Do you smell something in the air? No, it is not my burning heart, it is actually the smell of burning marijuana. Such widespread marijuana legalization is one small step for marijuana, one big leap for controversy. Where does freedom stop? Will the day come when “having pot” becomes both legally and socially acceptable?
Marijuana, also known as Cannabis, has become the center of controversy as it is starting to be legalized for both leisure and medicinal purposes. Marijuana is consumed for its effects on people’s bodies such as heightened mood and relaxation. Some side effects of marijuana are decrease in short term memory, paranoia, and lessened motor skills.
Owing to its relaxing effects, marijuana has been used as medicine for thousands of years across many cultures. Its modern-day medicinal use includes reducing nausea and vomiting in patients going through chemotherapy or helping people with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It is especially useful in dealing with chronic pain.
Austria, Finland, Germany, Israel, and numerous other countries allow medical marijuana use even though they may not accept recreational marijuana. These countries are mostly against marijuana used for purposes that are not medical and scientific.
The issue of marijuana legalization has been brought up because the drug is known to be less addictive and harmful than even cigarettes. Marijuana Mecca California has already legalized medical marijuana in 1996 and legalized recreational marijuana in 2011.
Colorado followed suit, and legalized recreational marijuana in 2014. On the day of legalization, stores in Colorado had lines of buyers from other states hoping to get their hands on some legal pot.
In the United States (U.S.), primarily, the war on drugs has always been an expensive battle especially with marijuana due to the large amount of users. Many predict that an immense change, both negative and positive, will occur in countries that have an abundant supply, if legalized.
▲ People lining up to buy marijuana on its legalization day. Provided by voanews.
Why All the Controversy?
The controversy starts in legalizing marijuana as a recreational drug. Recreational use means that marijuana will be accessible like alcohol and cigarettes to people who have come of age.
Marijuana is still classified by most as a “drug.” This is because of the psychoactive and physiological effects of marijuana. Cannabis itself is not very addictive, but its effects are what draw people into addiction. The desired effects of euphoria which is also referred to as the “high” or “stoned” feeling, are what make marijuana dangerous and addictive.
According to the Gateway Theory, the use of less hard drugs like marijuana leads to the easier use of extremely strong drugs. By legalizing marijuana, an unhealthy view toward drugs will be passed on to younger generations, which in turn will give children the message that drug usage is acceptable. Many fear such feelings are the stepping stones for stronger dosages of other harmful drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy.
Several western countries have numerous marijuana smokers even though it may be illegal. Marijuana is commonly seen at parties and in streets. This is especially alarming because marijuana consumption for teenagers has risen to an alarming rate—over 80 percent from 2008 in the U.S., — And legalizing marijuana does not seem to help lessen these rates.
▲ Cannabis plant before production. Provided byloveitloveitdoit
Yes We Can(nabis)!
In Colorado, where the first legalization of recreational marijuana started, it is legal for people over 21 years of age to smoke marijuana, and people are allowed to keep up to six marijuana trees in their house. It is illegal however to bring out marijuana out of legalized states.
Other places that have legalized marijuana are Forkland, Michigan; Jackson, Mississippi, Washington DC and North Korea. Interestingly, marijuana is not illegal in North Korea, one of the most conservative countries in the world. Countries such as New Zealand and England have high usage of marijuana, even though its use is illegal. In the case of Asia, most countries are against marijuana legalization including Korea.
Concerned voices that were first heard during early stages of legalization were proven to be exaggerated. California, which has had 17 years of experience as the first state to legalize marijuana for medical usage, has brought up surprising data--that driving under the influence of alcohol is much more dangerous than drinking after smoking cannabis.
Legalizing marijuana has economical advantages for the government, also. According to the Economist, the government loses revenue by not being able to collect taxes on illegal drugs. The city of Oakland in California, managed to raise $1.3 billion dollars in tax revenues after legalizing marijuana. The sum is a bit over three percent of Oakland’s total business tax revenue.
Indeed, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) supports marijuana legalization through a properly regulated drug market. DPA is a non-profit organization which has a goal of ending the “war on drugs” in America. The DPA has said, “We seek to enact change on the state and federal level through ongoing legislative efforts and through high-profile ballot initiatives in upcoming election cycles.”
The DPA has grounds for their claims because legally prohibiting marijuana does not stop the illegal distribution of marijuana. The black market will induce abnormally high prices which will cause users to commit crimes in order to obtain them.
For consumers, marijuana legalization will provide them with a high-quality reliable cannabis supply. Marijuana legalization will provide consumers with a wider variety of marijuana selection with different potencies and effects. With overall lowered drug prices, the illegal drug market will face a collapse.
In Korea, marijuana is not commonly found. Not everyone has access and marijuana is considered as something highly illegal. Because of this view, various top class celebrities such as Kwon Ji Yong of Big Bang were shunned by the public after getting caught with marijuana.
Kong Yoo Jin (’13, English Language and Literature) said, “I have never tried marijuana and I have no plans whatsoever. Why go through a road to destruction?” Similarly, quite a large portion of Korean citizens have a negative view towards marijuana usage.
Actually, Koreans are not allowed to use marijuana even in places deemed legal. For instance, a Korean caught doing marijuana in Colorado will be prosecuted according to Korean law. Even though marijuana is becoming legalized in numerous countries, it will be a long time before Korea joins those countries in marijuana legalization.
Still, there are places known to sell marijuana in Korea even though it is highly risky. According to MarijuanaTravls South Korea sells illegal marijuana at an average price of 30 dollars to 50 dollars per gram. However, this price fluctuates because Korea itself does not have an abundant supply and it is illegal. Their comment on the issue of marijuana in Korea was “If you are used to smoking cannabis in the open, then South Korea is not a good place for you.”
Restrictions on marijuana are quite strict. The Korean police are able to do a search if someone is suspected of carrying marijuana. They can always have the suspect’s urine tested, and if the test is positive, the person will be fined and sentenced to imprisonment.
Legalizing marijuana may be a healthy economic boost for countries that are able to control and harvest marijuana, however governments that do not have much experience with such issues should not be hasty in their decisions since marijuana is still a drug to most. The positive and negative sides of cannabis and its legalization are still under debate and a few countries have started accepting it as part of people’s lives.
▲ People in Colorado celebrating marijuana legalization. Provided by csmonitor.
▲ Shows distribution of marijuana across the world. Provided by libertysnippet.