June 13th, 2009
07:48 AM ET

America's High: The case for and against pot

Randi Kaye visits a marijuana garden where 7,000 plants were taken down that day - that's a street value of about $500,000.

Editor's Note: Starting on Monday we'll be taking a close look at marijuana and its use in the United States. Is there a case for legalization? We traveled around the country, met with people on all sides of the issue, walked through medical marijuana dispensaries and got a clear idea of the different kinds of marijuana out there.

And what about using marijuana for medical purposes? Hear Melissa Etheridge's take on the issue. She says it helped her through her battle with cancer. But there's the other side too. We will speak to a 34-year-old teacher who is bi-polar who used marijuana for treatment but says it ruined her life. She tells Randi Kaye why she thinks marijuana is addictive and how she says the drug nearly killed her.

Tune in for the AC360° special report, 'America's High: The case for and against pot,' starting Monday at 10 p.m. ET. What do you think about the issue? Post your questions and we'll try to answer them this week.

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Marijuana • Randi Kaye • T1
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Chris

    In a society where tobacco and alcohol are regulated and accepted, with ALL of the harm that comes from them, there is NO reasonable argument why marijuana should remain illegal.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  2. rosehips

    Make sure you check out Senator Jim Webb's bill S714 that proposes a comission to study the criminal justice system. The U.S. has spent over a trillion dollars in the "War on Drugs" since 1970 and it hasn't reduced drug use. Legalizing drugs will disarm cartels and street gangs. It will save our government billions. Why are we using our laws to moralize? We need sensible solutions. The legalization of marijuana a good first step.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  3. bizkid

    I know that 'the drug" effects everyone differently, some people do get lazy after smoking, and just want to sit around an watch TV, or eat ice cream; even so, It doesn't lead to violence like alcohol. I recently started smoking after discovering how useful Marijuana is to my creative side. I've been working on a start-up business, and noticed that my best ideas, solution to problems, creativity, and overall productivity spike while smoking. I wonder how many people experience the same effect.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  4. Dan

    Why should we waste taxpayer dollars going after responsible American citizens who choose to smoke marijuana in the privacy of their own home?

    June 15, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  5. rob

    thank god this issue is finally making some real progress. it is long overdue. pot is being used every single day by many normal and smart people who believe in self medication. Is this natural plant safer than tobacco? If so it would be a great alternative for me.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  6. Steve O

    Annual Deaths Attributed To:
    Tobacco: 435,000
    Alcohol: 85,000
    Prescribed Meds: 106,000
    Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: 7,600
    Marijuana: 0

    source: drugwarfacts.org

    June 15, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  7. Lee

    I would like to say that, I am a full time user of the substance, I have been using for over 15 years.

    Not once have I ever had a accident under the influence, nor have I had the urge to do anything illegal while under the influence.

    Pot, is so much safer then alcohol, its funny.

    I see story's on the news all the time, Drunk driver killed Such and Such.

    have you ever seen a headliner " Stoner wrecks into house , Kills such and such " its un herd of.... it just doesn't happen.

    this is such a sore subject for the government , it makes me think they are scared to let it be legalized due to the fact that so many users...

    June 15, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  8. Legalize Pot

    Once it's legal, not much will change.

    The same people who smoke, will smoke the same amount. The people who don't smoke, simple won't smoke.

    It will be exciting for the first 6 months, then it will be basically the same.

    So just legalize it. And don't let have kids have it... just like alcohol. Duh?!?

    June 15, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  9. ex-rehabber

    ive been in rehab for prescription pills and i solely smoke pot now because i can control it. the side effects reveal who you are to yourself when your high and make you think in a philosophical realm. its at soluble so you dont have withdraw from it and i have never met an angry person who smokes the haze,

    June 15, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  10. Laura

    I have had cancer three times, all three different. brain tumor, skin cancer and lost both breast. all the pill the doctors gave me had side effects Serious side effects even thoughts of suicide and being very addictive. but MJ hightend my positivity, which proves for healing, let me eat and keep down food and kept me from losing it all. Should Pot be legal the answer with out a doubt is "YES". the whole nation would be happy. what is the government afraid of? "happy people" "healthy people?" COME ON AMERICA GET HAPPY "I'd like to buy the world a bag of weed and pass it blissfully.you know the politicians are doing it! !!!!!!!

