Trampled weeds

The country should be less enthusiastic about recently passed marijuana legislation

I remember when people used to say they were moving to Canada after the election did not turn out in their favor, but this year the more popular destination is Colorado. Colorado’s Amendment 64 was passed in Tuesday’s election, legalizing marijuana for recreational use and signifying a major victory for marijuana users.

With the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in the works, the marijuana industry will finally be retail, but those in the industry are being warned to proceed with caution. Federal prosecutors will still consider the drug to be illegal and although the Justice Department is currently reviewing the state ballot initiatives, the federal prosecutors have made it clear that enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act will continue.

In addition to the federal prosecutor’s unchanging view, more bad news came from Washington state, where marijuana was also legalized in the election on Tuesday. In Washington, those in the marijuana industry will struggle with high taxation costs. According to CNN, there will be a 25 percent tax rate in each step of the sales process: first, when the grower sells marijuana to an original processor. Then, the tax will also be in effect when the processor passes marijuana to a potential retailer; and, lastly, in the transaction between retailer and consumer.

So there is little for marijuana users to be rejoicing for. First off, the high taxation, while bringing in revenue for the federal government, will largely decrease the payroll of the drug dealers; excuse me, “entrepreneurs.” Secondly, Amendment 64 in Colorado will take a while to be enacted fully because Colorado needs to develop regulation before citizens can legally buy and sell marijuana. Aware that the amendment will not be immediately accepted, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper attempted to warn Colorado residents that marijuana is still illegal according to federal law. He was quoted saying, “Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.” It troubles me that the governor of Colorado would make a joke out of this incredibly harmful passage of legislation. He might not find it so funny if one of his beloved Denver Broncos is suspended for 6 games for failing a drug test.

And yes, I believe Amendment 64 to be harmful, and I have good reason to. While many people argue that marijuana has nearly no negative effects, they are simply wrong. I am not saying the marijuana does not have benefits, because it does. Medical marijuana can relieve pain and relax patients, which is a positive thing. However, there are many disadvantages that exist for recreational use. The belief that smoking marijuana is not harmful is a misconception. Medically speaking, smoking pot is bad for your respiratory system, and USA Today cited a study by New Zealand’s Medical Research Institute that said that one joint may be as bad for your lungs as about five cigarettes. Also, pot use can cause cognitive damage according to CDC.gov, which can lead to depression and slowness in comprehension. Another problem with getting high all the time is a decrease in productivity. If marijuana were legal, more people would use it, and society might become lazier and less productive. These negative consequences are reason enough not to allow Amendment 64 to be implemented successfully, but there are many who continue to argue in favor of marijuana. One popular argument is that cigarettes and alcohol are equally bad, if not worse than marijuana. Yet they remain legal, so why should marijuana not be legal?

From my perspective, this argument is invalid. It is not logical to say that just because two drugs with negative impacts are legal that we should use that as a precedent for legalizing another. Marijuana is troubling in the same light as cigarettes and alcohol and the results of misusing these drugs are the same; they all have huge costs on society. None of these drugs should be legal, but as the Temperance Movement showed us there is no regression. Once you legalize a drug, more people begin to do it and more people become addicted and trying to make it illegal after the fact is ineffective. However, if we stop marijuana from being legal in the first place we can prevent the population of users from increasing, and we can stop the addiction from spreading. But this opportunity might be lost if states succeed in the legalization.

I am afraid that Washington and Colorado are just the beginning, and if marijuana is legalized successfully in those states then more states may follow, thus leading to mass unproductive behavior and other negative consequences. So in light of the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado, I look to President Obama for answers on the possible consequences of legalizing marijuana. In an online Town Hall meeting back in 2010, Obama answered questions submitted by the audience, one of which was about the legalization of marijuana to help boost the economy. As reported by CBSnews, in response to this question the president said, “The answer is, no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.” Other interviews have produced a similar outcome, where the president has spoken out against marijuana. So I am curious as to why states are beginning to legalize the drug. It seems to me that if recreational marijuana is not going to help the economy, then what good is legalizing it? Although President Obama has not yet taken action in response to the passage of this legislation, I hope the president will be as anti-marijuana in his second term as he was in his first, and that further examination of the legislation will lead to a realization that this country is not ready for the legalization of marijuana.

Meredith Berger’s column appears on Mondays in The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at m.berger@cavalierdaily.com.


Published November 11, 2012 in Opinion





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