Whether or not marijuana should be legalized is a question lingering since the drug’s prohibition in 1937 under the Marijuana Tax Act.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy recently launched a national advertising campaign offering their answer to the legalization question as an emphatic “no.”
The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign is targeting youths from now through June 2003. Also, the campaign targeting parents is running until December, according to the Office of National Drug Control.
The anti-drug campaign provides facts about the risks of marijuana use and consequences in effort to stop youth marijuana use. For parents, the campaign will advocate measures in order for them to raise anti-drug youths.
Marijuana is the most used illegal drug in America and 37 percent of Americans over the age of 12 have used marijuana in their lifetime, according to the National Drug Control Policy Overview.
The younger a child is when they first use marijuana correlates with children growing up to try cocaine and heroin and be drug addicted adults, according to the NDCPO.
However, it is also argued drug use is not the same as drug abuse and drugs can be used responsibly, according to the EC 101 Web site of CSU Economics Professor Steven Shulman.
Advocates for the legalization of marijuana emphasize the feeling that marijuana convictions are unjust.
“Drugs are a handicap. I don’t think anyone should use them. But if a person is using marijuana in his or her own home, doing no harm to anyone other than arguably to himself or herself, should that person be arrested and put in jail? In my opinion, the answer is no,” said New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson in a statement on July 10, 2001.
Under the Clinton administration, a marijuana smoker was arrested every 45 seconds, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws report titled “Sixty Years of Marijuana Prohibition in the U.S.”
According to Shulman’s Web site, about half out of approximately 1.5 million arrests made each year are for marijuana possession or distribution. After an arrest for one of these crimes, the person could be sentenced using mandatory drug sentencing laws. Mandatory sentences do not allow for a judge to take into account a defendant’s personal circumstances.
Though Shulman’s Web site says there have been no reported marijuana related deaths, research indicates that marijuana causes respiratory problems, impaired memory, anxiety and panic attacks and increased heart rate, according to the NDCPO.
“The zero death rate for marijuana users may be caused by the fact that “people go on and off marijuana, but cigarettes may be more addictive,” said Pam McCracken, the director of The Center for Drug and Alcohol Education for Hartshorn Health Center. “It’s a type of drug that varies from person to person.”
Marijuana may be more damaging to lungs than cigarettes because it is usually smoked unfiltered with the leaves unpacked and inhaled more deeply with smoke held in the lungs for a longer time, McCracken said. Also, marijuana bypasses the liver and is not filtered in the body.
A myth the ONDCP said is common is that marijuana is harmless.
“One joint is equivalent to maybe 20 cigarettes,” McCracken said. “Benzopyrene is a cancer causing agent (found in marijuana).”
Marijuana is dangerous for drivers because its effects can last longer. Some people may test positive for driving under the influence of marijuana 24 hours after the driver smoked marijuana, McCracken said. However, it is certain that one ounce of alcohol is cleansed from the body in one hour, she said.
She added there are continued medical effects after a student stops smoking marijuana.
“We do know that when students want to [quit smoking marijuana] they have anxiety, sleeplessness… that do get better over time,” McCracken said.
Unlike cigarettes, McCracken said there little research indicating that secondhand marijuana smoke is harmful.
“You’d have to be in a closed car smoking Bob Marley, Cheech and Chong joints for a long time to test positive from (secondhand) marijuana (use),” she said.
Another prevalent myth, according to the ONDCP, is that marijuana does not make a person lose control.
While driving under the influence of marijuana, one may be able to manipulate the steering wheel but not react in time if a child ran out into the street, McCracken said. She said there is currently research being conducted using driving simulators to generate a more accurate account of why smoking marijuana impairs driving.
Another reason marijuana might be dangerous is because it shuts off the vomiting center in a person’s body, McCracken said. She said this could be dangerous when a person consumes high quantities of alcohol and then smokes marijuana. The person may be suffering from alcohol poisoning while they are unable to vomit.
The other side of the debate is the legislative issues. Marijuana is a Schedule One classified drug, which means it is said to have a high potential for abuse and is not acceptable for medical use in the U.S., according to the NORML Report. This restricts California and Arizona, two states that have legalized the medicinal marijuana use, from implementing their state plans.
Currently in Colorado, possession of small amounts of marijuana is classified as a petty offense, said Bob Chaffee, captain of the CSU Police Department.
“If caught with a small amount of marijuana, you could be fined up to $500 or six months in jail,” Chaffee said.
If caught with marijuana as a CSU student, there may also be disciplinary actions taken through the university’s judicial affairs,” Chaffee said.
Chaffee emphasized if marijuana is legalized, a person would still not be allowed to drive under its influence. He said he could not foresee how legalization would change law enforcement for him; he would continue enforce the law.
CSU students have variety of opinions on this debated topic.
“To say pot should be legal just because it’s not as bad as alcohol or cigarettes is just as pointless as saying it should be illegal just because it’s a dangerous drug. It’s not for everybody and it not a black and white issue,” said Pete Schulman, a junior philosophy major.
One CSU student brought up social interaction as an issue that should be included in the legalization debate.
“I don’t think marijuana should be legalized,” said Ian Van Able, a freshman Spanish and sociology major. “I have seen way to many of my friends decide that drugs are more important than our friendship.”
For some students the issue comes down to their rights.
“It’s completely ridiculous (the federal government) can have any drug laws. It’s unconstitutional and against our freedoms, but no one seems to mind,” Schulman said.
Some students are against legalization because of a fear of higher prices.
“I think it should be legal to do it in the privacy of your own home and to grow it, but if it’s legal, they’ll put too many taxes on it and regulations,” said Corey DeRosa, a sophomore business major.
Some CSU students sell marijuana, and would be unable to do so if legalized.
“I don’t want it to be legalized because I sell it,” said John, a senior journalism major.