History of Marijuana and How It Became Illegal

Marijuana is one of the most widespread and controversial narcotic substances in the world. The first reference to marijuana dates back to 2737 B.C. in the writings of the Chinese emperor Shen Nung (History of marijuana, 2013). In ancient China, marijuana was used mainly as medication for malaria, gout, rheumatism. However, its euphoric properties were also known. In India as well as in some Muslim countries, marijuana was predominantly used for recreational purposes. It is supposed that marijuana was brought to the New World in 1545 by the Spanish (History of marijuana, 2013). In Europe, marijuana became wide-spread in the 19th century thanks to Napoleon's soldiers. In North America, marijuana was brought by both European colonists and from Mexico. Its popularity soared in the period of Prohibition when it was used for recreation instead of alcohol. Once the Prohibition laws were repealed, marijuana spread significantly decreased. People started to use it mainly for medicinal purposes.


Marijuana became illegal in the U.S.A. in 1937 through the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act. It illegalized possession and use of the drug without the possession of a special tax stamp. In order to obtain such a stamp, a person should have proved that he/she possessed the drug, which in turn led to fine and 5-year imprisonment. Such complicated measures to illegalize the drug were necessary as the federal government did not have enough powers to prohibit marijuana in the entire country because of the Tenth Amendment. The most interesting thing is that the process of illegalizing of marijuana is associated with miscellaneous falsifications, lies, propaganda, and secrets. In the medicine of that time, the drug was best known as cannabis and the creators of the Stamp Act altered the spelling of marijuana to marihuana, thus making it difficult for many people to understand which drug they were going to prohibit (Block, 2012). When the American Medical Association realized which drug was to be prohibited, they strongly opposed the movement. Its representative Dr. William C. Woodward claimed that We cannot understand yet, Mr. Chairman, why this bill should have been prepared in secret for 2 years without an intimation, even, to the profession, that it was being prepared (Block, 2012). Prior to the prohibition, marijuana was used not only as a drug (either medical or recreational), but its oil was used as a water-repellant, lubricant. It was involved in paint manufacture and was predicted to become a profitable renewable energy crop, which was brought to a halt once it was illegalized (Block, 2012). Some states limited recreational use of the drug prior it was federally banned, for instance, it happened in Washington, D.C. in 1906, in California in 1913, in Wyoming in 1915, in Texas in 1919, and in Iowa in 1923 (Block, 2012). The main advocates of illegalizing marijuana were Harry J. Anslinger and William Randolph Hearst. In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the Marihuana Tax Stamp Act of 1937 was unconstitutional because it required that the person seeking a tax stamp incriminate himself in direct violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Block, 2012). The federal government solved this matter by passing the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 claiming that interstate commerce was the ground for the authority (Block, 2012). Since then, it has been classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, alongside heroin, opium, morphine, LSD, and ecstasy (Block, 2012). Since 1937, more than 20 million Americans have been arrested because of cannabis-related crimes.

The current States that Legalized Marijuana in Any Form (Medical or Recreation)

Marijuana has been legalized in many states in some form. At the moment, only two states Colorado and Washington allow to legally use marijuana for recreational purposes. However, 20 states have passed laws allowing medical use of marijuana: Alaska (1998), Arizona (2010), California (1996), Colorado (2000), Connecticut (2012), Washington, D.C. (2011), Delaware (2011), Hawaii (2000), Illinois (2013), Maine (1999), Massachusetts (2012), Michigan (2008), Montana (2004), Nevada (2000), New Hampshire (2013), New Jersey (2010), New Mexico (2007), Oregon (1998), Rhode Island (2006), and Vermont (2004) (20 legal, 2013). Furthermore, nowadays there is a House of Representatives bill entitled Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013. It aims at limiting federal interference with state jurisdiction concerning the legalization of marijuana for any purpose. The list of states that have pledged their support to the bill includes Washington, Colorado, California, Oregon, Vermont, Alaska, Arizona, District of Columbia, Michigan, Virginia, Illinois, Florida, Wisconsin, and Tennessee (Bullock, 2013).

Different Laws Regarding Marijuana in Different States Including Florida

Different states have different laws regarding marijuana. Thus, use and possession of the drug are regulated by the Washington Rev. Code Articles like 69.50.204, 9A.20.021, 69.50.4014, 69.50.4013, 69.50.425, 69.50.430, 69.50.401, 69.50.406 (2), 69.50.412, 69.50.410, 7.80.120, 69.50.4121, and some others (Washington laws, 2013). The state law allows personal use of marijuana: 1oz or less demand no penalties and fines, while possession of up to 40 g is treated as a misdemeanor with a fine of $1,000 (Washington laws, 2013). Possession of more than 40 g is considered as a felony with 5 years of imprisonment (Washington laws, 2013). At the same time, sale, distribution, and cultivation are felonies with fines up to $10,000 and 5-year imprisonment.

