Marijuana in the United States has been a big issue for decades dating back to when it was first made illegal in 1937. Using scare tactics, propaganda, and false facts, the government decided to classify the plant as a schedule one drug along with substances such as ecstasy, LSD, and heroin. Marijuana has since become a more common and socially acceptable (Not by the government) drug in recent years. This past year Colorado, Washington, and Oregon had decided to vote on the issue of legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Focusing on Colorado, Amendment 64 passed on November 6th, 2012 which would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of the plant. Amendment 64 was passed in Colorado with the winning vote of about 55% of the Colorado population. They chose to make marijuana legal for those 21 and over in Colorado such as alcohol is everywhere else. It was deemed legal but people may only grow up to six plants, no more than three flowering, and carry up to one ounce (28 grams).
The laws are not completely refined on the matter but it is to be regulated very similar to alcohol with driving under the influence being illegal and sale to a minor also illegal. Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper, signed the amendment into law and created a task force that meets in order to create regulations that will take effect by July 1st, 2013. The task force was created such that, “All stakeholders share an interest in creating efficient and effective regulations that provide for the responsible development of the new marijuana laws”.
With officials from groups that represent the consumer, producer, and law enforcement, and others, the task force really covers all those who will be affected by the new law. The only problem was to find an equal ground on which all groups can agree on and implement into law. On March 13th, the task force officially released their recommendations for implementation of the new law. It is filled with multiple options on all aspects of the implementation including taxation, licensee requirements, operational requirements, consumer safety, etc.
The new laws will take place by July after being voted on by the Colorado lawmakers. But during this whole legalization process marijuana is still classified as one of the most harmful and addicting drugs and is still illegal under the federal government. With so much support coming from states such as Colorado and Washington, the government is put into a tight spot on the issue. Obama stated in an interview with ABC News that “It does not make sense from a prioritization view, for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has legalized it under state law”.
That leaves the question that if states have decided to legalize the plant for medical use along with a two states for recreational use, shouldn’t the federal regulations on marijuana change? Of course complete legalization will not happen anytime soon, but the level of danger it is currently classified under federal law seems to be unreasonable. Schedule one drugs are classified as, “drugs, substances, or chemicals with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse…the most dangerous drugs of all…with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence. 18 states have passed medicinal marijuana bills that would point to some misunderstanding of the plant and its effects. Patients diagnosed with medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, severe nausea, severe pain, cancer, and others have been prescribed marijuana.
A study done by the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research revealed that for patients with neuropathic pain, the effects were relieving pain better than original medicine prescribed and should be a, “first line treatment. On the other hand, even if it could help out patients, many doctors are still against prescribing marijuana to their patients. In a survey held by Elin Kondrad, MD and Alfred Reid, MA from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, results showed that a majority of family physicians would not recommend prescribing marijuana. With 520 physicians from Colorado taking the survey, 46% said they would not recommend prescribing the plant to patients, while only 19% said they would recommend it.
When asked about continuing research, “Nearly all agreed on the need for further medical education about medical marijuana. With 91% agreeing that it should be explored deeper, it shows that many people don’t actually know the truth of how helpful or harmful marijuana can be. There is one big problem about the testing of marijuana; the government still classifies it as illegal. They refuse to put it down to a schedule two drug along with cocaine and morphine which they classify as having medical value. Maia Szalavitz of Time magazine compared the addiction rate of marijuana users against tobacco and other hard drugs. She stated, “Marijuana is much less addictive, coming in at 9% to 10%.
In contrast, 23% to 25% of heroin users get addicted, along with 15% of alcohol users and 15% to 20% of those who use cocaine. ” Nicotine in cigarettes addicts about up to 30% of those who smoke, along with being more harmful to the body according to Robert Melamede. Marijuana seems like it would be a legitimate candidate for medicinal use country wide when compared to alcohol which is legal, cocaine, and morphine which have accepted medical use but also can be more harmful to the user. But aside from medical and recreational uses, the benefits for the states that legalize it can be enormous.
Colorado is projected to yield about 60 million dollars from savings and revenue from the legalized sales of marijuana. When they legalized marijuana it cut down around 12 million dollars that they will have to spend on law enforcement. Part of the amendment for Colorado stated that the first 40 million raised through taxes would be put into the public school capital construction assistance fund annually. The final taxes haven’t been put into effect yet but that income will be steadily incoming by the start of July.
It is speculated that the 60 million dollars might double by 2017 which would be absolutely great for Colorado. With that kind of revenue states all over should be jumping at this opportunity to gain a huge source of income. Along with marijuana being legal, the plant has a multitude of other uses, excluding medicinal and recreational, that could be taken advantage of in many industries. The plant has different parts that can be used such as the stalk, leaves, flowers, and seeds. The stalk can be used as textiles like twine, rope, tarps, and use in diapers, denim, and can even make shoes.
The leaves along with the stalk can be used to create many different types of paper and building materials like fiberboard, insulation, and cement. The seeds can be used in foods, personal hygiene products, and industrial products such as paint, fuel, and lubricants. All these uses may be another reason for the government to keep it illegal because it is such a useful plant that it may put cause other businesses to fail. I believe that marijuana should be relinquished from the list of schedule one drugs and lowered at least to a schedule two drug.
If that happens, it would be very beneficial to the country because medical testing would be able to take place on a larger scale to realty find the true effects of the plant. With legitimate research done a quality assessment can be achieved in order to create regulations that make sense and can be applied nationwide. The government won’t make it legal but with research done, states can make an informed choice on whether or not they would want to legalize it, pass it for medical use, or keep it illegal.
Before doing extensive research it has shown that marijuana is a better alternative of drug use compared to tobacco, alcohol, and others drugs classified in the same area. Alcohol and tobacco are used by far more people that marijuana has been because it is viewed differently as it has been illegal. There have been no recorded deaths from the use of marijuana whereas drunk driving and alcohol poisoning kill thousands every year. Tobacco as everyone knows is one of the biggest causes for cancer around the world and causes deaths on a massive scale.
Comparatively, marijuana seems much safer because usually the side effects are being happy, hungry, and tired. I feel that more states should take after the model that Colorado and Washington have set after passing the legalization bill. The task force that was created for Colorado did a great job in creating many recommendations for the legislature to vote on in order to regulate the industry. The taxing benefits and the reduced cost for drug enforcement in Colorado should really encourage other states to follow the same path because of such great benefits.
I understand that many states will not pass such a law for many years, if ever, but medicinal marijuana should at least be put into law since it would still gain revenue but not as much as full legalization. If legalization gets enough support from citizens around the country I don’t believe it will be too long before full legalization will take effect. Becoming more of a common topic and more used substance, marijuana use is tolerated more and more each day. Many states have lowered the penalties for marijuana possession and even some law enforcement officials support it, although they can’t say that in public.
After giving a speech to a hall full of cops to join the campaign for marijuana legalization in November 2011, the former chief federal prosecutor from Washington State alleged that afterward, “They came up to me and said, ‘We know you’re right — we just can’t say so. ’” It really shows that many people understand that it is legitimate and a true possibility, the federal government just won’t change on their view. It is one of the biggest issues that comes between states and the government now and there should be change in order to serve the people and what they want.