The date April 20th, also commonly known by a large subculture as FourTwenty (420), has become a day to celebrate and consume cannabis. There is a growing number of people that use this day as a platform to argue, as has been done for decades, for the legalization of marijuana.
Around the globe, the penalties for growing marijuana varies within the legalization act of the country. The rules have varied considerably over the last couple of years with regards on where to buy marijuana seeds and growing cannabis at home for medicinal purposes.
The topic of legalization is important in that it reflects our collective values as a nation, as well as what we consider acceptable for ourselves and for our youth. This changing attitude is reflected in a recent California Proposition to legalize marijuana, Proposition 19. This is a reflection of current attitudes and is important for if it had passed, Proposition 19 would have been the first law in the western world to legalize marijuana.
The Netherlands “Amsterdam” has only decriminalized marijuana, and in fact, is facing growing opposition and concerns. A growing trend of acceptance has swept across the United States. In 1970 only Twelve percent (12%) of the population thought marijuana should be made legal, a number that climbed to Forty Four percent (44%) by 2009, with Seventy-Eight (78%) of self-described liberals in favor.
The Addicting Issue
A common argument for legalization is “marijuana is not addictive“. Based on what appears to be unbiased research, approximately Ten (10%) of marijuana users will develop an addiction to the drug that is severe enough to affect school, work, and family life. As for dependency, approximately Ten (10%) to Thirty (30%), which simply means people who feel a “need” to use the drug to alleviate a variety of symptoms.
So where did the idea that marijuana is not addictive come from?
The idea that marijuana is not addictive has been part of a pro-marijuana campaign arguing its medicinal benefits and its benign effects. These arguments have often come in response to the government’s opposite extreme stating the hazards of the drug. Recent studies have shown that the THC concentration has increased. The Mississippi Potency Project has been tracking THC concentrations for the past three decades and reports a median potency of under Four (4%) in 1983 to a median potency of Ten point One percent (10.1%) in 2008.
According to drugs tested coming across the US/ Mexican Border, the potency has increased from Four-point Eight percent (4.8%) in 2003 to Seven point Three (7.3%) in 2007. But this doesn’t necessarily translate into higher levels of addiction. It appears from controlled studies that marijuana smokers will adjust how much they inhale based on a high THC strain seedsman marijuana. This demonstrates that higher THC simply means less is needed to get high. It doesn’t, however, mean there is a direct link to increased dependence. Yet, dependency rates have gone up. Rising dependency rates appear more likely to be a function of accessibility and perceived safety.
The Alcohol, Tobacco, And Marijuana Debate
Alcohol, like tobacco and prescription medications, has been legal for decades with local police departments, a couple of federal agencies, and numerous laws regulating them. Despite all these governmental layers of control, their abuse rate is far higher than for any other drug. The reason for this is simple, access. Most homes have alcohol, prescription medications, and many have tobacco
In legalization of cannabis the government can regulate and control, thereby keeping the overall number of users low. This is similar to the previous argument. The easiest comparisons to readily make would be to look at current legal drugs and how effectively they are controlled, how pervasive they are as a problem and what costs they incur. The most abused drugs by teenagers are alcohol, tobacco, and prescription medications, in that order.
Alcohol and tobacco rates are falling, while marijuana rates are climbing. This is likely due to a successful campaign to warn of the dangers of underage drinking and the effects of smoking. The rise of marijuana use can possibly be attributed to the perceived risk of these drugs as compared to others. Despite these rising numbers, marijuana isn’t as accessible and approximately Seven point Four (7.4%) of Twelve (12) to Seventeen (17) year-olds have tried it, compared to Fifty-One (51%) for alcohol.
.Why would legally accessible marijuana sold in stores and found in homes be any different?
In fact, looking at data for Los Angeles after an increase in pot dispensaries and therefore greater availability, the numbers of users greatly increased. Looking at Amsterdam after the decriminalization and the legalization of cannabis cafes, the user rate shot up by Two Hundred percent (200%). It is hard to imagine it would be any different in the United States. More access, less stigma, and no legal repercussions would only serve to increase the number of users.
In conclusion, it would appear that many of the arguments for legalizing marijuana— medical or recreational haven’t been fully flushed out. There are many other arguments made on behalf of legalizing marijuana and many are done passionately and eloquently, just as there are many that argue against it with equal fervor. This is currently not the case for in deference to FourTwenty (420), legalization may not seem to be the best alternative. Perhaps a method of regulated de-criminalization and improved research could pose a less radical approach to a drug that has been around for hundreds of years and isn’t likely going anywhere soon.
Natalie Gray is a Biochemical Engineer. She works in the Research and Development team that focuses on the design and construction of unit processes. She is a recreational marijuana supporter and her love for organic chemistry brought her to medical cannabis. She grows her own flowers, working on different projects and study everything above and under cannabis roots.
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