Subculture: Marijuana in the United States Fatima Alikhan ENG 122 Professor Kenneth Newton Monday May 23, 2010 The United States has an approved list of drugs that are considered legal and illegal that create adverse side effects and hold diverse political views. Marijuana is a substance that popular media holds in a negative undertone while other drugs such as valium and alcohol are supported, if not glorified. Popular media is a powerful tool that gathers a mass of people and provides all types of information.
Some types of information are historical facts, statistics, entertainment, opinions, and biases which alter the state and views of those who access it. Marijuana has had an extremely controversial political view throughout history and is considered a “gateway drug,” enabling users to pursue stronger and dangerous substances. Although marijuana includes negative side effects, statistics prove it may be far less dangerous to people and those around them compared to legalized substances with higher danger percentages.
The comparison and political attitudes of marijuana throughout history of the United States is what is examined in this paper to draw awareness to readers on the bias of intolerance towards marijuana. I plan on limiting my topic selection by choosing a limit of 3 substances to compare the statistics against and only recording major milestones that changed the way people viewed marijuana throughout American history. The underlying argument in this paper would be in the form of an ultimatum: legalize marijuana or criminalize alcohol and prescription pain medicine.
The American people may not know why exactly marijuana is considered illegal when neither side effects or symptoms cause fatalities or crime when contrasted against prescription pain pills that target teenagers to adults. Alcohol related accidents are also significantly higher than marijuana related stresses however it has been considered wrong, immoral, and illegal for close to a century in United States history. The media’s portrayal of marijuana in movies and television shows has always been a carefree and adventurous approach.
Movies such as Half Baked, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and Pineapple Express depict the substance as a recreational tool that can enhance the quality of life and entertainment. Television shows such as That 70’s Show demonstrate an accurate depiction of marijuana use in the 1970’s which show a group of teenagers sitting around a circle smoking marijuana, giggling, and eating. Although the 1970’s was known for heavy drug use such as cocaine, LSD, and heroin, and the government’s epic battle on the war on drugs, marijuana was considered to be a gateway drug which led to endless possibilites and dangers.
Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, marijuana was portrayed in negative connotations after President Nixon had declared a war on all drugs which was intended for the crack and heroin epidemic however extended itself onto marijuana as well. After the new century, the media began anti-marijuana campaign commercials that would be targeted directly towards teenagers. “Tests of sensation seeking targeting evaluated the effectiveness of targeted televised public service announcement campaigns in reducing marijuana use among high sensation-seeking adolescents,” (Palmgreen, Donohew, Lorch, Hoyle, Stephenson, 2001).
This study used a controlled interrupted time-series design method to match 2 communities where one county and campaign was compared to another county and campaign. Personal interviews were conducted with 100 teenagers in a period of 32 months. The result proved the effectiveness of media towards adolescents. All 3 campaigns had reversed the trend of marijuana use. Televised campaigns that target a large group of people have an effective strategy in conveying a direct message and achieving its purpose.
The message that is being portrayed however is based off of false assumptions and lack of scientific data. It is simply opinion however the message and the powerful tool of the media conveys a strong image to impose a crime on the substance. The portrayal of other legal drugs in the media such as alcohol and prescription pills is far more appealing to the human eye than marijuana. Alcohol is branded with trademarks and celebrity endorsements that promote an urban lifestyle.
It conveys the message that it is chic and savvy to drink or that it can bring excitement to a social setting. Celebrities, fancy cars, sports athletes, musicians, and scantily clad women submit a message through media that drinking “their” alcohol will allow a person’s environment or self-image to be enhanced. Prescription pills on the other hand are not mentioned much in the media at all. The amount of danger and the percentage of addiction is at such a great risk for Americans however there are no repercussions taken by government or doctors.
With the number of soccer moms, teenagers, and role models (athletes, etc. ) that are getting addicted to these substances, it is abnormal that the federal government hasn’t taken action towards monitoring or screening these substances as they do with marijuana. Marijuana charges for possession and distribution cost tax payers unnecessary dollars to keep law enforcement active, house non criminal inmates, and fund anti-marijuana regulations.
