Story by Jesse Wright
In 2012, Washington and Colorado made history by legalizing the recreational use of cannabis following the approval of state referenda.
While Washington still has not implemented licensed retail marijuana outlets where residents can buy the substance, Colorado stores selling it opened on Jan. 1 of this year and the numbers are in: According to the Associated Press, Pueblo County, Colo., finance authorities announced Monday that its retail marijuana shops had about $1 million in total sales in January, producing about $56,000 in local sales taxes.
If the county’s sales continue at the January pace, the county’s pot industry will make about $11.2 million in gross sales in 2014 with about $670,000 of that going to new tax revenue.
These numbers reflect a shift in the zeitgeist of America.
Gone are the days of reefer madness, where marijuana is viewed as an evil substance which will turn impressionable people into violent sociopaths.
We now seem to be in a time where the movement in favor of legalization is picking up steam, and this is reflected by the opinions of many Drake University students.
Sophomore biochemistry, cell and molecular biology major Amy Sands is on board with cultural shift.
“I think marijuana should be legalized, though I wouldn’t call it a ‘good’ thing necessarily,” Sands said. “There are plenty of people who can use marijuana casually, without it interfering with their ability to function in everyday life. It is a personal choice of what each person wants to put into their own bodies, but it can have huge societal consequences. For example, the effects of regular marijuana use on those under age 25, whose brains have not finished developing completely. If a significant demographic acquires those neurological consequences as a result of legalization, the overall progress of the human race could be stunted. Societal progress in a multitude of career fields requires as optimal neurological functioning as possible, which excessive marijuana use can prevent, especially in those under 25.”
Sands also said she believes parallels drawn between the drug war and alcohol prohibition are valid.
“There are many negative consequences of a government restricting any substance from its people,” Sands said. “Some of those consequences include violence and unregulated black markets where people can commit all sorts of financial crimes and get away with it because they know their victims won’t turn them in.”
Neuroscience major Matthew Wright also sees the connection between the two noble experiments.
“If one were to say that the drug war and prohibition have both been complete failures, then yes, absolutely there is definite link between the two,” he said. “It is also true that motives between both seem similar in that the goal, however misguided, was to improve society, rather than ‘ruin everyone’s fun.’ Additionally, the cultural reaction of hiding one’s marijuana or alcohol use seems fairly similar from what I understand.”
While Wright said he sees drug prohibition as a failure, he is morally neutral about the repeal of laws against the use of cannabis.
“I believe that the push to legalize marijuana is neither good nor bad,” he said. “While I can’t speak to the motives of an entire movement, I do think that some of the desire is misguided and focused on personal desire, rather than the societal benefit often described, particularly with regards to medical legalization. That said, I also believe that it is good in that it demonstrates that freedom of speech in this country is not dead, and that if people desire something enough, they will mobilize.”
Wright also said the movement toward marijuana legalization will continue to spread regardless of his personal feelings.
“I have friends across the country, and they all say that there are movements to legalize.” I believe that now that the ‘seal is broken,’ it will definitely spread, although some of the more conservative states will hold back until it is fully legal at the national level. It is only a matter of time until marijuana is legalized.”
Journalism students Annelise Tarnowski and Amanda Horvath believe it is a matter of time as well, though they share a much more positive view of cannabis legalization than Sands or Wright.
Horvath is a native of Colorado and feels no qualms about the developments in her home state.
“A lot of people are using marijuana anyway, so it is better for it to be legal and regulated rather than driven underground,” Horvath said. “Its use does not cause as much harm as alcohol, so I don’t see the problem.”
Tarnowski agrees with Horvath and dismisses the idea that marijuana is a “gateway drug” which will lead its users down the road to harder drugs.
“I think enough people use marijuana casually to forever discredit that ridiculous idea,” Tarnowski said. “Any type of addiction can be a gateway to worse addictions. My question to anyone who believes the ‘gateway drug’ idea is this: Do you think Diet Coke is also a gateway drug?”