One of the aspects of current drug policy that continues to provide tension and a level of debate is why certain drugs, such as nicotine, are allowed to be produced and consumed within the purview of government regulation whereas other drugs, such as marijuana, are completely and entirely outlawed by the federal government. One might posit that the reason for such a differential has to do with the overall level of harm differential that exists between these two drugs; however, when one considers the fact that both drugs are ultimately damaging to one’s health – if inhaled – the level of differential between them, from a quality of health standpoint, is negligible. Within such an understanding, the following analysis will seek to compare and contrast the objective and subjective effects of both nicotine and marijuana. Moreover, an analysis of the different government policies and regulations that constrain their usage will be analyzed alongside a discussion of the health risks that utilizing these substances necessarily portend. It is the hope of this author that such an analysis will land the reader to have a more actionable and definitive understanding of current drug policy had whether or not it represents an effective and ethical response to issues of public health are evidenced within current society (Hendricks et al., 2012). Although it is not the place of this brief analysis to advocate a safe entirely new approach to drug policy within the United States, it is the hope of this research that a greater level of inference with regards to the appropriate response framework that government represents will be able to be inferred.
With respect to the subjective and other objective affects of nicotine, the addictive substance found in tobacco products, these are invariably concentric upon feelings of well-being, mood stabilization, and the release of dopamine and other “feel-good” chemicals that actively bind to receptors in the brain. As with any type of addictive drug, repeated usage of the drug only compounds the extent to which addiction is evidenced in the individual. Most importantly, as compared to marijuana, nicotine is physically addictive. Although there have been a great deal of scientific and social experimentations with regards to the degree of addiction that marijuana might necessarily portend, it has been definitively proven that although marijuana increases “feel-good” sensation, and has the objective and subjective effects of heightening mood sensitivity, vastly increasing the enjoyment of food, and a litany of other sensually sensory stimuli inputs, it is not physically addictive as is nicotine (Rammo et al., 2013). This comes as something of a surprise due to the fact that it is nicotine that is ultimately allowed and regulated within the United States whereas marijuana is outlawed. Naturally, many individual states have sought to redefine marijuana policy so that certain levels of possession and usage, on a personal or medical level, are acceptable; however, this does not in any way justify or alter the approach that the federal government takes with regards to the use and possession of this illicit substance (Odden, 2012).
Delving into the history of marijuana use and cultivation within the United States, it has definitively been noted that one of the main reasons for why marijuana is not currently legal is due to the fact that it posed a fundamental threat to large tobacco companies and was thus sidelined via legislation over 100 years ago (Goode, 2012). Naturally, it cannot be said that any and all reasons for marijuana being outlawed has to do with special interests and or big money. Rather, marijuana, as compared to tobacco, is a psychoactive drug. What is meant by this is the fact that whereas one can smoke a cigarette, or derived nicotine via a litany of different delivery methods the psychological mindset of the individual remains unaltered. Although they may feel a sense of well-being, their ability to make decisions and react to situations is unaltered. However, the case of marijuana is quite different; as the individual is ultimately impacted psychologically by the drug itself.
It is oftentimes assumed that smoking marijuana is somehow safer than smoking cigarettes. This incorrect assumption is oftentimes the derived from the belief that the lack of man-made carcinogens that are found in marijuana make the smoking of marijuana more “helpful” and the smoking of tobacco. However, scholarship has indicated that the differential of health impacts from smoking cigarettes as compared to smoking marijuana is in fact quite the same. The ultimate reason for this is not contingent upon whether or not mass-produced cigarettes have a higher concentration of carcinogens than do the homemade application of marijuana smoking,; instead, it has to do with the fact that the marijuana delivery mechanisms and the means by which marijuana is smoked is necessarily quite different from the means by which cigarettes are smoked. For instance, medical studies have indicated that an individual who smokes marijuana tends to inhale 2 to 3 times as much smoke as the typical cigarette smoker (Brook et al., 2012). By the same token, the means by which marijuana is smoked is usually either via a bomb or via some type of self-made height or home-made rolled cigarette. As such, these do not have any way of blocking the harmful to our and other carcinogens that are extent within any inhaled smoke (Claros & Sharma, 2012). Moreover, the ultimate reason behind marijuana smokers attempting to inhale more of the smoke at each and every opportunity has to do with the fact that there is a direct psychoactive connection between the amount of smoke inhaled in the overall feeling of well-being and satisfaction that is derived.