In Florida, marijuana-related issues are regulated by Florida Criminal Code, for instance, articles 893.13, 775.082, 893.135, and some others: Possession of 20 grams or less is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 1 year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000, while possession of more than 20 g is a felony calling for 5-year imprisonment (Florida laws, 2013). If a person possesses 25 or more plants, he/she will be convicted of a felony and may receive a 15-year imprisonment sentence and will have to pay a fine of $10,000 (Florida laws, 2013). Sale of more than 20 g is a felony with heavy fines and 5-30 years in prison depending on the amount (Florida laws, 2013).

In the state of New York, marijuana-related issues are regulated by New York Public Health Law (articles 3306(d)(13) and 3306(d)(21)) and New York Pen. Code articles (for example, articles 221, 70, 80, etc.) (New York law, 2013). In this state, punishment for possession for personal use differs depending on the amount and whether it is a first offense. Thus, for a first offender, possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is punishable by a fine of $100. Possession of marijuana in excess of 25 grams but less than 2 ounces is a class B misdemeanor and is punishable by no more than 3 months imprisonment (New York law, 2013). Sale of more than 25 g is a felony while cultivation is a misdemeanor. In terms of medicinal use of marijuana, laws across states differ from the ones mentioned afore, for instance, in Washington possession limit is 24oz usable and 15 plants (20 legal, 2013).

Contradiction between the Federal Law and State Law on This Matter

State laws permitting the use of marijuana for any purpose are in direct contradiction with the federal law: The current legal status of marijuana appears to be both contradictory and in a state of flux: As a matter if federal law, activities related to marijuana are generally prohibited and punishable by criminal penalties, whereas at the state level, certain marijuana usage is increasingly being permitted, claims the report of the Justice Department (The issue, 2013). The study also stated that the federal government did not possess enough resources to prosecute and punish every person who violated the federal law concerning marijuana. The issue of contradiction between the federal law and state laws has become especially acute since Washington and Colorado decided to legalize marijuana for recreational use in November. Legally, the federal government could start a litigation process against states that legalize marijuana. Nevertheless, it seems doubtful that the result of such actions would be positive. Besides, President Obama claimed that recreational users of marijuana in states that have legalized the substance should not be the top priority of federal law enforcement officials prosecuting the war on drugs as weve got bigger fish to fry (The issue, 2013). The bipartisan bill Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013 could become a solution of the problem of contradiction as it represents a commonsense approach that established federal government respect for all states marijuana laws as it would keep the federal government out of the business of criminalizing marijuana activities in states that dont want it to be criminal (The issue, 2013). On September 10, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a meeting concerning this issue entitled Updated Witness List and Time Change: Conflicts between State and Federal Marijuana Laws (United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 2013).

Floridas Position

Currently, marijuana use is illegal in the state of Florida, but the action has risen to legalize it at least with medical purposes. Thus, there has been a proposal on the 2014 ballot to legalize medical use of marijuana in Florida supported by John Morgan who is going to sponsor the petition (March, 2013). In order for the proposal to succeed, petitioners have to gather about 1 million signatures by November, which observers claim to be a rather realistic task in the current circumstances. Besides, in May, there was a marijuana summit at the Joseph Caleb Center organized by the Urban League of Greater Miami (Miami area, 2013). The situation in the state testifies to the fact that the general population would be for legalizing marijuana. Thus, legislators and officials hold various meetings to discuss this controversial and topical issue.

Profitability of Legalizing Marijuana and Impact on the Crime Rate

The Cato Institute has recently conducted a study aimed at revealing potential profitability of legalizing marijuana. Although exact data on the marijuana market are unavailable, it is approximately estimated that legalizing marijuana would generate $8.7 billion in federal and state tax revenue annually (Fairchild, 2013). Washington has estimated that it will receive about $1.9 billion as additional revenue in five years after legalization of the drug (Fairchild, 2013). Furthermore, marijuana is the greatest revenue producer of all agricultural products grown in the U.S. with production values of about $36 billion per year (Legalization will reduce, 2010). Besides, it is widely believed that legalization of marijuana will have a positive impact on the reduction of crime rate and violence in the country. It would enable the police to concentrate on more serious crimes rather than on arresting and prosecuting marijuana users. It is not true that police officers ignore marijuana smokers as, for instance, in 2009, the police arrested about 850,000 people for such allegations (Legalization will reduce, 2010). Besides, once the drug becomes legal, it would reduce crimes associated with ways of trying to purchase it or obtain it in some other way.

Overall Opinion on Why Marijuana Should Be Legalized

All things considered, I suppose that legalization of marijuana in the U.S.A. has more benefits than possible shortcomings. As long as the drug is illegal, thousands of people with medical conditions that could have been relieved with marijuana suffer from terrible pain as they have problems with obtaining the necessary medication. The government loses billions in revenues from taxes, and the police focus on marijuana-related issues instead of concentrating on serious crimes like thefts and murders. At the same time, the general population finds illegal ways of acquiring marijuana. Therefore, there is no sense in keeping marijuana illegal as it would bring more good than harm to legalize it or, at least to allow states to legalize it without violating the federal law. Citizens of the U.S.A. should decide whether this law would be adopted. Taking into consideration the current social mood, it seems that they would be for legalizing marijuana.

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