The legalization of marijuana has been a long debated subject in America since the 1970's. The pro-marijuana society in America has made several claims as to how marijuana can help cure or lessen the effect of some diseases and that by legalizing the drug; the use of pot will actually decline. The fact of the matter is that marijuana is a drug that can be placed into a similar category as cocaine or heroine. Like these other drugs, pot (marijuana) smoking carries with it serious side effects that can effect the user forever, and sometimes-even cause death. Marijuana was first cultivated in America during the colonial time period and was used as a fiber for rope and even clothing. The plant was not used for its psychoactive properties until 1910, when Mexican farmers began smuggling it across the boarder for poor black and Mexican workers in the Southern states (Abood Me 202). By the 1930's marijuana was widespread throughout the U.S., before the Federal Government in 1937 outlawed the use of it. However, marijuana use continued to spread, even with these restrictions and in 1970 the Controlled Substance Act was passed. This act basically categorized marijuana as being a harmful and addictive drug. Presently, marijuana use, especially among teenagers is on the rise once again. Pro-marijuana advocates must ask themselves the question that if marijuana is so great, why is it causing so much damage to the body?
Marijuana is comprised of cured leaves and flower clusters from the hemp plant called Cannabis sativa. Cannabis sativa is known as a psychedelic drug because it creates a break from reality. The chemicals found in marijuana are actually much more harmful than chemicals found in other addicting drugs, such as those found in tobacco. The inhalation of any kind of smoke is unhealthy, whether it is in cigarettes or joints (marijuana). The particles found in the smoke of joints and cigarettes collect in the lungs and over time can cause damage. The marijuana plant has over 400 known chemicals that break down into some 4,000 when smoked (Zweben Je 123). Only a few of these chemicals, such as THC, create the actual "high" that pot smokers look to for their enjoyment, but the many of the others are toxins, or poisons that have been proven to cause cancer. One such cancer-causing chemical is called a carcinogen. An average joint contains 30 monograms of carcinogen in comparison with an average cigarette, which contains only 21 monograms (Kleber 4). Carcinogen has been proven to break down a gene that controls the growth of cells and over time makes the lungs 70% more susceptible to lung cancer. The way that marijuana cigarettes are smoked- by inhaling and holding the smoke in the lungs creates an even greater risk for exposure to these poisonous chemicals. Other cases are quickly developing that show chronic marijuana users also develop mouth or larynx cancer. If such a drug can cause such devastating health problems, then why legalize it?

Besides causing cancer, other long-term side effects can occur. Flu like symptoms can occur that includes eating disorders, chronic bronchitis, and mood swings that may not dissipate for up to 18 months. There is also the psychological effect that marijuana has on the user. Many studies have shown that long time users who tried to quit could not do so, not necessarily because of a powerful withdrawal like that of crack cocaine, but because they missed the actual "high" that marijuana offered. The "high" is actually causing mental problems as well. Studies done have shown that pot smoking can cause short term memory loss, as well as creating a sort of "fog" in the mind of the user. More serious mental effects include depression and suicide. As one doctor's journal stated: "It is generally agreed that there is a progressive increase in depressed mood from abstainer to substance user and a corresponding increase in suicide attempts."(Berman 313) A final problem that marijuana poses is that it is considered a "gateway" drug. A "gateway" drug is one that leads to the use of higher risk substances like cocaine. In a recent study, children (ages 12-17) were 266 times more likely to use cocaine after using "gateway" drugs then those who did not (Alaskans for a Drug