fines to $30,000.

Amounts greater than or equal to a kilogram entail jail time for up to 30 years and fines from $100,000 to $1,000,000. If the possessor has over ten pounds, the punishment is life in prison without parole. In addition, the punishment for any sale to a minor and sale within 1,500 feet of a school will both double the punishment.

The federal laws on marijuana possession are even more harsh. Possession of any amount has a fine of $10,000 and a possible one year prison term. Growing, delivering or selling less than 100 kilograms has a fine of $1,000,000 and up to 20 years in prison, whereas 100 kilograms or more has a fine of up to $2,000,000 and a prison term from 5 to 20 years. Over 1,000 kilograms, the fine becomes $10,000,000 and the prison term jumps to 10 years to life. Distribution within 1,000 feet of a playground or school (including public or private colleges or sales to minors) or within 100 feet of a youth center, public pool, or video arcade, the penalty doubles with a mandatory minimum of one year in prison unless the amount is under five grams.

A relatively new practice that flew across the U.S. within the past few years are what are known as the forfeiture laws. These rules allow law enforcement to confiscate items from a marijuana-user's possession if there is a belief the item in question was bought with "drug money," money gained from illegal drug trades.

Unfortunately, many people are frightened from possible abuses from the forfeiture laws. For example, in Ventura County, California, District Attorney Michael D. Bradford released a document titled "Report on the Death of Donald Scott," which claimed that Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Gary R. Spenser filed a false affidavit to receive a search warrant to the 200-acre ranch of Donald Scott. In the raid following issuance of the search warrant, Spenser shot the 61-year-old Scott twice, killing him. The report concluded "Based in part upon the possibility of forfeiture, Spencer obtained a search warrant that was not supported by probable cause. This search warrant became Donald Scott's death warrant." When Bradbury was interviewed by ABC's 20/20 and asked if the lure of revenue gained by the forfeiture laws were corrupting law enforcement officials, Bradbury said "In my opinion, yes."

Another problem with the current marijuana laws is prison overcrowding. According to the Federal Bureau of Justice statistics, 59,000 inmates were added to the already overcrowded prisons in 1992 to a record 833,600 inmates nationwide. This is a greater than 160 percent increase since 1982 and is mostly attributed to drug violators.


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