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To smoke or not to smoke: The highs and lows of legalization

I recently had the pleasure of attending the CSB/SJU student debate covering whether or not Minnesota should legalize the use of medicinal marijuana and unfortunately came away a little upset.

While I applaud those who participated in the debate, I believe the scope of the argument failed to address the real issue at large — is marijuana harmful, and should it even be illegal at all? Failing to address the context with which marijuana became illegal in the United States only allows a short-sided argument of “medical marijuana vs. prohibition” to take place, when the burgeoning issue at hand is whether marijuana should be legalized for recreational use or not. Instead of addressing this issue, both sides made the assumption that marijuana should not be legalized for recreational use. My proposition is that it should.

The truth is that there is a large portion of Americans that do use marijuana for recreational use and have done so consistently for almost 50 years. This group of people is not going anywhere, as time has demonstrated. The “pro” side that supported the legalization of medical marijuana claimed that marijuana would be used only for those that are truly ill and that Minnesota “would do a better job” of enforcing regulation laws. This is just a silly proposal because of the recreational demand for marijuana. If marijuana is put up for sale, it will get into the hands of recreational users. Period. I saw it first-hand in Colorado — people who had no serious illnesses were being prescribed medical marijuana that was distributed in makeshift jars with names like “Durban Poison”. I mean seriously, who the heck are we kidding here? Regulation does not work when marijuana is totally illegal, and it most certainly will not work when marijuana is legalized for a select few.

The “con” side also made severe mistakes in its argument, most prominently, failing to address why marijuana is illegal at all. Rather than allowing people to inhale marijuana, they supported the use of Marinol — a synthesized form of THC that is ingested in capsule form. When asked why getting high off of Marinol is better than getting high from inhalation of natural marijuana, the “con” side claimed that (roughly paraphrased), “You won’t see kids sitting around in a circle doing Marinol.” Yet this is a feeble and unsupported attempt that marijuana culture is somehow wrong or bad. The “con” side never said why sitting in a circle and inhaling marijuana was bad, they just made the assumption it was. This is clearly a remnant in American public memory that marijuana is just somehow wrong and incontestably bad because the DEA told us so.

The easiest and most simple solution is to fully legalize the growth and use of marijuana across the board for all recreational and medicinal purposes. There is no reason to contest this. Marijuana is a plant that grows from the earth and has absolutely no proven serious side effects other than jamming to Bob Marley, munching on potato chips, and slurping 44 ounce convenient store fountain sodas. If you think marijuana is a gateway drug, reconsider the notion—what type of person immediately jumps to heroine and bypasses pot? Of course those that are prone to use hard drugs (probably because they are often psychologically unstable) will start with marijuana.If marijuana is truly a gateway drug, then we would have many more heroin addicts on campus, I assure you.