Marijuana Legislation: the role of the media Essay

Marijuana has different names around the world. These include grass, Mary Jane, weed, hemp, chronic, reefer among others. Marijuana in most nations around the world is categorized as an illegal drug and its use is outlawed. However, there are alternative uses of marijuana ranging from the production of animal feeds, plastic products among other use. There was an increase in the recreational use of the drug in the 1930’s.This was due to a number of factors including the Great depression, an increase in public resentment and a massive increase in unemployment levels in the nation. In 1937, there was the Marijuana Tax Act that effectively made the use of cannabis illegal although it did not mention anything to do with its possession or usage. It restricted its possession to individuals who paid an excise tax to the government for medical and industrial use. In 1970, a piece of legislation known as the Controlled Substances Act classified cannabis as an illicit drug and hence made its possession a crime.

In the U.S.A, the use of marijuana has been prohibited to both the living and those who are dying. The most tragic of the prohibition of its use has been the denial of medicinal cannabis to millions of patients who could benefit from its therapeutic use.

The use of Marijuana for medical purposes has been in existence from time immemorial. There have been numerous examples that cannabis is invaluable in the treatment of a wide range of diseases. It has numerous clinical applications. The most important of these is perhaps being used as a pain reliever especially pain suffered because of nerve damage otherwise known as neuropathic pain. It is also known to deal with movement disorders, glaucoma and nausea. Marijuana has also been used as an appetite stimulant in patients suffering from dementia and HIV/AIDS. There are also studies that suggest that marijuana’s use for medicinal purposes may lead to the body acquiring some immunity from certain types of tumors.

Apart from medical use, there are a number of reasons given for the legalization of marijuana. One of them is that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol or cigarettes, which are legal and widely use in the US already. The other argument is that decriminalization will result in reduced criminal and gang activities that are related to the sale of Marijuana. Its legalization would reduce the effect of marijuana cartels around the nation. Its legalization would provide a chance for the regulatory bodies to safely regulate and monitor its usage in the country.

The role of the media

The media is commonly referred to as the people’s guard. This is because of its unique ability to monitor the happenings in government. It also highlights the evils that may be taking place away from public scrutiny and hence ending such occurrences. The media has the ability of setting the public agenda. Whatever the media decides to focus on in particular date will set the agenda. The media plays an important role in the legislation of laws and other types of legislation. It provides a platform for the scrutiny of laws and procedures ensuring that the government of the day is accountable for the decisions that is undertakes. It also provides a platform where the individuals can voice their opinions as to where they stand on the particular issue. The media plays an important role in the shaping of the public opinion. In most cases where there has been a shift in the public opinion nit has often led to changes in the legislation process of these laws. The media provides a chance for the scrutiny of the laws being formed by the members of the public. The media is also an effective tool in the generation of interest in a particular piece of legislation. By drawing attention to the particular issue that is being discussed can result in the support for it or even public outrage of the legislative process.

Traditionally the media was used as a tool to warn the masses against the effects of drug use in the society. This was done using paid advertisements by various organizations that showed the ill effects of the particular drug in question. It also showed the arrest and prosecution of individuals who were caught in the drug trade. All these efforts played a part in driving the message home that drugs were harmful and could not result into anything positive for the parties involved. However, this changed when the media began to highlight the plight of terminal patients who were experiencing a lot of pain during treatment. The use of conventional medicine was no longer sufficient for them to help them deal with it. This brought more attention to these patients who initially did not have any platform for making their suffering public.

The media also provided a platform for the public to know how the drug would be administered in a responsible manner. This went a long way in easing the fears of various stakeholders involved that such a step would open a Pandora’s Box to a myriad of problems. The media provided access to empirical evidence as to how the use of medicinal marijuana had improved the conditions and well-beings of the patients that were involved. It showed how patients who before could not eat due to the medication and treatment schedules drastically improved with the use of these new type of medication.

