Massachusetts, Maine, California and Nevada made waves Tuesday night after passing state referendums that legalized the recreational use of of marijuana. Fully legalizing marijuana has been hotly contested throughout the United States for decades, and now the future looks bright for those in favor of the drug’s unconditional legalization.
I, for one, am a huge advocate for both the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. Let’s face it: marijuana is everywhere these days. From the streets to the backpacks of high school students to college campuses around the country, the influence of marijuana on our society is undeniable.
Even when looking at the Chronicle, one can observe that the Public Safety Briefs section usually contains at least one marijuana-related incident.
So many people in society are wrongly reported, fined and even jailed for the possession of marijuana. According to the Huffington Post, there were over 700,000 marijuana-related arrests made in 2014. This equated to one arrest every 51 seconds. This crackdown just demonizes those who enjoy marijuana. In fact, it only serves to make a quick buck off of innocent citizens.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, authorities spend upwards of $3.6 billion to enforce marijuana laws every year. However, the marijuana industry is quickly expanding and becoming quite a viable business.
Instead of fines and jail time, legalization would result in more revenue being pumped into the economy through taxes, all while preventing citizens from being thrown in jail.
Legalization also allows for potentially dangerous drug dealers to be taken off the streets as they are replaced with real, regulated businesses. Dealers often lace their marijuana with other substances without the customer knowing.
Another point to remember is that customers obviously can’t go to the police when a dealer rips them off. Thus, a customer may take matters into their own hands. This in turn, can lead to a cycle of street violence, which can lead to fatalities for either party.
The biggest reason, however, for the marijuana business’ ever-expanding growth is medical use. The National Center for Biotechnical Information has reported that THC, the primary psychoactive chemical in marijuana, has been shown to treat a wide array of illnesses – including, but not limited to, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C and anxiety. Marijuana provides a safe and natural alternative treatment method for patients, interrupting the slew of constantly manufactured pills pumped out and sold by pharmaceutical companies.
While it’s good to highlight the pros of marijuana, this isn’t to say that there are not downsides to the drug. While marijuana doesn’t have any physically addictive properties, psychological addiction remains an issue for users who may lack willpower and self-control.
Along the same lines, marijuana has also been identified as a “gateway drug.” This label implies that marijuana use often leads to trying other, harder drugs such as acid, cocaine, etc.
Moreover, legalization may lead to an increase in impaired driving. Like drunk drivers, high drivers experience a sense of reduced reaction time and impaired judgment.
A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that marijuana actually doesn’t increase the crash risk in drivers.
Regardless, it’s still important to acknowledge the presence of any drivers that are behind the wheel while under the influence of a controlled substance.
It’s wonderful that America is moving towards a more progressive view on marijuana and taking steps towards wider spread legalization.
After all, two of the most common vices in our society today are cigarettes and alcohol – both of which have proven to be detrimental to one’s health, yet are still legal. I say it’s about time that America moved towards ending the stigma that surrounds marijuana and embraced the safer, natural alternative it offers.
The views and opinions expressed in the Op-Ed section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors.