The student news site of Piper High School in Kansas City, Kansas.

Legalization: A joint debate

June 13, 2017

The debate on whether or not marijuana should be legalized is often heated. America has heard the opinions of politicians; get ready for the opinions of the news staff.

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A voice against legalization

When people think of those against legalization of marijuana, they conjure images of crusading soccer moms who have a haircut à la mid 2000s Kate Gosselin, or a government official who hasn’t even smelled it. That’s why when people hear that I’m against legalization, I’m greeted with a dubious look, sometimes accompanied with a “really, Jenna?”

I’m not against legalization of THC on the basis of my religion. I’m not against legalization of THC on the basis of personal experience or some sudden, overnight epiphany. I’m against the legalization of THC because I fear for the health of this generation and the next to come.

One of the most familiar substances for us is tobacco. I recall a vivid memory of seeing the lung of a lifetime smoker in a jar passed around my elementary school classroom. I abstained from touching it, as the black color of it was enough to deter me from ever picking up a cigarette. Many of the carcinogens present in tobacco smoke find themselves  present in the smoke from marijuana, and can cause inflammation and cell damage. This means that, even if you do not smoke tobacco products, you have a higher chance for lung cancer. Unlike those smoking cigarettes, marijuana users are more likely to hold their breath for longer periods of time, which exposes the lungs even more to tar.

As for our next generation, the thought that weed will be much more accessible is worrying. The ability to purchase legally will mean more accessibility, and the chances of a younger person coming into contact with it increases. Children, more prone to respiratory infections, will see the effects of being surrounded by marijuana smoke later on in their lives.

Sure, there have been “valiant” attempts by the government to combat the interest in weed. However, it’s not totally a cliche that the programs aren’t always the most effective in drug prevention in youth. Take D.A.R.E., for instance. Founded in the 80s as a part of the War on Drugs, it focused solely on educating upcoming generations on substance abuse. The problem is that D.A.R.E., as well as many anti-drug organizations, rely on “scare tactics.” Instead of finding out why you shouldn’t engage in the usage of substances, you get lectured by an adult whose statistics come from the year 2002. If you’re lucky, you get to see a “faces of cocaine” slideshow. Not the best way to reach out to our generation. In fact, the most prevalent reminder of the failure that was D.A.R.E is the thrifter girls you find online, the organization’s logo flared across the chest as a testament to what never was. Dare to resist drugs and violence? Sure, but scare tactics are the last thing that’s effective when dealing with adolescents. While the purpose is noble, the execution is laughable, causing one of the most well known drug prevention organizations in the country to be something brushed aside by the youth. In a way, it has fallen on ourselves to be informed.

So when it comes to the legalization of weed, I must refer to one of the most stolen signs from the sides of our roads: “Keep Kansas Clean.”

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    Marijuana legalization not as detrimental as previously believed

    At the beginning of 2016, marijuana lovers had a laugh over the fact that D.A.R.E., a program that preached the evils of pot since elementary school, had surreptitiously removed marijuana from its list of “gateway drugs.” Since then, the program has issued many official statements claiming D.A.R.E.’s stance on cannabis was still as firm as ever.
    Supposedly, the country’s largest adversary to illegal drugs simply could not find find any more new evidence to support its claim. I imagine it became a little bit more difficult when a majority of the studies being published supported the exact opposite of their point.
    The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that there were nearly 19.8 million current marijuana users in 2013. This number has likely increased since then. Interestingly enough, most other illicit drug use has not been increasing at the same rate as marijuana, with most of the user levels remaining quite stable. The commonly-held belief that marijuana is a major gateway drug seems to have been disproven by that data; other illegal drug usage would be going up at a rate proportionate to bud if these claims were accurate.
    Besides the fact that legalization won’t lead to a heroin-infested USA, a study done in the American Journal of Public Health drew the conclusion that decriminalization generally doesn’t lead to an increase in users, the same way criminalization doesn’t really stop anyone. The 2003 study compared two cities with contrasting drug policy, Amsterdam and San Francisco, and found that San Francisco, the city where penalties are sharper, actually had higher drug usage rates.
    The study found an abundance of similarities between usage patterns in the two cities, leading the study’s authors to the conclusion that drug policy doesn’t really work to its intended effect at all.
    Furthermore, as much as the GOP may mourn every time a 15-year-old joins their local stoner clique, there is one thing anti-legalization folk love more than they hate weed: sin tax.
    For anyone not familiar, a sin tax is any tax implemented on an item considered harmful, such as tobacco or alcohol.
    In 2010, the Cato Institute did a study regarding the federal and state revenue that would be generated from legalization–nearly $9 billion.
    The number was calculated using the assumption that the tax on marijuana would be similar to those imposed on alcohol and tobacco, in addition to the income tax received from those making careers out of Mary Jane.
    As a Kansan, I’m a fan of nearly anything that can raise our state income. This is a state in which we sold sex toys from a foreclosed sex shop in order to make up on lost revenue, therefore we might as well complete the circle of sin.
    I believe that we are far from complete legalization as a country, especially after the last election. But as it comes time to draft the federal and state budgets, maybe there is another pathway for our legislators to consider.

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