Legalizing Marijuana: Pro & Con Tug Of War

Abortion. Gay Marriage. Chicken or the egg? Just items in modern history, minus the chicken and the egg, that have been highly controversial. No matter what the outcome, each side will always have people taking staunch positions. Call it human nature, call it freedom of speech, or call it being brave behind your keyboard logged into anything from Facebook to Twitter. We live in an era where people from all walks of life voice their opinions loud and proud, especially when it is a polarizing in-your-face issue.

The same goes for the recent legalization of marijuana in the states of Colorado and Washington, where each drew up a plan, Colorado’s Amendment 64 and Washington’s Initiative 502, that passed and now allows people to legally grow and distribute marijuana, along with a few paragraphs of fine print.

Even with both of these plans passing, they did so with somewhat narrow margins. In Colorado, the proposed amendment succeeded on November 6, 2012, with 55 percent of the vote over 44 percent, a 200,000 vote win. For Washington, there were similar results with Initiative 502 where on November 6, 2012, it also won with 55 percent to 44, with a 400,000 vote difference. Some may say that is a larger margin than what might be considered a neck and neck race; however, that is still something that is drawn right down the line if the population agrees that marijuana should be legalized or it should be considered illegal, even for medical use.

So when all is said and done, why is it good to legalize marijuana and why is it bad? No matter what, it is a debate that gets people talking, entices them and motivates them to change American history just like it did nearly two years ago.

Last week I surveyed roughly 20-25 people about whether they are for or against the legalization marijuana. This survey was as spread out as it could be in regards to the demographics of the people interviewed. One was a working mother of two who believes in the pro side, whereas another was an up-and-coming hip-hop artist who skewed the boundary lines between pro and con. The goal was to get a bevy of answers from a variety of people and not a group of like minded ones. In doing so, there was a fine differentiation between the two.

Comments that are often repeated by people who are against the legalization of marijuana is that even though it is not considered a hardcore drug in today’s society, it is still something that is highly addictive that can have long term effects on a person’s behavior and can also cause friends and family to develop negative perceptions.

Some people say that marijuana can be so addictive that you lose focus on what is important in life such as your job, your kids, your values and make smoking up all day every day a priority when in actuality it is robbing you of your existence and taking over your control.

We see so many stories on the news, talk shows, newspapers, magazines and more about drug-riddled parents that have had their children removed from their homes due to said fact and legalizing marijuana nationally could potentially act as an enabler to draw more attention to a parent’s desire to smoke up and not get the help they need.

Another con: the price we will pay as being the older generation that educated the younger generation that legalizing drugs is okay. Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign stuck with many minds from the 80s, when Reagan used this as one of her platforms while she was our FLOTUS.

Television shows from that decade also dealt with the harmful effects of drug use, even comically on “Saved By The Bell” when Jessie Spano became addicted to caffeine pills to keep her awake to study for finals, something that her friend Zack Morris convinced her to get off of (it is only comical because the acting is well, comical).

That being said, when drugs like marijuana became a big topic of conversation in the 80s, there was a ton of media programming designed to influence kids to say no when offered drugs by peers. So there are many people that believe that if we teach the youth of this nation, who are already influenced in such a drastically different way than we were growing up, that if we legalize marijuana as a whole then every other drug out there should be legal as well. If we can do one, the others should be okay right? This may sound silly to some, but for many people this can be seen as extremely harmful with possible permanent effects for children.

Health risks are also a big concern voiced by people who are more on the con side. They believe that states have no right issuing harmful drugs such as marijuana when they believe it is doing more bad than good and is not protecting each citizen’s health but actually worsening it. Whereas some agreed that for medicinal purposes marijuana can work wonders for the seriously ill by relieving the physical pain they have to endure; they also think people who do not need medical marijuana will simple use it and abuse it whenever they want because it is legal.

Some have had personal experiences with it in their own lives and have also seen the effects of what it has done to their loved ones, and are vehemently against legalization because they don’t want to see it happen to others.

Those for legalization also have many interesting reasons as to why they think what has happened in Colorado and Washington is ultimately paving the way for other states to wake and bake and smell what is good for them. The big reason: profit.

A recent college grad, who attended school in Colorado and witnessed legalization firsthand, simply stated, “We live in an economy that is still struggling to regain itself from the GWB era, and to be where we were in the 90s when everything was booming. If you legalize marijuana to where it is a profitable industry, everyone wins.” Some may say this person has a legit point.

Also, if marijuana was taxed like alcohol and cigarettes, it would profit our nation. It goes along the same lines as gay marriage, another respondent said, “I equate this to be of similar structure when it comes to legalizing both. For gay marriage, the wedding industry (flowers, tuxedo, destinations, dresses) would boom economically tenfold.”

When legalization occurred, many marijuana-related companies were interviewed on some of the biggest networks in our country from CNBC and Bloomberg about their booming success and their own takes on why this legality should happen. So when money-driven networks like those two are taking an interest in what could be the next big thing in business, why should it stop?

“Think about the stock market,” one up-and-coming financier from Manhattan said. “If any of these companies get to a place where they can present an IPO at either the NYSE or NASDAQ, think of the effects it can have there as well. Stock options in legitimately legal marijuana businesses? Crazy, but it could happen.” Money minded people clearly see this as a huge pro when it comes to bringing this nation back to a financially happy time and keeping it there for as long as we can.

“Please tell me the big difference between smoking weed and getting drunk.” Ah, yes, another battle within the war! So is there much of a difference between getting high and getting drunk, when the latter is legal and the former is still illegal in many states? “Being high alters your state of mind for a temporary time period, so does drinking to a certain point. So why is it that people can go out and get s—faced and not get a fine, yet if we smoke pot it can have long term effects on a person that can go beyond the physical, but can affect them financially and even worse, give them a record.”

This same person thinks that long term alcohol abuse can have far worse effects than someone who smokes marijuana on a periodic or daily basis, yet the solutions people have for alcohol are sober camps or rehab or guest appearances on the latest episode of Dr. Phil. Marijuana’s possible consequences? A fine, jail time, loss of employment or even being prevented from interviewing for a position that you are qualified to hold. “It isn’t fair when it is on the same level,” a mother of two said.

Freedom. The principle that was built upon this country hundreds of years ago. “I can’t stand the world that we live in today where so many things have a price on them, yet we were taught from a very young age the levels and depths we had to go through to obtain the freedom to do what we want in this great nation of ours.” This comes from another highly opinionated person, no pun intended, who stated that our freedom should not be taken away for modern government’s purposes.

Then, there are many who think politicians only get involved in the legalization debate to garner votes to win upcoming elections. It should be a citizen’s decision whether or not they should be able to smoke marijuana, and not anyone else’s. “It is a huge contradiction how we live in a world designed for freedom in today’s day and age. Why am I being told no by people that are only in it for themselves, yet if I say yes there are punishments that I don’t think are justified in any way, shape or form? I just don’t get it,” an urban politico stated, who has participated in his share of local government issues.

Just like money, hypocrisy and government, legalization’s supporters seem to have a pretty strong stance on why Colorado and Washington have gotten it right and how other states should embrace what they have done and continue to do in the march towards legalizing marijuana.

So what is your take on this? Are you pro? Are you con? Or really are you in the middle and can see both sides?

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