    June 15, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  11. one

    IT MAKES YOU GIGGLE =] everyone would be happier

    June 15, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  12. Clifford Pate

    Education and debates are what this country needs. Empower people to make choices. People make choices about drinking coffee, taking medications, and the like. Regulation is better than Prohibition. There needs to be more cultural balance with real knowledge about substance abuse. Families need to prioritize real dangers like lawyers, guns, and money.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  13. Jaqueline

    Making Marijuana legal would be one less thing to worry about, we have bigger more impotant problems out there. Marijuana is not addicting its a choice.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  14. Pam Walatka

    If marijuana were legal, couldn't the government make a lot of money by taxing it?

    June 15, 2009 at 11:30 am |
  15. Mindy

    My husband and I are about to open up a dispensary. The medical grade marijuana is much safer than what people find on the streets. We have visited dispensaries that are top notch and some that are not. We aren't just selling marijuana. People have to see and get a recommondation from a doctor, they have to meet with an attorney and they have to fill out a good amount of paper work. I think that these dispensaries should be regulated and audited because in every industry there are crooks and questionable people...just look at what happend with the housing market.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  16. rev.420

    ............... GET REAL IT DOESNT IMPAIR


    June 15, 2009 at 11:22 am |
  17. Peter

    About time we legalize this GOD-given, peace-promoting, HEALING herb... ONCE & FOR ALL!

    WE must uphold the original promise of the Constitution. (FREEDOM)

    One Love

    June 15, 2009 at 11:22 am |
  18. Harold

    As an employed family man and 40 year moderate user of cannabis, I have come to the conclusion that the war against marijuana is not just about the "reefer madness" lies of death, addiction, gateway theories, ad nauseum, but a large part of the irrational fear is that cannabis (marijuana) can let you see the world in a more peaceful, holistic and non-competitive fashion. Why would the corporate controlled government in this country want a substance that may make people less aggressive, consumer oriented and competitive?

    June 15, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  19. albrowncat

    why not let the country vote on it put it on the ballet

    June 15, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  20. Vinny

    The people should have a choice!

    The current laws tell us that if we choose to get high (a natural, common human desire) it’s alcohol or it’s nothing. But alcohol isn’t for everybody, and it’s outright dangerous for some.

    Sobriety is always best, but law-abiding citizens should be able to share a joint between friends without the fear of arrest or harassment.

    Alcohol has killed. If a young man or woman doesn’t want to take that risk yet still reserve their right to party, they should be free to partake of a safer, tastier, non-life-threatening alternative.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:13 am |
  21. Bozzieb

    The government has never wanted to address this issue & I doubt they will now. It's simply not important to them. They're too worried about getting votes. So what do we do? Pull the shades & fire one up.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:07 am |
  22. Wayne

    # 1 How many Doctors has the DEA allowed to research 'Medical Grade" marijuana?
    #2 Please ask each Congressman & Senator if they ever smoked marijuana in their lives? (No comment while probably win)
    #3 Laws vary from State to State or even city to city, if Congress or Senate could make one blanket Federal/State/City law, How much jail time would they have for say a half a joint?
    Thank you CNN.....

    June 15, 2009 at 11:04 am |
  23. Jerry

    There has never been an overdose on Marajuana.
    The New England journal of medicine says that Marajuana is one of the mildest stimulants known.
    13% or Americans smoke Marajuana daily
    41% have tried Marajuana at least once.

    Do you beleive that half of the US population belongs behind bars?

    June 15, 2009 at 11:04 am |
  24. Tina

    There are other ways to get money from local and state revenues than harrass the dope smoking teenager or the dope smoking elderly or the dope smoking middle aged. The city or county budget can not compare to legal fees that will certainly come to pass and the time spent in court is not worth it. Let it be legal.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  25. Matthew Lindhjem

    Its about time that the whole country gets educated on marijuana. What also needs to be discussed is that about 70% of Americans are christian.... Marijuana will never be legalized as long as the christians are in control. We need to legalize this cash crop to help the economy.

    June 15, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  26. Patrick

    It Should Be Legal .... Tax it..... Regulate Like Alcohol... Quit Spending
    Billions On A Drug War America Can Not Win...

    June 15, 2009 at 10:58 am |
  27. bob bobbet

    I've been a smoker of marijuana for about 20 years. I've lost my job, so I've had to quit smoking do to the fact that most all companies do drug screening. How can anyone say it's addictive? Since I've quit, I feel no urge to light-up again, although I wouldn't mind. I just can't risk not getting a job and loosing unemployment.

    Tell me, can an alcoholic do the same? Just quit? Probably not. Alcohol is far more addictive and destructive to the human body, so why illegalize marijuana?

    It's illegal because the government can't control it. It grows anywhere and everywhere and anyone can do it, so the government can't tax it BECAUSE they have no control of it. Afterall, who the heck wants to set up a distillery in thier basement? Where-as, watering a plant is much easier, and because of that, it's illegal.

    I would love to see the results of accidents due to pot vs. alcohol. What are the statistics of searious injury or death from one and the other and compare them. I bet alcohol creates more problems for the public health system than weed. I'd bet my next paycheck on it... (if I ever see one again).

    June 15, 2009 at 10:58 am |
  28. Tracy

    Come on, we all know that pot helps alot of people. There's no use arguing. The only way pot will become legal is if the drug companies can market the THC that is in pot so that those who do not want to smoke can "take a pill" . But the real question is, how can Amercia tax this "drug"? It's all about the money guys.
    A drug free Amercia? Yea right.

    June 15, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  29. Tina

    I believe the margin of people doing it would not go up any if it was legal. If it is legal are not, the people who want to do it...will and can.

    June 15, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  30. Steven Eisenhauer

    As a 40 year user of this substance I can find no reason not to legalize it. The laws and penalties are the only real danger associated with it.

    June 15, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  31. Larry

    In today's modern democracy, we take responsibility for our own actions. We make our own decisions. Prohibition is the antithesis of freedom. It is the government telling you that you do NOT have the right to make your own choices. THEY will make if for you.
    So, is this a free country or not?

    June 15, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  32. isay

    it wasn't created to be smoked or used in any other kind. it's iligal and shouldn't be used. To tell the truth, it make people dump and imagine the kids will grow old, high and dump. So please lets smoke food other than marijuana.

    June 15, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  33. mankinds logical voice

    marijuana is a harmless weed. this plant will not kill you from over dosing because its impossible. also the main "side effects" are laughter and hunger. BUT i would not recommend driving under the influence of any narcotic or alcohol. ITS A PLANT AMERICA

    June 15, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  34. Valeriy

    It has been illegal in most of the world for most of the time. The only reason we brought this discussion now is because its de facto widespread use in so called "free" and "democratic" country. But this is a luck of control and lapse of judgement rather and it should not be the basis for changing our values and legalizing it.

    If the argument is that people use it anyway, then why wouldn't we legalize selling alchohol to minors, allowing extasy, promoting cigarrettes use (it is a good stress reliever for those who smoke, after all). Why wouldn't we promote sex to 13-year old and why wouldn't we use profane language on TV? After all, noone has died because of exposure to cursing, right?

    Let's just stick to the base values, and not promote something that is used solely for the purpose of getting high.

    June 15, 2009 at 10:40 am |
  35. greg

    It would be a huge blow to organized crime. So it probably won't happen.

    June 15, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  36. Edward Heffernan

    It won't be made legal until the medical industry figures out a way to make you pay for a product you could grow in your yard. What would happen to the sales of Zoloft, Buspar, Wellbutrin, etc.?

    You can get as high as you care to darlin'... But not for free. Now stop whining and pay the nice Doctor for a prescription.

    Maybe if we just sent them the money they'd let us have a garden.

    June 15, 2009 at 10:18 am |
  37. Robert Wood

    The 34-year-old teacher who is bi-polar who used marijuana for treatment but says it ruined her life is lucky that she wasn’t using drugs made in lab for bi-polar. With those drugs, people often commit suicide or worse.

    June 15, 2009 at 10:10 am |
  38. Isabel, Brazil

    As any drug, understands you the drug like a any medicine that should be used carefully, as certain.

    If marijuana can help treat or assist in treatment of diseases, why not use it within prescribed limits?

    June 15, 2009 at 10:03 am |
  39. Stephanie

    I am giving lots of pills from the Doctor and they all have side affects. When i smoke MJ it helps more then the pills do plus i will get addicted to the pill and not the MJ.

    June 15, 2009 at 10:02 am |
  40. Carolina

    I think people have a misconception about marijuana because they just assume that people who smoke are potheads. This is not the case. As long as people look at it as they do alcohol, and realize it needs to be controlled and not abused, i do not believe it will do any harm. It is only addictive and impairing if you allow it to be, which can be said about half the products already available to consumers. I have yet to hear a story about someone loosing everything they have because they smoke, as opposed to people becoming alcoholics and loosing their jobs and families. The country needs to spend more money finding real criminals and not wasting their time arresting people for petty amounts of weed.

