Election night was a frenzy of excitement for the whole country, but the presidency wasn’t the only important choice American voters made that night.
In the states of California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts, voters voted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. In addition, voters in Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas passed laws permitting the use of medical marijuana.
With these new changes, according to The Washington Post, more than a fifth of Americans now live in states with legalized recreational marijuana.
Following the election, West students had mixed reactions to the changes even though they did not involve North Carolina.
“I feel like it (marijuana) is just like alcohol, and it would be just another thing to regulate as far as people using and driving, or just being out in public doing it and causing a bunch of reckless happenings,” senior Lindsey Crawford said. “It has a lot of responsibility with it, too. It would just be another thing the police would have to look out for and deal with people going overboard. They do now, and if it was legal everywhere, then more and more people would be doing it. It would be a lot more for the police officers to look out after.”
Opponents of legal weed believe usage would rise if marijuana were legalized, increasing danger and drug habits in teenagers. The facts contrast with this opinion, showing that teen usage rates have remained virtually unchanged since pot was legalized in Colorado in 2014. The percentage of teens using marijuana has actually gone down .8 percent since legalization, according to Scientific American. That is below the national average.
“You can expect a decrease in marijuana usage, which is the one thing that is counterintuitive,” Colorado resident Eric Davis said. Davis is the president and chief executive officer of Think Security, a security firm that caters to marijuana dispensaries and cultivators. “You would think that if you legalize marijuana, the usage would go up, but in Colorado specifically, it’s beginning to show at the moment that the actual usage of marijuana has gone down since the legalization of it.”
Although a Schedule I drug, some people believe that using marijuana recreationally should be a freedom because people enjoy it and it doesn’t hurt those around them, making it potentially less dangerous than other schedule one drugs such as heroin and LSD.
“It can calm you down and put you in a calmer state of mind, a senior at West who asked that her name be withheld said. “Some people will have a different look on things. They can see the world as more of a positive place or a happier place. You can see things differently.”
Some people believe, however, that there are dangers associated with marijuana that go beyond the health risks of getting high.
“I think it’s a gateway drug because once you think marijuana is OK, these people that are smoking marijuana, those are the kind of people to go out and maybe be interested in more drugs. And so it’s kind of opening up the doors and taking it even further. It’s dangerous,” senior Mandi Ayers said. “Once that’s legal, I feel like it won’t be the happening drug anymore. People are just going to want other things. There’s more out there.”
But there’s more than a high involved with marijuana. Besides tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which produces the high effect in marijuana, there is CBD, or cannabidiol, which is responsible for the healing properties associated with marijuana.
As of election night, a total of 29 states and Washington, D.C. have approved the use of medical marijuana in some form. This medical weed, which typically has very high amounts of CBD to maximize healing properties and very little THC to prevent a high effect, has been used to treat a wide variety of medical issues from anxiety to epileptic seizures. In states where medical marijuana is legal, patients can get it, but they must meet requirements and pass through the controlled process of obtaining it.
“You have to have a medical card. You have to go to a doctor. You have to explain what your symptoms are to be approved as part of the approved medical marijuana system to get your medical marijuana card,” Davis said. “As long as you have a medical marijuana card, you can go about a mile in any direction and find a dispensary”
According to Davis, most people using medical marijuana do not smoke it. Most take it in the forms of pills, oil drops and patches. It also helps people avoid the use of painkillers and anxiety pills which are addictive and decrease their productivity in society.
Proponents argue that marijuana has been beneficial and hasn’t caused an influx of problems. Some take it further and question why the government is so concerned about its regulation in the first place.
“They should be involved just for the sheer fact that you don’t want things to get out of hand. It’s a tough question,” junior Leona Eggleston said. “The government should be involved because it can just be a nationwide thing. It should just be OK if you want to, and OK if you don’t want to. If people want to smoke weed, then let them. It doesn’t really affect you, so why does it matter to you? But I think the government should be involved.”
The government’s hand in the weed industry is typically a strong one. In Colorado, the strict regulations include a ban on advertising marijuana, special dispensaries where marijuana is controlled and guaranteed quality control to prevent the sale of marijuana with pesticides or laced with other drugs. The Marijuana Enforcement Division helps eliminate the existence of a black market for weed.
“I’ve got friends and people I know that think that with the law, you can just go down to the 7-Eleven and buy a bag of weed, but that’s not the way it is at all,” Davis said. “For a kid who is under 21 to just walk into one of these places and get weed is not going to happen anywhere in Colorado. It’s 20 times harder than obtaining alcohol.”
Some opponents of weed legalization do, however, recognize that the tax revenue coming from government-controlled sale would be beneficial to the country. The different states have designated the taxes generated from their marijuana endeavors to a variety of uses.
“In Colorado it has been designated for its schools. At the moment, i don’t know the number but it’s in the tens of millions I believe that has been allocated for the schools to hire better teachers, to have better facilities, to create better after school programs and to purchase better equipment in the schools. That’s what it’s been allocated for,” Davis said. “When you legalize it, you get the chance not only to tax it and increase those revenues, or to have those revenues at all, but you also get the chance to regulate it and say how strong or how clean it needs to be. You can say that there can’t be any pesticides in it, which is one of the rules here in Colorado. You get to make it a much safer product as well.”
In 2014, North Carolina legalized the use of CBD oil to treat epilepsy. Other laws such as House Bill 983 proposed in efforts to make further legalizations make some question whether North Carolina will jump on the marijuana bandwagon.
“It would definitely help our economy, but is this a business deal or is it a health code?” Crawford said. “I think we can make money other ways. I do think though with this new (progressive) North Carolina, it will jump quicker at legalizing marijuana”
Some of those interviewed expressed concern that the government’s strict laws regarding marijuana have given it a bad reputation and have made it a bigger concern than it should be.
“I think it’s going to turn out to be just like gay marriage. It will be something that people made a big deal out of in the beginning and eventually everyone just kind of realizes it’s not that big of a problem,” the West senior said. “I think it will give people a more open mind, and they won’t be so conservative in their own opinions. They’ll be more likely to look at other people and how their lives are and not judge as harshly.”
New elected officials at the national and state level will continue to make decisions regarding illegal drugs.
“I hope kids will make intelligent decisions and wait to use it if they’re going to,” Davis said. “I hope that families who need it (medical marijuana) will have better access to it, and they won’t have to uproot their families and home in order to get a medicine they need.”
By: Bartel Van Oostendorp