Money, time wasted on ‘absurd prohibition’
Generally speaking, things ought to be legally allowed until there are some compelling reasons to make them illegal.
When discussing the status of marijuana, it is important to keep this framework in mind in order to avoid getting into arguments about whether marijuana is “good.” Even if by some standards it is bad, it is not bad enough to justify criminalizing possession.
So why is marijuana illegal? Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, it is classified as a Schedule I drug, the most heavily restricted category.
To be included, a drug must have a) “high potential for abuse,” b)“no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and c) “a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.”
It seems the idea is to protect unwitting users from drugs that are dangerous and addictive, with exceptions made only for medical purposes.
But we have already accepted that adults can be trusted to handle some potentially damaging and highly addictive substances, most notably alcohol and tobacco.
Both have much lower toxicity thresholds than marijuana, meaning they are more dangerous to use. Alcohol poisoning causes 88,000 U.S. deaths per year, while marijuana has not been confirmed as the cause in a single case.
Alcohol and tobacco also have much greater potentials for physical dependence.
Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal, and though symptoms of nicotine and marijuana withdrawal are comparable, the former is much more common among users (occurring in 75 percent of those who try to quit, while only 10 to 20 percent of those who smoke marijuana daily become addicted).
Marijuana also has well-established medical uses (mainly for relieving nausea and pain), despite what its Schedule I classification would suggest.
Despite the fact that marijuana fares significantly better than alcohol and tobacco according to the Schedule I criteria, it remains illegal at the federal level, due to a political preference overriding scientific reality.
And it is no minor issue: half of all drug-related arrests in the United States are for marijuana, numbering about 750,000 per year.
An enormous amount of human capital is being wasted on this absurd prohibition of a relatively harmless substance.
Fortunately, states have taken initiative in correcting the situation, and the federal government has mostly ceased enforcement where state laws are not on their side.
Twenty-one states thus far have legalized medical marijuana, and recently, Colorado and Washington have moved to full legalization, including for recreational use.
Here’s hoping the remaining states follow suit before long.
Zack Truelson is a senior psychology major from Sioux Falls, S.D.
Recreational use encourages indifference
It’s been over a year since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, and overall, the transition seems to be going smoothly.
The state strictly regulates who can buy how much of the stuff, making it hard for out-of-staters to smuggle any home or for underage kids to get their hands on it. Crime hasn’t increased.
However, since this is America, there’s obviously still a lot of controversy.
For example, while some say that legalizing and taxing marijuana would create billions of dollars of revenue, the government, which tends to take a conservative stance on this issue, disagrees.
I’ll admit that I’m not up to speed on how legalization affects economics, nor do I care to be, but I am part of a very relevant demographic in this debate: college students.
From what I’ve seen and heard (not experienced, mind you), marijuana use is a risky box to open.
It compromises a person’s ability to think clearly, has the potential to make them depressed and paranoid and is intensified by drinking, of which, let’s be honest, there is a not a shortage on college campuses.
This inclination toward mixing experimentations is where legalalization presents a serious problem for college-aged people. At this age, we’ve already been thrust into a time when we’re legally allowed to do things we weren’t before, namely drink and gamble. Throw pot into the mix and our destructive tendencies become exactly that.
Admittedly, many of us are not chomping at the bit to get high and drunk, and any of us who are probably aren’t cowed by the law.
However, having the option would no doubt encourage these combinations.
Of course, nobody who smokes pot puts it in those terms. They say it relaxes them. Makes them giggle. Gives them an excuse to dip a sleeve of Oreos in guacamole and not feel gross about it. It lets them, basically, escape from reality.
That’s all well and good, but my question here is this: Why would you want to escape from reality? We’re reasonably intelligent, informed college students at a prestigious private school.
We chose to take on years of student loan debt for a reason, and that reason does not include smoking pot from an energy drink can.
Rather, we came to be doctors, teachers, lawyers and coaches. Our purpose here should not be to drudge through our own realities simply so we can float off to la-la-land on the weekends, but to improve the quality of the realities of people around us.
The act of using a drug like marijuana is largely a selfish one, and I’m inclined to say its legalization would dramatically increase lethargy and indifference in a world that desperately needs the opposite.
Hannah Redder is a junior English and journalism major from Mitchell, S.D.