    June 15, 2009 at 9:58 am |
  41. Neal Smith

    The science exists proving Marijuana is by far a better recreational substance than any other we know. Further, it is far safer than, in the words of DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young: "...safer than many of the foods we commonly consume."

    There is no such thing as a "Gateway" substance. This was proven in 1999 by Kaiser Permanente and there have been peer-reviewed and replicated studies of this.

    The Shaffer Commission report of 1972 proved Marijuana is not addictive. This too has been replicated.

    The Crancer study, another replicated study, shows driving while "high" is insignificantly worse than driving "Straight."

    There are at least 150 medical uses for Marijuana. It is also known that various strains treat various conditions.

    There is no constitutional basis for the prohibition of Marijuana. The laws against the plant are based on lies.The U.S. government has lied to us for the past 80+ years about Marijuana. It's past time that they start telling the truth.

    June 15, 2009 at 9:52 am |
  42. Logan

    the legalization of marijuana will do more for this country than any economic stimulus package would ever do. Pot is not bad, i smoke all the time and has only benefited me. Alcohol is far worse and kills thousands of people each year, what has pot done to anyone?

    June 15, 2009 at 9:19 am |
  43. Lito

    Cartels get 60% of there money from marijuana! If we legalized it our country would save BILLIONS!! There would be fewer people in jails, and more tax payers, plus a new industry. I beg to ask the question, why isn't it legal again?

    June 15, 2009 at 9:10 am |
  44. Joey

    Alchohol is responsible for 100,000 deaths in the US alone... not inlcuding the car accidents.
    Another 100,000 deaths from legally perscribed FDA approved pain medications
    Not to include the 450,000 deaths caused from cigarette smoke...

    Mary Jane is responsible for chronic bronchitis symptoms, but has 0 toxicity to the human body, and has caused ZERO DEATHS in its history!!! (just based on use alone...)

    tell me again... why is this natural anxiolytic deemed unsafe for use from the DEA, when the legal products are the ones killing everyone???

    A.Cooper, please discuss this... and explain to me where I am going wrong in my conclusions?

    Also, I cant drive drunk at any capacity. It is possible to smoke 1/4oz of the purple and make it over state lines... just an FYI...

    June 15, 2009 at 8:56 am |
  45. vincent

    I live in arizona, and wonder how the drug cartels would respond to this? kind of scary living in a border state. What do the "experts" say is most likly to happen. Will the USA have to go to war with these cartels?

    June 13, 2009 at 9:07 am |
  46. Dan D

    Ive been a top level athlete for years and I enjoy smoking marijuana to relieve stress, soreness and to feel at easy. People are popping zanex, vicadin, vioxx etc.. all to relive the same things I do with MJ...but the Gov wont make that illegal. WHY WHY WHY? they show to have way more side effects.

    June 13, 2009 at 9:02 am |
  47. Roane

    I'm looking forward to this discussion. I am currently 60 years old, and am battling alcholism, and use 'herb' to assist me in this battle. I believe marijuana to be habit forming, but somehow, i don't feel it has the addictive craving that alcohol creates, nor the out of control behavior. But neither of these mood altering substances affect everyone the same way, and I can understand how individuals experience it differently.

    My belief is, as alcohol, it should be legalized. Alcohol is not a demon for everyone, and neither is marijuana. And to my knowledge, alcohol does not have the redeeming medicinal uses of marijuana .

    June 13, 2009 at 8:46 am |
  48. L. Brown

    Better yet: The case for and against locking up people for possession of a plant that has never killed anyone. Or: The case for keeping alcohol legal and marijuana illegal. Or: Why was marijuana made illegal in the first place?

    June 13, 2009 at 8:43 am |
  49. Phil

    It should be legal!!! It is not half as bad as Alcohol!

    June 13, 2009 at 8:22 am |
  50. ekosheff

    America is already impaired by so many social, political and economic issues. We already have recreational alcohol, yet, while one can drink and not get drunk, the sole purpose of smoking pot is to get "impaired." Why do we want to add a drug that impairs one's ability to drive a lethal machine? At the very least, without a reliable roadside test, it is just another way to kill ourselves. I vote no.

    June 13, 2009 at 8:19 am |
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