Point by: Amanda Lee
Americans have the opportunity to vote, and residents of some states had the option to vote on the legalization of marijuana on the most recent Election Day.
Alaska, Washington, D.C. and Oregon recently became part of the short list of states where recreational use of marijuana use is not illegal, and in 2016 California might be joining them.
Since marijuana for medical purposes is currently allowed in California, it might help voters in the Golden State see that the drug is not only less harmful than some other substances but also carries some health benefits.
Marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 drug, considered to have high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical purposes.
Some common uses of marijuana include easing pain, controlling seizures and relieving side effects of chemotherapy.
One strain of cannabis has a high content of CBD to help relieve epileptic seizures and low in THC, the chemical that makes users feel high.
Charlotte’s Web is an oil extracted from this strain of cannabis that helped a girl, Charlotte Figi, reduce the amount of seizures she had from 300 in a week to four in a month.
CNN made a documentary about the Figi family’s success with medical marijuana and soon people around the country learned about an alternative treatment for cancer.
After one family explored using marijuana to treat their daughter’s rare illness, many others have since moved to Colorado so that their children don’t have to suffer.
Some doctors are skeptical about the benefits of marijuana and will not recommend or prescribe it as a treatment for disease.
Legalization of marijuana for personal and recreational purposes would allow people who have been turned down by medical professionals to access a treatment that could lessen their medical bills and work where costly medications have failed.
While the CBD content in marijuana can be used to treat certain conditions, the other chemical found in marijuana, THC, cannot be forgotten.
THC makes consumers feel high and the fear that people have, is that marijuana can be a gateway to abuse other illegal drugs.
Alongside marijuana, Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, MDMA and LSD. Compared with some other drugs that induce the feeling of euphoria, usage of marijuana presents a smaller risk.
Heroin users who are careless and share needles put themselves at risk for HIV, as well as other effects of overdosing such as difficulties breathing.
A side effect of MDMA, or ecstasy, is the body losing the ability to regulate temperature and on the rare occasion that hyperthermia occurs, organ failure or even death is a possible consequence.
Consuming too much marijuana can cause paranoia and anxiety or affect driving ability but death as a direct result of overdosing on marijuana has yet to happen.
Taking a few more pills or tabs of ecstasy or LSD could cause overdosing, but it would take much more to overdose on marijuana.
According to Schaffer Library of Drug Policy’s website, it takes 40,000 times the amount of THC that causes intoxication to result in death.
There has yet to be a case of death as a result from overdosing on marijuana but there have been several accounts of marijuana helping people overcome their disease.
In 2011, the CDC accounted for 26,654 deaths related to excessive alcohol consumption and another 16,749 lives lost due to alcoholic liver disease.
Potentially, marijuana could be as accessible as alcohol in California.
Legalizing weed for recreational use could provide a safer alternative to alcohol and other drugs for an euphoric feeling.
Counterpoint by: Anastacia Barbosa
Recreational marijuana use has recently become legal in the states of Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia. These states join Colorado and Washington in the legalization of this extremely illicit drug.
Twenty-one states have medical marijuana laws in place, even though the FDA specifically classifies it as a “Schedule I” drug meaning it has no medicinal uses and has an extremely high abuse risk. California is currently one of the states where medical marijuana use is legal, but the guidelines and regulation of medical marijuana is extremely flawed and faulty.
Simply walking down Venice Beach one person comes into contact with at least 20 independent clinics touting clever signs, slogans, and uniforms. These places promise medical cards promising near instant access to the plant, they make it seem as easy as applying for a state identification card, if not easier. This sounds like some sort of dream come true, but in reality the lack of regulation proves that the state of California is not ready for mass recreational legalization.
It is estimated that California police departments will have combined annual costs of nearly $13 million to respond to immediate needs which will arise from legalization of recreational marijuana.
These costs include necessary training of police officers to establish drug impairment based on symptomology, because there are no roadside tools like breathalyzers for testing marijuana usage and impairment. The quickest test for determining if marijuana is in one’s system is actually a urine test strip which is unsanitary, inconvenient, and most of the time inaccurate.
Many argue that the benefits to the state would reap millions if not billions of dollars in tax revenue as well as lower arrests and black market sales of the drugs but there’s really no truth behind any of these.
The tax revenue Colorado is reporting is only estimated at this point and the number is significant because of size of Colorado in population and square mileage. It would take California an estimated three years to see any significant revenu from the tax of marijuana sales.
The lower arrest argument is also an undetermined and unfounded fact as well. In 2013 there were 20,000 marijuana based arrests in the state of California, and a majority of the arrests were minors under the age of 18 charged with misdemeanor possesion and/or use of the drug.
If recreational laws were to pass, a majority of these arrests would still exist because of the suggested age limit being 18 to purchase and legally smoke. In fact there could even be a rise in these marijuana arrests with easier access to the drug if it were to be sold in smoke shops and stores.
The black market for marijuana disappearing is again false and unfounded, in fact the market would still continue and possibly grow. The growth of marijuana would have to be watched meticulously by government offices, which would again require training, time, and more funding, before being approved to be sold.
The black market for certain strains of higher THC levels would dramatically increase in an attempt to avoid government approval and the major taxes placed on the grower, the seller, the buyer.
California just isn’t ready for recreational marijuana legalization and even if preparations were to begin this moment neither the public nor the government would be prepared for the thick cloud of smoke that looms in the air.