Opinion Staff Writer
With its multitude of benefits, ranging from medicinal to economical, marijuana should be legalized for medical and recreational use in the United States.
Despite the negative connotations associated with use of the drug, it has undeniable positive attributes which set it apart from other substances and legitimize its potential legality.
“Weed is very versatile, it is good for things like anxiety and depression. People who suffer from mental illnesses can use it and so can people suffering from chronic pain,” said Yen Doan, sophomore environmental studies student with a concentration in policy and management.
Like Donan said, marijuana can help with health issues such as chronic pain and mental illness, but it can also aid in a number of different ails. Some of these include muscle spasms, low lung capacity, seizures, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and others, according to Business Insider.
Something to consider when looking at the medical benefits of marijuana is the difference in tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. THC is largely responsible for the high one feels get when ingesting marijuana and CBD can take credit for some of the pain-alleviating effects. Consuming isolated CBD oil — which is legal to sell and distribute — provides relieving effects without feeling the high, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
The legal use of marijuana for medical purposes is seemingly a divisive topic amongst U.S. citizens, when in reality 84 percent of us think it should legal for medicinal purposes and 61 percent believe in the legality of recreational use, according to Business Insider. Those in the 16 percent who do not think medical marijuana should be in use are perhaps stigmatizing those who use marijuana.
“People will say they’re smelly, it’s a gateway drug, they don’t do school well, they don’t do anything, just really negative stuff,” Doan said.
Like any other drug, people can abuse marijuana by smoking or consuming it on a daily basis. If handled responsibly, marijuana users will not find themselves modeling any of these typical stigmas.
What is really odd about our government being unwilling to legalize marijuana country-wide, is the sheer fact that alcohol is legal and even celebrated. Alcohol is consistently advertised to us as a lifestyle we should hope to have one day. It has designated areas for people to consume it and chain stores dedicated its distribution. Alcohol is arguably worse than marijuana and yet our society, particularly Americans, support it without question.
Alcohol is the most widely used drug in the world and can have some serious effects on both one’s mental and physical state. Becoming drunk decreases communication between brain cells, and if consumed in excess, can cause permanent brain damage or even death, according to HealthLine. Since it is so widely used and celebrated, people of varying ages drink it, including some under the legal drinking age of 21. Of these underage drinkers, 4,300 of them died of excess drinking in 2010, as reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It is more safe than alcohol. I haven’t really heard of anyone dying from smoking weed, but alcohol can kill you. It’s poison,” Doan said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 88,000 alcohol-related deaths happen per year whereas almost no marijuana deaths happen annually. It is much easier to overdose on alcohol, as overdosing on marijuana would happen by smoking between 238 to 1,113 average-sized joints per day.
In cases of domestic abuse, alcohol is found to lead to more instances of harm where marijuana is found to actually decrease the likelihood of domestic violence, according to Drugabuse.com.
However, as far as driving goes, both are found to increase the risk of getting into an accident if either are consumed before getting on the road. Although, marijuana increases this by 84 percent and alcohol increases it by 2,200 percent, according to Drugabuse.com. Driving under the influence of anything increases the risk on getting into an accident.
Additionally, the economy would greatly improve. Medical marijuana has already been legalized in 29 states and in eight states recreational use has also been legalized. These states can already see the benefit. In Colorado for instance, more than 18,000 jobs have been created and has generated 2.4 billion dollars in economic activity in 2015, reported The Washington Post.
If marijuana has all of these benefits and appears to be safer than already legal substances, the question remains, why is it still illegal? There are multiple factors, but the two main ones appear to be big pharma and internalized racism.
“It’s not already legal because of big pharma. All those drugs they make you addicted to already, they want to keep supplying you that. It’s messed up to make people addicted to things so that they can keep prescribing you,” Doan said.
Pharmaceutical companies view medical marijuana as their competition for pain relief, as explained by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and reported by Forbes. She goes on to say the crisis does not lie in people overdosing on marijuana in search of pain relief, which often happens with opioids, a current crisis in our nation. Marijuana does not have the same addictive properties as opioids.
Internalized racism is another big factor in the hesitation to legalize marijuana.
“Racism and weed kind of go hand-in-hand. White people are capitalizing off of it and black people are still in jail, “ Doan said.
In more than half of all drug arrests, marijuana is the main culprit. Of these arrests, 88 percent were simply for possession of the drug. Despite equal usage amongst the races, a black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested than a white person, according to research done by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“It’s awful because all those people of color are getting arrested for smoking weed when white people just get a slap on the wrist,” Doan said.