Legalizing Marijuana

By Pat Gareau

Most students at Hudson Valley want drug laws changed. 66% said “yes” to legalizing marijuana in a recent poll. New York State may be inching closer to making this wish a reality by holding public hearings on medical marijuana. The first was in Buffalo, on Dec. 5.

   

The hearing was held by Richard Gottfried, a New York State assemblyman from Manhattan who co-sponsored a bill last summer that would have legalized medical marijuana. After passing the assembly, it failed in the Republican senate. Governor Cuomo has also been unsupportive of medical marijuana.

   

In Buffalo on Thursday, the speakers generally sided with Gottfried and legalization. Some were from one of the 20 states that currently allow medical marijuana and shared success stories. Marijuana can be used to treat chronic pain, nausea associated with chemotherapy, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and migraines along with other conditions. Another use, as one may consider, is as an appetite stimulant.

   

Hudson Valley students also spoke out on the issue.

 

“It definitely should be allowed for medical purposes,” said senior Tiffany Truesell. “If you’ve ever seen someone with cancer, the pain they go through is ridiculous.”

           

America agrees with this sentiment, with 77% favoring legalization of medical marijuana in a recent poll by CBS News. In New York there is an even larger majority with 81% in favor according to a Siena poll.

   

But Hudson Valley students believe that we should go even further and legalize it completely and join the 20 states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. If this took place, New York would join the ranks of Colorado and Washington, which became the first states to legalize marijuana recreationally in 2012.

   

Many supporters of legalization point to the potential of raising revenue for the government by taxing it.

 

“It will make money for the government,” said Brandon Garnesey, a Hudson Valley freshman.

Colorado and Washington are being watched closely to see exactly how many tax dollars can be raised. The Colorado Center for Law and Policy has projected $60 million per year in tax revenue and Washington has projected $1.9 billion in the first five years.

   

Others believe in legalization because there seem to be inconsistencies between substances.

 

“It is less harmful than tobacco,” said freshman Alexander Paluck.

 

Tobacco has caused cancer for millions and contains nicotine, a substance that is known to be addictive. Alcohol is legal and dangerous when abused. The use of alcohol has resulted in many more deaths than marijuana and it can also lead to addiction. Prescription pill abuse is another growing problem which can be fatal. So why is there a double standard for marijuana?

   

A third argument for legalization includes our overpopulated prisons. The United States has the largest rate of imprisonment in the entire world and drug offenses make up a large percentage. Over 100,000 are in federal prison for a drug crime, 50.1 percent of the total inmates. In New York State, over 3,100 are in prison for a crime related to drugs, which is down from a peak of 11,225 in 1992.

   

The laws result in an annoying culture of over-policing. Nearly 750,000 arrests were made for marijuana possession in 2012. Shouldn’t cops be out tracking people who are actually violent or a threat to society?

   

All the while, drug use is very common. Since drug laws have become much stricter during the “War on Drugs” initiated by politicians, use is still high and drugs are more available than ever. 42 percent of Americans have smoked marijuana. They, for the most part, aren’t criminals. Drug users shouldn’t be treated the same way as thieves, murderers and rapists. Furthermore, if there were more legitimacy to the drug market through decriminalization then the profits wouldn’t be funnelled directly to cartels and criminals.

   

New York, the United States, and the world will be debating drug policy for years to come. The trend seems to be toward acceptance, at least in the world of popular opinion. It’s just a matter of politicians catching up. Another public hearing for medical marijuana in New York is scheduled for Dec. 18 in Nassau County (Long Island). It is expected that the issue will be readdressed by the legislature next year.

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