From a policy analysis with regards to whether or not current policy is effective and rational, it would have to be the conclusion of this analysis that the existing policy concerning the use and regulation of marijuana and tobacco products are completely and entirely unjustifiable. The rationale for this is contingent upon the fact that if the government seeks to outlaw marijuana as a result of the fact that it inhibits an individual to perform a given task in an effective manner, then by the very same token alcohol and similar products must also be outlawed. Conversely, from a social health standpoint, it is definitively recognized, from the information that is been provided, that cigarette smoking and marijuana smoking are ultimately just as harmful to the health of the individual. As such, government regulation does not have an effective means of clearly delineating why cigarettes and tobacco products are allowed whereas marijuana products are strictly prohibited. From the information that is been provided, it can be understood that marijuana and big tobacco companies have had something of a difficult past. However, if the ultimate intention of the current societal structure is to allow the individual with choice with regards to whether or not they choose to treasure and improve their health or whether or not they choose to devalue and destroy it, the only obvious approach is to allow marijuana and tobacco usage simultaneously.
However, if the governmental structure comprises health and safety of society above all other aspects, neither tobacco products nor marijuana products should be allowed; due to the fact they both have the potential and likelihood of slowly eroding the health of those societal stakeholders to engage with the drug at all. However, as has been noted within the past 30 to 40 years, the war on drugs has been an abysmal failure and is accounted for the loss of billions of taxpayer dollars and the imprisonment of countless young and nonviolent offenders; mainly from an African-American ethnic background. As a direct result of this complete failure to control substances and demand that society behaves in a certain way, it is the approach of this author that any and all governmental regulations demanding that an individual not integrate with a particular substance are ultimately useless and extraordinarily expensive (Ditmeyer et al., 2013). An alternative view of this particular topic may promote the idea that if all societal and governmental regulations against illicit substances were removed then necessarily a larger number of health problems would be exhibited within the population. Although this may indeed be true, the individual who ascribes to such a standpoint is not necessarily consider the fact that billions upon billions of dollars would be saved by the federal government with respect to the strain that is placed on the legal system, dispense these, expanded state federal and local police forces, drug interdiction teams, the drug enforcement agency, and a litany of others. Moreover, this money can very well be applied to public health and seek to ameliorate the problems that are already exhibited within society.
Although there is not a singular approach that will solve all the societal ills that can be caused by the use of illicit substances, or even of legal substances such as alcohol or tobacco, it is painfully evident, from the analysis that is been conducted, the current policy does not have a justifiable moral, ethical, or illegal grounding. Drugs, by their very nature, are damaging to the individual as a degree of addiction is able to be retained and the individual user becomes numb to the physiological health ramifications that continued use portends. However, a level of legality or illegality for such an action has little bearing with regards to the behavior that individual is likely to portray.
Brook, J. S., Lee, J., Brown, E. N., & Finch, S. J. (2012). comorbid trajectories of tobacco and marijuana use as related to psychological outcomes. Substance Abuse, 33(2), 156-167. doi:10.1080/08897077.2011.640202
Claros, E., & Sharma, M. (2012). The relationship between emotional intelligence and abuse of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco among college students. Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education, 56(1), 8-37.
Ditmyer, M., Demopoulos, C., McClain, M., Dounis, G., & Mobley, C. (2013). The effect of tobacco and marijuana use on dental health status in Nevada adolescents: A trend analysis. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(5), 641-648. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.11.002
Goode, E. (2012). Drugs in American society. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Hendricks, P. S., Delucchi, K. L., Humfleet, G. L., & Hall, S. M. (2012). Alcohol and marijuana use in the context of tobacco dependence treatment: Impact on outcome and mediation of effect. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 14(8), 942-951.
Odden, H. L. (2012). Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and hallucinogen use in Samoan adolescents. Drug & Alcohol Review, 31(1), 47-55. doi:10.1111/j.1465-3362.2010.00280.x
Ramo, D. E., Delucchi, K. L., Hall, S. M., Liu, H., & Prochaska, J. J. (2013). Marijuana and tobacco co-use in young adults: Patterns and thoughts about use. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 74(2), 301-310.