Story by James Jolly
Marijuana legalization is a hot-button issue at all levels, both for recreational and medical use. State and national lawmakers have been struggling with the topic for almost as long as the drug has been illegal. Every state has different regulations on the drug, and the national consensus is not concrete.
The national government has general laws against marijuana but leaves much of the deciding power to the states. The Obama Administration is against legalization of the drug, stating that it would increase that availability of marijuana and poses health risks to all Americans, particularly young people.
Two facets of the debate are the drug’s availability and who would be allowed to use it. Lawmakers draw a distinction between marijuana used for medical purposes, prescribed by a doctor to treat conditions, and marijuana used for recreation. The distinction is important because 20 states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use, but only two states have legalized recreational use.
Colorado and Washington have both legalized recreational marijuana for those over 21. They serve as an example for other states who are hoping to follow in their footsteps.
In Iowa, marijuana is classified as a schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning it is a “substance with a high potential for abuse and has no recognized medical benefits,” according to the Governor’s Office of Drug Control. Despite this harsh classification, the debate still rages on. Governor Terry Branstad is steadfastly against any form of legalization.
On the opposing side are members of the Iowa Senate like Joe Bolkcom, who supports the legalization of marijuana for medical use. He, and others like him, believes marijuana has certain medical properties that would be beneficial to Iowans.
Frequent users of medical marijuana speak on behalf of its benefits. Jayden Burke of Longmont, Colo., has been using medical marijuana since its legalization in January. He said that the drug helps with his insomnia.
“I always had a hard time sleeping, but (marijuana) has helped whole lot,” Burke said.
He recommends anyone looking for a more natural medication should try medical marijuana.
“I think its more natural than those mass produced pills. I like it more,” Burke said.
In a recent poll, Quinnipiac University found that 87 percent of Iowans are willing to allow medical marijuana use, if a doctor prescribed it. However, the same poll found that only 41 percent of Iowans support recreational marijuana.
At Drake University, support for medical marijuana is growing. Courtney Kalender, a first-year student, is in favor of medical marijuana.
“I almost had a condition which would have benefitted from medical marijuana treatment. I would like to know that if I needed it, I could have legal access to it,” Kalender said.
She said she also thinks more people are coming out in support of it.
“I remember hearing about a national coalition of mothers that came out in support of legalization, and come on, who doesn’t respect our mothers,” Kalender said.
First-year Grace Rogers also voiced her support.
“Medical marijuana is probably a good thing. I think that it can be a good medicine, especially if a doctor prescribes it. But I think there would be some public backlash, because a lot of people have deadest opinions on the topic,” Kalender said.
Although support may be high in at Drake and in younger generations, it has yet to be seen if legalization is a possibility, or just a pipe dream.