Cover Story-Part 1

Legalized Marijuana: An Assessment
By Rafael Rosa, William Peppard, and Joel Gordon

Are you ‘Yay or Nay’ on the Legalization of Marijuana?
By Rafael Rosa

In recent news, the newly elected governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, proposed to legalize marijuana in the Garden State. Murphy’s message is simple and direct: Legalizing marijuana will bring in more tax revenues, which in turn would provide relief to homeowners, educational programs and pension systems. The anticipated law would also improve overpopulated jails and save taxpayers millions of dollars in housing, feeding and guarding inmates. The question is, is legalizing marijuana a good or bad thing? Well, that depends deeply upon a person’s belief system, which varies from person to person. In trying to understand this current question, let us travel back in time to the prohibition era.

In the 1920s, religious extremists advocated for a country free of alcoholic beverages. Their main argument was that alcohol consumption led to all sorts of crime, indolence and corruption. As a result, they pressured politicians –particularly assemblymen — to create new laws that would eliminate, or at the very least lessen, the use of alcohol. To appease the temperance movement, the federal government ratified the 18th Amendment prohibiting the manufacturing and sale of alcoholic beverages. Unbeknownst to the supporters of the movement, the prohibition led to more egregious acts of violence and death. Bootlegging–the clandestine sale of alcoholic beverages — became a very profitable business, and speakeasies became a gathering center for gang members and criminals. Therefore, what started as a promising idea ended up becoming an extremely lucrative and forbidden business. Law enforcement efforts to enforce the liquor ban were met with difficulty, and more federal money was being spent in enforcing prohibition laws. Seeing no other viable alternatives, the federal government opted to uplift prohibition with the issuance of the 21st Amendment, thus ending the bloodshed for beer and spirits.

In a similar vein, one can equate our current topic of marijuana with the prohibition era. By legalizing marijuana, illegal sales of cannabis would stop and perhaps the violence associated with it would also diminish. Furthermore, law enforcement officials would focus more attentively on potent and dangerous drugs such as opioids without the added concern of enforcing marijuana offenses. Though there can be some gain in legalizing marijuana, there are also drawbacks. For instance, the pervasive and odoriferous nature of the smoke might make it uncomfortable for some people, especially those with asthma and the very young. While alcohol consumption only affects the person who drinks it, marijuana smoke can negatively impact those people who are near marijuana smokers. This brings added apprehension for those who argue that the legalization of marijuana may expose children to second-hand smoke, which can trigger odd or unwanted behavior. In all cases, marijuana is a euphoric drug, which often impairs rational judgment; therefore, children should never be exposed to cannabis and moderation is needed to avoid excessive usage among adults. Also, strict regulations should be mandated to prevent vendors from selling more cannabis then the law requires. Forceful and firm guidelines can reduce black-market sales and prosecute those without dispensing licenses. Furthermore, age requirements should mirror those of alcoholic purchase and consumption–unless medically prescribed.

In the end, this watershed moment is an open-ended question with no easy answers or complete solution. In addressing these issues there is no certainty, which can determine whether legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana is a positive or negative thing. Unfortunately, there is no panacea in dealing with this fiercely debated topic. As specified in the beginning, a person’s support or condemnation of the issue depends greatly upon his or her socialization. From here, life experiences can possibly determine people’s outlook on whether marijuana should remain unlawful or be legalized. As always, stay alert, stay alive.