The majority of Americans choose similar issues as the most threatening to the nation. Invariably, among these one will see "drugs" as a major concern of most Americans. There is speculation that this is due to a perceived association between drugs and crime (Inciardi 1). A good deal of the argument over government policy towards drugs centers on the least unhealthy and most socially accepted of the illegal drugs, marijuana. The battle over the whether or not to legalize the use of this drug has been waged for the past decade. .
Marijuana, scientifically known as Tetrahydrocannabinol, is neither a narcotic, such as heroin, nor a stimulant, such as caffeine or tobacco, nor a depressant, such as alcohol. Its leaves, when smoked, instigate physiological reactions. When the active chemical in cannabis, THC, enters the bloodstream through the lungs and reaches the brain, it triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that induces pleasure (Gettman). This causes several effects upon the user, including: sensitivity of the senses, a dry mouth, the inability to keep a train of thought, and fits of laughter. Cannabis remains legal, though a partially restricted substance in several countries. The Netherlands, for example, has mostly decriminalized cannabis. Portugal and Spain recently partially decriminalized the possession and use of recreational cannabis. However, in the United States, the possession of cannabis or any paraphernalia is expressly illegal. While no major legislation has been proposed to decriminalize the recreational use of cannabis, the United States government has commissioned several studies regarding the properties of cannabis and its effects, and also has considered bills permitting the medicinal use of marijuana. .
Cannabis was prevalent in America for much of the 18th and 19th centuries. Many apothecaries and doctors proscribed medications containing cannabis. Until 1941, cannabis was part of the United States pharmacopoeia.