In contrast, the percentage of income the government and private corporations receive from alcohol and prescription pills keeps skyrocketing yearly even though the damage done to people and those around them from these substances is rather substantial. The dangers and problems of both alcohol and prescriptions pills in comparison to marijuana have alarming statistics and percentages that make readers astonished as to why marijuana is illegal or why other substances are legal.
Alcohol has a long history of being portrayed in media as a “relaxing” elixir after a long day at work or a method of unwinding. The role of alcohol in movies and television are false impressions of what would happen in a social setting if you were to be drinking a certain alcohol or the how much better your time would be spent if you were drinking. Commercials and advertisements use models, cars, celebrities, sports, clubs, and entertainment to promote an image or brand that alcohol brings life, love, and lust to any party however the cold hard truth is that it is far from the perception it sells.
This multi-million dollar industry prides itself on a fast growing industry that has the highest percentage of users of a social drug in the United States. “We do not need the brewers’ reminder that the absolute quantity of alcohol consumed has been steadily increasing at a rate of at least 7% per annum to be aware that it remains far and away the most widely-accepted social drug in this country,” (Aud, 1981, p. 48). Prescription pills have not been much of a harmful substance until this decade.
The recent increase in those prescribed with pain and given very high doses of pain medication has been astonishing. Although these substances are intended to target the pain, most pain killers given through a prescription are misused and soon become addictive. A minor toothache or certain back pain that may not require such high doses of medicine are being prescribed by doctors which is leading to numerous amounts of dangers. A local mother who is prescribed pain killers can also be accidentally distributing to her teenagers who may not need the medicine or know how to properly ingest it.
The effect of alcohol and prescription pills are a deadly combination but are extremely popular among youth. The combination of both legal substances enhance the altered state of mind one would naturally get from consuming just one substance. Prescription pain killers have been the major focus study among teenagers in the past 5 years due to the availability of them compared to the frequency of its distribution now. The assumptions on health effects caused by marijuana have different results after several tests.
Many may presume that marijuana causes an array of mental disorders and lack of control of the mind however, Mitch Earleywine’s research proves no such case. “In general, the drug is incapable of creating an overdose. It can exacerbate the symptoms of some mental disorders but does not appear to cause them. Data fail to show any marijuana-induced changes in brain structure, but long-term exposure to the drug alters the way the brain functions during complex tasks,” (Earleywine, 2002, p. 143).
Issues such as mental illness, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, antisocial behavior are linked to the symptoms of marijuana and although it does not cause any exact disorder, it may enhance those symptoms. Marijuana is now medicinally researched to cure disorders such as insomnia, anorexia, and minor pain. Cancer patients also rely on marijuana to increase their appetite, decrease nerve pain, and combat minor pain (Goodwin, 2010). Marijuana is a substance that comes with many pretenses and opinions that may be based on scientific fact or public opinion portrayed through the media.
The tests, evaluations, and studies examined in this paper provide adequate information to the reader in establishing a proper factual idea on what marijuana is, the portrayal of the substance in the media, what its effects and dangers are, and its comparison to other legalized substances that are much more harmful. Although the United States has slowly shown progress in decriminalizing marijuana and accepting the medicinal uses for it in states such as California, there is an underlying common misperception that marijuana is a substance of great danger, civil disobedience, and rebellion.
References: Aud, J. (1981). Marijuana Use and Social Control. University of Illinois at Chicago. New York: Academic Press Inc. Baggins, David Sadofsky. (1998). Drug Hate and The Corruption of American Justice. University of Illinois at Chicago. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. Earleywine, Mitch. (2002). Understanding Marijuana: A new look at the scientific evidence. University of Illinois at Chicago. New York: Oxford University Press. Novak, William. (1980). High Culture: Marijuana in the Lives of Americans. University of Illinois at Chicago.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Philip Palmgreen, Lewis Donohew, Elizabeth Pugzles Lorch, Rick H Hoyle, & Michael T Stephenson. (2001). Television campaigns and adolescent marijuana use: Tests of sensation seeking targeting. American Journal of Public Health, 91(2), 292-6. Retrieved June 12, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 67849612). Goodwin, J.. (2010, August). Smoked Marijuana May Ease Chronic Nerve Pain. U. S. News & World Report,1. Retrieved June 12, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 2170726371).