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Marijuana Legalization

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Article Written By Alexa Doiron

Photo Courtesy of Google

With the 2016 elections, multiple states throughout the country found themselves passing recreational marijuana. The legalization of this drug has slowing been growing within the past decade as organizations promote the benefits of weed in the media. There are mixed reviews on the issue, though, as citizens wait to see how the country will be changed.

“I think it is positive to see how people will react in such populated areas and with so many states,” said Freshman, Haley Streeper. “It is just a good idea to see where our country is going in terms of this argument.”

The history of marijuana regulation first began in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act. The goal of this act was to regulate the drug instead of prohibiting them entirely in order to prevent greater legal issues. The law came on the cusp of the popular film in 1936, “Reefer Madness,” which instilled fear of Mexican involvement in the spreading of the drug.

Under President Nixon, the laws and regulation grew even stricter. Former President Nixon vehemently promoted the dangers of marijuana and placed the drug under the category of Schedule 1, which is the section of drugs that the government finds no medical uses and high instances of abuse. Also placed in the Schedule 1 category are LSD and heroin because Nixon thought marijuana to be on the same level of a destructive drug. However, Nixon’s own self-appointed investigative committee recommended in 1972 that marijuana be decriminalized because of its lack of danger but Nixon denied this report and promoted constricting regulation on research of the drug, which prevented scientists at the time to study in full the benefits of the drug.

It wasn’t until recently with the rise of the baby boom generation that the population has returned to the favor of medical and recreational marijuana. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws (NORML) has been promoting the many medical benefits in the media to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with the drug.

The millennial generation is the population that is really pushing for its decriminalization. Many younger citizens see the positive effects of the drug as far outweighing the negative.

“It mellows me out and I don’t find a lot of drama attached to is versus with alcohol,” said Sophomore, Kelvin Obioha. “The only downside is, of course, the illegal aspect. If it were legal it’d be much easier for everyone. I think more places should legalize it.”

One of the hesitations for passing the law was the lack of information on how weed impairs driving skills. A federal study was done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse recently that tested drivers’ skills who were high in comparison to those who were drunk. The study included 18 participants from the ages of 21 to 37 and placed them in a driving simulator. Each time, the participants were tested under different concentrations of the drug, alcohol, both, or none at all. In the simulation, researchers looked at the number of times the driver would weave within the lane, how many times the car would leave their lane, and the speed with which the cars were weaving.

From this study, it was found that even though alcohol had a significant impact on the drivers, marijuana did not. While the drug did display a slight increase in weaving, it was similar to the same amount as a driver with the legal limit, .08, breath alcohol concentration.

Another factor to consider in the study was that the THC level drops much faster than a person’s BAC which means that toward the end of their driving, the drug would be less influential on their skills. However, one area that the study found a deficiency in was peripheral vision. The effect of this, though, researchers said, was it caused the drivers to actually driver more cautiously because they were aware of the impairment as opposed to drivers under the influence of alcohol who don’t realize how significantly they are impaired and take greater risks.

Another positive that people have been promoting is the economic benefits of legalizing weed. Not only would the drug be helpful in a medical sense, but it would also give a boost to our economy.

With the decriminalization, there would be a far lesser cost in incarceration expenses. The United States is the global leading country in incarceration of its citizens with the war on drugs being the leading cause. The amount of taxpayer money that goes into incarcerating drug-related criminals is detrimental to the economy, especially because forty-five percent of the criminals are incarcerated because of marijuana. It is estimated that the government would save around $13.7 billion annually with the decrease in weed-related incarcerations.

While it may seem difficult to track the sales of marijuana because of the ease with which sellers can grown the product in their home, there are ways in which the government can regulate and tax the sale of the drug.

One way is by requiring licenses and permits for all citizens who intend to produce, sell, or use the drug. In doing this, the government would see a huge profit estimated at around $26 million annually.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) stands by the idea that legalizing marijuana would lead to a greater public abuse of the drug; however, studies show from the Netherlands who decriminalized the drug that the usage only spikes in the beginning of the process and then either evens out again or declines.

With the legalization of this drug, people fear that it is a gateway to other, more harmful drugs. However, a study done by the University of Pittsburgh took 12 years to research the gateway theory and found evidence contrary to its accuracy. The study looked at 214 boys over the 12-year span and found that quite the opposite was true for the majority. Instead of increased drug use, researchers found that over time, the boys either used less or stopped using substances entirely.

While the United States heads toward the path of looser marijuana laws, the general population is holding their breath to see the effects. It is predicted that the legalization of weed will result in all-around positive effects, but it will take time before the government can decide if changing the federal is worth the effort.