Perspectives: Should marijuana be legalized in Michigan?


Illustration by Maia Rose Wiederhold

Why recreational marijuana should be legalized
By Zach Parfeniuk, reporter.

What’s on the Michigan statewide ballot this year? Ganja.

Proposal 1, if passed, will legalize recreational marijuana across Michigan for the use of people who are at least 21 years old. Due to the recent focus on Medicare, social security, immigration and taxes, marijuana seems to have taken a back seat in political discussion; this makes the proposal no less important.

If you need convincing as to why to vote for the proposal, look at the facts. Marijuana is just not as harmful as some critics report it to be. There are many different effects of a high on the human body; one of the most obvious effects being disruption in the activity the hippocampus, the brain’s short-term memory center.

Some point to this as being a health risk of marijuana, but a 2013 study done by Northwestern University shows that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana) only continues to affect the hippocampus after the high if the users are heavy drug abusers (the subjects in question smoking marijuana daily).

As a matter of fact, the effects of marijuana on the brain have been used positively in some cases. THC riles up the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls appetite. In a 2011 study done by the University of Alberta, findings showed that this effect of marijuana benefits cancer patients who have an impaired sense of appetite and smell; stimulating the hypothalamus meant stimulating the patient’s appetite, making it easier for them to stay at a healthy weight.

Marijuana has also been noted to help with other diseases, such as: Alzheimer’s Disease, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Crohn’s Disease and several others by helping to ease physical pain, decreasing anxiety and other methods.

In addition, it helps the economy and government. Social and fiscal institutions have much to gain from legalizing recreational marijuana. It opens up a new type of business, and the tax stimulates government programs.

To look at the economic benefit of legalized recreational marijuana, look no further than Colorado. This year alone, from January to September, Colorado collected over $200 million from marijuana taxes, licenses and fee revenue. Michigan has an even greater population than Colorado (9.962 million in 2017 compared to 5.607 million in Colorado the same year).

Finally, by legalizing marijuana, people would see less and less of a need to buy marijuana from drug dealers if it’s available from a government supported institution.

Continuing to criminalize the drug bloats our prison system. According to an FBI report released in September of this year, in 2017 there were 659,700 arrests for simply owning (not growing it or selling) marijuana.

When there are more than 100 deaths per day due to opioid overdoses, we are wasting our time and money trying to track down recreational marijuana usage, when there are real epidemics going on inside the country. If people are using marijuana irresponsibly, such as driving under the influence, they deserve to be held accountable by a court of law for that crime. However, simply possessing the drug should not land you a spot in prison; American jails already contain almost a quarter of the world’s prison population.

This is not to say that marijuana’s myriad of benefits comes without its cons. The chemicals such as the aforementioned THC can impair short-term memory for an extended period of time if marijuana is smoked consistently on a daily basis. However, I find that this mostly falls to the responsibility of the user.  Why should the entire state be denied the use of cannabis simply because of the potential for that drug to cause harm?

Drunk driving causes numerous deaths every day, but is the solution to ban alcohol? We can’t fight extreme actions with extreme measures. Michigan should join states such as Colorado and Washington in promoting a progressive message for drug reform.

 

Devil’s Advocate against the Devil’s Lettuce
By Maia Rose Wiederhold, illustrator.

Weed. Mary Jane. Pot. Dro. Loud. Ganja. The list goes on and on. We’ve all heard of (and most of us have even come across) what is considered “the most widely used illegal drug in the United States” (according to Rehabs.com) — marijuana. Now I know most of you reading this are probably considering voting yes for Proposal 18-1, but think of the consequences.

Marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, meaning it is illegal because it has potential for high abuse. Possessing, selling, and using marijuana can get you up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine if it is your first offense. After a third offense, having even the smallest amount of the drug on you can land you a felony with up to three years in jail. According to aclu.org, more than 8.2 million arrests have been made due to marijuana charges from 2001 to 2010. Within the state of Michigan, thousands of men and women have served time (and some still are) for charges related to marijuana.

With such a stigma against those who use it and sell it, it’s not a surprise that there is such a controversy over whether or not it should be made legal. I, for one, think the current laws are perfectly reasonable and have been put in place for a reason.

Marijuana contains the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is carried to the brain almost immediately when the drug is smoked. THC affects your sense of time, memory, hunger and coordination. It also has long-term effects on the brain that causes users to have “impaired thinking and interferes with a person’s ability to learn and perform complicated tasks,” according to drugabuse.gov.

More marijuana usage would decrease the overall state of our country. The drug also causes users to take more risks than they would than if they were sober, which ultimately leads to more stupid injuries, crimes, and actions.

By making the usage and selling of marijuana legal, the government is almost encouraging the use of it. While marijuana is still used and sold despite being illegal, there would definitely be a large increase in users if it was more easily accessible.

Drugs ruin people’s lives, and more people would become dependent on the drug, which is highly addictive, and continue to waste money on it. Not to mention, with the increased use of marijuana in your community, there is a greater chance that children will be exposed to it at a young age or have access to it, causing them to become addicted and affecting their brains’ functions before they have time to fully mature. This will affect them not only in school but also in the workforce as they grow up.

If marijuana was decriminalized, users would have easier access to the drug, meaning more people would be out there in the world walking around and operating vehicles while high. Drug-impaired driving, which is just as bad if not worse than drunk driving, would most definitely increase, making our streets even less safe than they already are.

Overall, there are more negatives to the use of marijuana than there are positives, and it’s clear to see why it was made illegal in the first place. Keeping the drug laws that are in place now will help keep the use of marijuana down more than if it was legal.

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