Legalize it?

Caroline Moll

As young adults, and especially as teens, we often respect only our view on political issues. This creates a one-sided, close-minded political environment. The possible legalization of marijuana is one topic that seems to be on the forefront of controversy, class discussions, and modern politics.

In a 2012 election, the substance was first legalized in Colorado and Washington. It was again seen on ballots in 2014, where it was legalized for recreational use in Alaska and Oregon. Since then, the topic has been frequently discussed in many political debates, as well as brought forth as a possible referendum vote for the 2016 election here in Massachusetts. With the possibility of its decriminalization becoming a local issue, many young voters with strong opinions will argue for their belief.

The legalization of marijuana would effectively end the ban on the drug statewide. It would be given an age restriction and taxed similar to the way alcohol is currently regulated.

Many people support legalization and vow to vote for the bill to be passed. Doctors have found evidence that the use of marijuana can be beneficial to those suffering from physical and mental illnesses. Marijuana has been used in cases with Alzheimer’s patients to lessen some of the agitated behavior patients can exhibit. Also, a study done with animals has shown a possibility that marijuana extracts may kill certain cancer cells.

It is also believed that its legalization could have positive effects on the state’s economy and reducing the crime rate.

Colorado is the perfect example of a state in which legalization has had this positive effect. In a study reported by The Washington Post, the state has earned over $63 million in marijuana tax revenue, with an additional $13 million earned in fees. Tax revenue is projected to grow to an estimated $94 million annually by 2016. Data released by the city of Denver reported that in 2014, crime rate had dropped 2.2%, burglaries have decreased 9.5%, and overall property crime has decreased 8.9%.

Despite a favorable outcome in states like Colorado, many people still question the possible effects legalizing marijuana may have in our own community. The current belief is that its legalization may be mistaken for encouragement into the world of substance abuse.

The strongest argument against legalization is the idea of it being a “gateway drug”. By definition, this means it could potentially be a habit-forming drug that, while not itself addictive, could lead to the use of other addictive drugs.

This argument is exactly what may prevent voters from passing the bill, especially with the emerging heroin problem. The fact of the matter is that many young adults who pass away from heroin overdoses had substance abuse problems in high school with gateway substances like marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol. This is a growing concern in our community that needs to be addressed.

Research has been done to show how substance abuse can cause problems in daily life. In a recent study of 129 college aged pot users, it was observed that their critical skills related to attention, memory, and learning were seriously diminished.

Many are afraid that, with marijuana becoming a more widely accepted substance, the need to be more rebellious will drive kids into the world of hardcore drugs. The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia released information that adolescents using gateway drugs are up to 266 times more likely to use cocaine later in life.

This mindset will play a key role in whether or not the legalization of marijuana will pass.