The media also played a vital role in showing the public support for the whole movement. Politicians from both divides spoke in a united voice for the legalization of the medicinal use of marijuana. This is because apart from it being an effective method, it was also cheaper method for most of the individuals that were involved. The use of marijuana was cheaper than conventional medicine because it was readily available in most parts if the nation. The public had already voiced its support for the use of this means of treatment using public opinion polls and other means. According to a CBS poll that was conducted in October 2011, a majority of 51% of the individuals who were interviewed were for the legalization of the use of medical marijuana. The demographics involved were interesting showing that younger Americans favored its legalization much more than the older generation. The decision of whether to support or not was also based political affiliations. Republicans were more opposed to the legalization as compared to the Democrats. Independents were leaning for the legalization of the drug. According to that poll, a slight majority of Americans are opposed to the outright legalization of the drug. However, three out of four showed their support for the idea that only doctors should be allowed to prescribe small amounts of the drug in order to assist patients who were suffering from serious ailments such as cancer and HIV/AIDS.

The use of social media was also instrumental in the whole process. This is because the social media provides access to a huge number of audiences. For example with Facebook having over 1.4 billion users around the world it was a very useful tool in rallying support for the legalization of marijuana. It also provided a means where patients could share their stories with the world on a more personal basis. It also provided the platform for running personal adverts in support of the movement. The social network platform is much more powerful and effective because of a number of reasons. One of them is that it enables information to reach individuals who may not be necessarily accessed by the conventional means of communication. There are social media users, especially the younger individuals, who do not watch the news and therefore this provides a very good way for them to keep abreast with the happenings in society. The social media also provides a means for interaction. This meant that any questions that people had could be answered immediately using chats, video chats, instant messaging and other means. The print media played a vital role by publishing findings of the improved results because of using the medicinal marijuana. It also showed the success of this new method in the states where they had already implemented such laws. Electronic media such as TV stations and radio stations also provided a means for live interaction with the different parties that were involved. Interviews provided a platform where people could call and make their opinions known

Timeline of events in the legalization of Marijuana.

In recent times, there has been increased pressure on legislatures across the U.S for the legalization of the use and possession of specific amounts of marijuana. However, there has not been a single state yet that has decriminalized the use of marijuana. It remains a controlled substance. The possession and distribution of such materials is therefore considered illegal.

In 1975, the state of Alaska removed all penalties for the possession of marijuana that was less than 4 ounces in one’s residence. Before this in 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize the use of marijuana. In 1976, Maine followed suit by decriminalizing the possession of less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana and made it punishable by payment of substantial amounts of fines.

In 1996, the state of California passed the legislation known as Proposition 215 that made the use of marijuana for medical purposes legal throughout the state. The legislation was passed by a majority vote of 56% and was added to the Health and Safety Code of the state. The legislature among other things provides protection from prosecution of doctors who recommend the usage of the medical marijuana. It also exempts the patients and caregivers who use and possess it from criminal charges.

In 1998, the voters in the states of Alaska, Nevada, Maine and Oregon voted to make the use of medicinal marijuana legal.

In 2006, Rhode Island legalized the use of medical marijuana.

In 2007, New Mexico State did the same and legalized the use of medical marijuana.

In 2008 voters in Michigan voted to make the use of marijuana legal in a piece of legislation known as Proposal 1.The law required health providers to create a registry with the patients that were eligible for this treatment procedure. It also approved the growing of cannabis by specific individuals that were approved by the state.

In 2010, Arizona State approved the use of medical marijuana for a third time since the first laws that were enacted. In 1996, New Jersey also legalized the use of marijuana.

In 2012, voters made the recreational use of Marijuana legal in Washington and Colorado. These were the first states to do this. Massachusetts also approved the use of medical marijuana in this same period. The law was passed by an overwhelming majority vote of 63% of the vote

In 2014, Maryland decriminalized the use of marijuana.

In April 24 2014, there was a proposal that was sent from the district attorney’s office to the New York Police Department stating that they will no longer prosecute individuals who were arrested with small amounts of marijuana.

In March 2014, the Supreme Court of Colorado made the ruling that lawyers could give advice to small businesses on how to navigate the complex laws on marijuana without fear of violating ethical rules. In the same period, District of Columbia decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis. Many individuals viewed this as a step towards the legalization of marijuana.

The process of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use and other purposes has been a long one and the role played by the media cannot be ignored. It served an important role in the education of the masses as to this alternative method of treatment.


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