Is it time to legalize marijuana?

By Melissa Ramirez

Marijuana, also referred to as cannabis, is currently the most-used illegal drug in the world. It is the third most popular recreational drug behind alcohol and tobacco, and despite the laws against its use, nearly 14 million people use it regularly. Whether consumed for recreational or medical purposes, many users have attested to the benefits, which include stress and pain-relief, blood pressure regulation, migraine treatment, and combating depression and anxiety.

Naturally, there are also those who are opposed to the legalization of marijuana, claiming that it can be addictive, that it is harmful to the lungs and brain, and that it can lead to heavier drug use. Yet, 23 states have now legalized marijuana for medical use; some have even legalized its recreational use. In July 2013, Illinois became the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana. Beginning in September, patients with last names A-L and caregivers can begin to register. Despite its decades of use throughout the world, the long-term effects of regular marijuana use are yet to be thoroughly determined. This leaves many people on the fence as to whether or not marijuana should be legalized at all.

Most people can agree that medical marijuana should be available to those who need it. “For medical purposes absolutely, because I think the benefits of it are proven medically,” said Alfred DeFreece, adjunct Professor of Sociology at Dominican University. Recreational use, on the other hand, continues to linger in a grey area.

“I had bad experiences around recreational use, but I understand that everybody is different,” said Professor DeFreece, “I mean, I don’t think I’m against it, some people function really well. You wouldn’t even know it. I don’t think that my bad experience or other people’s stigma of it as a bad thing should make it off-limits to people who live totally productive lives and make their contributions and aren’t hurting anybody.”

Senior Michael Robles said, “There’s some people who can function on it. If it doesn’t interfere with your work, then why not?”

Junior Aida Becerra said, “I grew up in Chicago most of my life… and the experience that I have seen other people experiment with recreational drugs is not really that positive, but it always depends on the usage.”

Freshman Abigail Ayala said, “I believe regulated it would be better because… you know, if it’s at everybody’s disposal, then they will abuse it but if it’s controlled by a certain way I think it would be ok.”

It is only within the last decade or so that the campaign to legalize marijuana has become widely supported across the United States. This is especially due to social media and the ability to exchange information across the world in seconds. 80 years ago, the general attitude towards legalizing marijuana was the complete opposite.

In 1936, French Director Louis Gasnier produced the propaganda film “Reefer Madness,” in which a group of teenagers are exposed to marijuana and instantly become degenerates. Its blatant anti-marijuana message was intended to educate parents of the dangers of cannabis use and included instances where smoking pot lead to a hit and run, manslaughter and even suicide. Almost a century later, the opinion on cannabis use has changed drastically. In 2014, using cannabis has become less of a social stigma and has gained acceptance among people.

“I believe that marijuana should be treated like alcohol and tobacco,” said James Miller, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Brennan School of Business at Dominican University, “All three drugs can cause health problems and disrupt lives. However, putting people in jail for selling and using these drugs is not cost effective. It has been shown in the case of alcohol that putting people in jail for selling and using it did not work.”

As a multi-billion dollar industry, the regulation of marijuana trade would have a great economic impact on the United States. Price regulation and quality control could lead to safer markets and less violence associated with transactions.

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