Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

High hopes for weed legalization

By Erin Alexis Goldman

Opinion Editor 


Jokers, smokers and midnight tokers rejoice – for the first time in American history, a majority of citizens are in favor of the legalization of marijuana. According to the latest Gallup poll, in the past year, support for the legalization of marijuana surged 10 points. A whopping 58 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing the drug, and the momentum is not stopping any time soon.

As compelling as watching “ your brain on drugs” sizzle in a frying pan was, between the scientific research and the safety, jobs and revenue government regulation of pot would generate, it’s time we just say yes to legalizing marijuana.

Currently, the DEA has marijuana classified as a Schedule I substance, meaning the “most dangerous drugs … with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence” and it has “no currently accepted medical use.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent, said that neither of those statements has ever been factual. “Even many of the most ardent critics of medical marijuana don’t agree with the Schedule I classification, knowing how it’s impeded the ability to conduct needed research on the plant,” Gupta said. The head of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, told Gupta she believes we need to loosen restrictions for researchers.

Because nearly half of the states have passed laws allowing the medical and/or recreational use of marijuana and over a dozen more are considering legalization measures right now, its obvious anti-pot groups are fighting an unwinnable battle – and they are using the same outdated weapons to do so. Their arguments against pot are like bringing knives to a gun fight. Chief among them are that marijuana is addictive and that it acts as a gateway drug to more dangerous substances.

According to an article in Scientific American, “Experts Tell the Truth about Pot,” marijuana is less addictive than nicotine, alcohol and even caffeine. Studies have shown that only somewhere between four and nine percent of regular marijuana users develop dependency issues. The Huffington Post cites the authors of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know. According to the Huff Post’s article by Matt Ferner and Nick Wing, the book points out: “While some heavy marijuana users do experience symptoms of clinical dependency and feel discomfort or withdraw- al when trying to quit, kicking a pot addiction doesn’t lead to the same type of intense, dangerous physical and psychological pain that often accompanies alcohol, nicotine or heroin dependency.”

As for the assertion that pot is the “gateway drug,” there is hardly any factual basis to that claim. The argument is that because some people will try harder drugs sometime after having tried pot, the user’s experience with weed was the catalyst in their later experimentation.

However, “In reading drug use statistics – or any statistics at all – it’s important to remember that correlation does not equal causation,” Ferner and Wing said. “Just because users of heroin, cocaine or other hard drugs are very likely to have used marijuana earlier in their lives doesn’t mean that the pot itself was the catalyst for their later drug-related decisions.”

The statistics make sense. Weed is generally easier than harder drugs to obtain, and those looking to alter their state of mind will go to the most accessible substance. Nevertheless, no study has found a direct link between the use of pot and harder drugs later in life.

There is no question that medicinal marijuana should be legalized everywhere. “It is about a Draconian system where politics override science, and patients are caught in the middle,” Gupta said. “I am more convinced than ever that it is irresponsible to not provide the best care we can, care that often may involve marijuana.”

It is also irresponsible to classify it as a Schedule I substance. According to an FBI report, nearly half of drug arrests in 2012 were for marijuana – a total of about 750,000. Of those, an estimated 658,231 arrests were for possession alone.

In a recent interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Gov. Rick Perry nodded when Kimmel suggested the governor may decriminalize pot in Texas by January 2015. “We’ve kind of done that,” Perry said. “You don’t want to ruin a kid’s life for having a joint.”

Between public opinion and arguments for legalization that are far stronger than those of the opposition, it’s not a question of if the U.S. should legalize marijuana – it’s when.


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