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Lighting up the other side of weed legalization

Veronica Liow, Christian Alvarez, and Kyle Acma

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Dope. Ganja. Reefer. The medical. The Fire bro. You know what we’re talking about, and if you don’t, hopefully we can help educate you about the plant that has caused significant controversy in our country: cannabis sativa.

Though marijuana was illegalized and then legalized during World War II, it became illegalized again soon after soldiers became too ineffective in the front lines and dropped in overall fighting quality. In addition, it was easier for politicians to pin weed on the youth, or “hippies”, who advocated against the Vietnam War, thus decreasing their credibility as politicians continued to pretend that America was winning the war.

Cannabis was also looked down upon because it was heavily associated with illegal immigrants, people of color and ultimately, violence. While many know that Cannabis consumption results in anything but violence (evidence of the claim will be discussed later), yellow journalism and politicians saw this over-exaggerated concept of weed as a method to exploit the fears of people in order to increase readership and public support of the “War on Drugs”, respectively.

The prohibition of marijuana continues today for several reasons.

When people think about the consequences of smoking, they automatically associate it with brain damage. This common misconception is due to faulty studies, such as one conducted by Dr. Robert G. Heath from Tulane University Medical School. Heath claimed that he exposed several monkeys to the equivalent of 30 joints of marijuana each day. His results found that after approximately 90 days, monkeys began to die off; upon further inspection, he realized that many of their brain cells had died.

The federal government, at the time, exploited the study, using Heath’s research and results for the basis of the “War on Drugs” campaign. However, what most people do not mention today is that Heath’s study was found to be inaccurate. Not only was no one able to replicate his experiment, but it exposed that his research was faulty. Heath actually puffed over five minutes of marijuana via a gas mask into the monkeys during the time frame of his study; the dead brain cells were a result of suffocation from lack of oxygen due to the gas mask rather than the marijuana itself (The Union: The Business Behind Getting High).

Two other studies conducted by Dr. William Sikker  of the National Center for Toxicological Research and Charles Rebert and Gordon Pryor of SRI International, respectively, attempted to replicate Heath’s findings in a more controlled setting, only to find that there was “no change in the structure of monkeys that were given daily doses for up to a year” (TruthOnPot).

Okay, so marijuana doesn’t cause brain damage, but hasn’t it always been associated with violence?

Maybe, but more often than not, as we have seen from alcohol’s prohibition, violence stems from gangs who want to keep control of the prospering industry, especially when an ounce can be equivalent to at least $387 (Forbes).

Compared to tobacco, which causes an average of 430,000 deaths annually, and alcohol, which causes an average of 85,000 deaths annually, marijuana is the least violent, as cannabis has no history of causing any deaths, according to Dr. Lester Grinspoon M.D. a Professor Emeritus at Harvard Medical School.  

Don’t get us wrong; weed does have its negative effects, just like any other drug. It paralyzes the cilia in your brain and distorts the senses, which is what produces a “high” feeling.

But contrary to popular belief, weed does not cause cancer. If anything, cancer is more linked to tobacco, an industry that is actually government-subsidized despite the toxins inside the product and produced by the product, as tobacco is grown with radioactive fertilizer.

“… If it’s not radioactive, you’re probably not going to get cancer from it,” said David Malmo Levine from the Vancouver Drug War History School.

So ultimately, weed, which is illegal, does not cause cancer, even though tobacco is, and does.

But still, why legalize it?

According to the Huffington Post, marijuana is the fastest growing industry in the U.S., and that’s only legal marijuana. The industry is booming, as marijuana has other benefits from medicinal use to textile use — hemp is the strongest material for clothing — and with its legalization comes the ability for taxation as well as new job opportunities.

In addition, currently, an estimated $7.7 billion is spent on marijuana prohibition; that money could go towards something else, such as improving the education system or reforming an outdated prison system.

Speaking of the prison system, there were 1.5 million people in 2014 arrested for non-violent drug charges with 609,423 of them relating to marijuana (DrugPolicy.org). This means that people were arrested for a nonviolent crime for the sake that something, or weed in this case, is deemed illegal, not because it actually detrimentally harms users or those around them.

Through decriminalizing weed, not only will we foster youth that are less likely to involve themselves in gang violence and worse drug crimes, but we can begin to reform America’s prison system, which incarcerates more people than any other country.

Another question that many tend to bring up with the legalization of marijuana is how it will be regulated and controlled and who will do it. Two states so far have implemented legalization retail laws concerning the sale of marijuana. Colorado has its own Marijuana Enforcement Branch, also known as the Marijuana Enforcement Division, which is lead by the Colorado General Assembly. Laws were added to the state’s constitution that address the control and distribution of marijuana. Laws that have a solid chance of being adopted by any state that decides to legalize marijuana in the future includes ensuring that customers are informed and protected via labels, and that taxpaying business people, not criminal actors, will conduct the sales of marijuana.

Overall, though there is an increased presence in the support of the decriminalization of weed, the topic of its legalization remains taboo.

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The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.
Lighting up the other side of weed legalization