Write a 5000-word essay or do 240 hours of community service?\u00a0 Although a formal poll hasn\u2019t been taken, it\u2019s not hard to guess the choice most convicted drug dealers would make.\u00a0 Yet, a 32-year-old UK man said he was \u201cshocked\u201d to hear the sentence handed down to him by the judge.\u00a0 He was reportedly unable to fulfill the work-related sentence due to a prior injury from snowboarding.\u00a0 Seems a rather light sentence, considering Terry Bennett had 2 pounds of marijuana in his possession, and also admitted that he had planned to distribute it. According to news reports, Judge Julian Lambert ordered Bennett to compose a 5000-word essay that discussed the dangers of drugs (including marijuana) and their impact on society.\u00a0 \u00a0Bennett asked the judge if he could focus on the pros and cons of cannabis, but the judge declined his request based on the fact that the drug is illegal.\u00a0 He wanted the focus specifically on the negative aspects of cannabis. So, Bennett reportedly plans to take a slightly different approach. He told reporters that he would write \u201cabout the dangers that come about because it is illegal, rather than the nature of weed itself.\u201d His statement suggests that he doesn\u2019t regard the drug as truly dangerous, a view held by a significant percent of the population.\u00a0 Rather - and perhaps speaking from experience - he wants people to realize that having it in their possession with plans to sell it could lead to some unpleasant legal issues. Bennett is required to complete the essay by April 4.\u00a0 If he fails to do so, he will be sent to jail for a year. Ongoing Controversy Over Marijuana While some feel Bennett has gotten off too easily and should incur a more serious punishment, others argue that the whole thing is nonsense.\u00a0 Whether or not marijuana is truly a dangerous drug (and continues being illegal as a result) has been the subject of considerable debate over the years. Proponents of legalizing marijuana argue that, compared to drugs like heroine, methamphetamines, or cocaine, it\u2019s relatively harmless.\u00a0 Opponents, however, fiercely stand by the long-held view that marijuana is not only a \u201cgateway\u201d drug that frequently leads to the use of more dangerous illicit substances, but also a dangerous and potentially addictive drug by itself. Federal vs. State Law In the U.S., marijuana is still categorized as a \u201cSchedule I\u201d drug, per the Controlled Substances Act. \u00a0Drugs in this category pose a high risk for abuse and are regarded as having no real medical use.\u00a0 Under federal law, the cultivation, possession, use, and sale of marijuana is illegal. Several states, however, as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized the medical use of marijuana.\u00a0 Several others have decriminalized the possession or medical use of the drug.\u00a0 Recently, two states \u00a0- Colorado and Washington - legalized the non-medical use of marijuana. Not surprisingly, supporters of legalizing marijuana tend to fall in the younger, more liberal demographic of the U.S. population. Older, more conservative individuals make up a large portion of those who continue to fight against such measures. Potential Dangers of Marijuana Despite the controversy, it\u2019s difficult to truly refute the dark side of marijuana. There are many potential dangers to those who use it recreationally (and even medically, if prescription guidelines are ignored).\u00a0 Short-term side effects range from dry mouth and bloodshot eyes to possible psychotic symptoms (hallucinations or delusions) and paranoia.\u00a0 Other negative effects include rapid heartbeat, anxiety, impaired coordination, mood changes, slowed reaction time, impaired judgment, difficulties solving problems and clouded thinking. These symptoms are caused by THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol), the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana.\u00a0 Once the drug is ingested or inhaled, symptoms can begin to appear fairly quickly. Other dangers: \tSome research suggests that individuals predisposed to developing serious psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, may increase their risk with marijuana use during adolescence. \tWomen who use marijuana while pregnant subject their unborn child to a whole host of potential problems, including low birth weight, developmental issues, behavioral problems and learning disorders.\u00a0 They are also more likely to miscarry or give birth prematurely. \tThe second-hand smoke from marijuana is also dangerous due to its high levels of tar and other toxic substances. Dangers of chronic use: In addition to becoming dependent upon or addicted to the substance, chronic users of marijuana may develop a variety of medical issues.\u00a0 These include: \tGreater risk of cancer \tEmphysema \tIncreased risk for Alzheimer\u2019s disease \tAsthma \tDamaged lungs and airway \tBronchitis \tFrequent chest colds \tLung infections \tA decrease in testosterone levels and sperm counts in men \tHormonal imbalances and irregular periods in women \tLow libido A suitable punishment? Back to Bennett in the U.K\u2026. Did his punishment fit his crime?\u00a0 A 5,000-word essay (along with a four-month curfew and random drug tests) seems rather lenient for possession of 2 pounds of the illegal drug, not to mention the intent to distribute it. The serious effects of marijuana - both short-term and long-term - are difficult to ignore.\u00a0 Yet, Bennett was reported as saying that he would no longer use drugs because he\u2019s been convicted and because marijuana isn\u2019t legal in his country.