By Jacob Blank
Colorado, Washington, and just recently, Alaska. The only three states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana thus far. On the first day of recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, the retailers claimed to have made $1 million statewide. This is no surprise. According to the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), a US federal-government research institute, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. About 6% of Americans (15 million citizens) admit to smoking marijuana regularly and about 41% of Americans (102 million citizens) have used the drug at least once in their lifetime.
Over the past few years this special, green, leafy plant has been responsible for some debate in the Pennsylvania State Legislature. Cannabis, or marijuana, is a plant that has been cultivated for its strong fibers (hemp fiber), medicinal properties, and recreational use since the 8th millennium BCE. For nearly 10,000 years the plant stayed hidden in the shadows. It was not until the early 20th century that the plant became illegal for consumption in the United States. Although the recreational use of marijuana was banned in the US during the 1900s, the drug was still used illegally by the American population, especially by artists and musicians.
Today, the question of whether the drug should be legalized in Pennsylvania is a hot topic among users of the drug and state politicians. Like in all debates there two or more sides. In this case, there are those who are pro-legalization of the drug for medical use, those who are pro-legalization of the drug for medical and recreational use, and those who are opposed to any sort of legalization of the drug. I personally believe the most practical step in legalizing marijuana for use in Pennsylvania, is proposing a law to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes. Besides creating a euphoria for junkies, a common use of marijuana is for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. The symptoms of chemotherapy may include nausea and vomiting, which have been reported to be greatly reduced by the drug.
Don’t be fooled, marijuana can be beneficial to chemo patients, but if smoked often, the drug can have quite a few negative effects on the respiratory system. Americans may choose to smoke marijuana over tobacco cigarettes as the more “natural” or “organic” option, but many users are oblivious to the fact that the tar found in marijuana smoke is quite similar to that of cigarettes. In addition, there have been over fifty known carcinogens identified in marijuana smoke. Regardless of the health risks that marijuana presents, many users will continue to buy the drug as a way to achieve an “irresistible” high.
With the dangers of marijuana in mind, I decided that the drug could be used safely as long as certain laws were put into place. For one, I believe that the age required to legally purchase and use marijuana should be at least 21. Like alcohol, marijuana will be more maturely used with an older population and not abused by immature teens. Secondly, there would need to be a law passed that prohibits the use of marijuana while operating motorized vehicles. The “high” that is produced by the drug can alter the user’s perception and concentration. This effect could prove fatal while driving. These additional laws regarding marijuana would make legalization more practical and the users of the drug safer.
According to Pew Research Center the number of marijuana users has increased by nearly 10% between 2001 and 2013. The number of states legalizing the recreational use of marijuana is increasing too. After this past election two more states, Oregon and Alaska, have joined the small group of “marijuana states”. As of right now there are four states to legalize the drug and many more debating the idea of legalization. The question of whether marijuana should be legal in Pennsylvania is not a question regarding the safety of the drug, but a question regarding the needs and demands of the population. The ideology is simple. If the population wants marijuana as a statutory element of society, then that is what the population shall have.