With the arrival of spring, the sun is shining, the skies are blue, and everything returns to its natural green state. However, the grass is not the only green thing being discussed throughout the campus this month. Cannabis has been referenced in history dating back to 2727 B.C. Many have heard lectures, stories, songs, and watched movies concerning the psychoactive substance.
As one of the cruxes of the war on drugs, the seemingly infinite debate on the legalization of marijuana continued at Northampton between the members of Student Senate and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society on 25 February, 2016 in College Center 220. PTK spoke against legalization of cannabis while Student Senate supported a citizen’s right to smoke recreationally.
Speaking for Student Senate was Patrick Grifone, Dylan Vernon, Emily Hain, and Jonathan Manning. They delivered speeches peppered with clever anecdotes regarding the death penalty for users, the billions of dollars used on cannabis arrests, the benefits for agriculture, and how users with psychological dependency will not seek the help that they need due to the fear of a criminal record.
Hunter Runge, Anthony Santilli, and Elas Seip represented PTK, who responded with passion and directness. They stated that decriminalization would not protect against drug trafficking which represents 99.5% of arrests. They also mentioned how in Minnesota a farmer that plans to grow marijuana must first submit a $20,000 application fee. Both teams delivered convincing points, but the crown went to the Student Senate.
As of last year, 23 states have legalized medicinal marijuana. The legality of alcohol and cigarettes in each state has sparked curiosity towards the ban of marijuana in others. The detrimental effects of alcohol are well known, ranging from drunken driving to liver trauma.
This is not to leave out the problem of second-hand smoke and lung cancer. How could a natural plant be any more damaging than the mass amount of chemicals contained in a single cigarette? The healing qualities of marijuana are said to greatly outweigh the problematic side effects.
“The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS – or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day,” said former US Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders M.D.
It may seem like a miracle cure, but there are still arguments against it. Believers of the Gateway Theory strongly suggest that the use of soft drugs will lead to the use of harder, more damaging drugs. If we can become dependent on a cup of morning coffee, how could dependence on a daily puff be avoided?
Research shows that there is little evidence to support the physical addiction of marijuana. This poses the question: “If marijuana is legal in every state, will there be an increase in users versus medical attention to those in need?”
“By characterizing the use of illegal drugs as quasi-legal, state-sanctioned, Saturday afternoon fun, legalizers destabilize the societal norm that drug use is dangerous. They undercut the goals of stopping the initiation of drug use to prevent addiction… Children entering drug abuse treatment routinely report that they heard that ‘pot is medicine’ and, therefore, believed it to be good for them,” stated Andrea Barthwell, former deputy director of the White House Office of National Control Policy (ONDCP)
There is still a long road until marijuana reaches a fully legalized state, although that will not stop users from indulging in addled daydreams of one day becoming a joint-smoking grandpa regaling younger generations with stories of a prohibition era. Despite any personal biases, for or against, the marijuana debate is far from over.