In 1937, the United States government outlawed the Cannabis plant. Since then marijuana and hemp have also been prohibited. However, the legality of this herb may change in the state of California Nov. 2, if Proposition 19 is approved by voters.

If passed, Proposition 19 would legalize marijuana under California but not federal law. It would allow people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana (within the state) for personal use. The law will also permit a limited amount of non-medicinal commercial production, distribution, and sale of marijuana, which local governments could regulate and tax.

But if you go back to the reason why Cannabis was made illegal in the first place, we can see it was all very political and one-sided.

Many say the reason why Cannabis was made illegal was mainly because it was tricky to tax hemp, the stalk of the Cannabis Sativa plant, because it’s fairly easy to grow in a backyard. A lot of people could cultivate it in their backyards for their own profit. However, one of the other reasons for the prohibition, was because at that time William Randolph Hearst, a powerful American newspaper magnate, owned hundreds of acres of timber forest and paper mills, that manufactured paper from wood pulp. Because hemp could also be used to manufacture paper and had the advantage of easily maturing at a faster rate than other trees, he decided to associate hemp with marijuana and campaigned to outlaw it.

He was so against hemp agriculture that he also published many articles in his newspapers that questioned the legality of Cannabis. He didn’t truly care about outlawing marijuana; he was more concerned about losing millions of dollars in business had hemp continued to remain legal.

Hearst decided to join the anti-marijuana movement, which eventually lead to prohibition of the plant with the enactment Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

Marijuana also has a bad reputation, because it is seen as a “gateway” drug by many in the anti-drug community. It is the most frequently used drug in the United States, with nearly 69 million Americans over the age of 12 using it at least once. It is most commonly used however, by 18-25 year olds. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 16.4 percent of college students used marijuana in 2007.

There are three types of cannabis species–cannabis sativa, cannabis indica and cannabis ruderalis. The latter however, has lower levels of THC, which is a psychoactive molecule that produces the “high” associated with marijuana and is not used for the production of marijuana. Cannabis sativa is the only plant suited to produce hemp and also has lower levels of THC,
Legalizing cannabis will not only help the economy get back in shape, because those who smoke it can be taxed, but also because a great number of things can be made of hemp– clothes, fuel, food, as well as medicine, and it can be grown easily anywhere in the world. Hemp is far better and longer lasting than cotton. It also requires almost no use of pesticides, which makes it environmentally friendly.

Legalization of cannabis perhaps will create more jobs on farms and lower the state’s unemployment rate.

Opponents contend that Proposition 19 contain huge mistakes in the languages that will have severe, unintended consequences. These include preventing bus and trucking company to require their drivers be drug free. One superintendent also said that passage of the initiative could cost the states k-12 schools $9.4 billion in federal funding, and potentially rob colleges and universities of hundreds of millions in federal grants.

The California Chamber of Commerce also believes that because employers could no longer enforce a drug-free workplace businesses could lose public contracts.

The California Police Chiefs Association opposes the proposition, because it does not include a standard for what constitutes “driving under the influence.”

Finally, in 1996, California made marijuana legal for those using it for medicinal purposes. Cannabis should be decriminalized and made legal just like alcohol has been. It’s not as bad as it seems, especially because it’s an herb and helps many with pain, insomnia and depression. So why not let people take a legal dance with Mary Jane?

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