Legalize recreational marijuana use

by Denisa Caldova

MCT Campus

Recently, the mayoral elections in San Diego touched upon the topic of marijuana use for medical purposes. Even though Republican and Democratic candidates generally have different opinions, Carl DeMaio and Bob Filner agreed on one issue: the use of medical marijuana should be legal, but controlled.

Nonetheless, the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is still cause for concern, as evident by Filner’s statement, “I want to make sure it’s available for those who are suffering from illness, but that neighbors are protected, kids are protected from any use or recreational use.”

What I don’t understand is why marijuana is illegal when equally harmful substances, such as alcohol, are considered acceptable to society.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws claims even though marijuana is the third most used drug in the U.S., it is less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, which are the first and second most popular drug in the U.S. respectively. Statistics show approximately 50,000 people die of alcohol poisoning and 400,000 die tobacco- related deaths every year. In contrast, marijuana hasn’t been proven to directly cause death. Still, the police spend a considerable amount of time and money arresting people for marijuana use. According to NORML, trying to reduce the use of marijuana costs an estimated $10 billion annually, arresting more than 853,000 people each year.

It would be more reasonable to imitate the Netherlands’ marijuana policy, where it’s considered a soft drug and can be obtained from coffeeshops. To be clear, coffeeshops in the Neth- erlands aren’t primarily coffee retailers. These dispensaries can only stock 500 grams (roughly a pound) of marijuana at any given time. Specific rules also apply to customers. For instance, a person entering a coffeeshop has to be at least 18 years old. With the newest law, coffeeshops customers must also be residents of the Netherlands and registered for a special permit. This rule is meant to decrease the number of foreigners coming to the Netherlands to buy marijuana and resell it back home. Overall, decriminalization is meant to focus on more dangerous criminals rather than recreational users. The goal in the Netherlands is “to keep young people, who experiment with cannabis away from other much more dangerous drugs.”

We all know the proverb, “Forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest.” We experience the temptation to do something that isn’t allowed. Temptation is sometimes strong enough to make us succumb. Le- galizing marijuana would remove the allure of the forbidden, mean- ing many people would likely lose interest in it. When I first moved to the Netherlands, I asked my friends if they ever smoked weed or had been to coffeeshops. Most said they hadn’t because they had never been interested in doing so. When I asked astronomy senior Lars Driessen, a Dutch exchange student, about marijuana use in the Netherlands he replied, “I could, I just never been in a coffeeshop.”

My parents were worried I would spend my days in the coffeeshops, once I left to study in the Netherlands. I was never tempted to get high on a regular basis. Still, I was curious because there aren’t coffeeshops in Czech Republic, my native country, and thus, I hadn’t dared try it illegally. It was entertaining to see my parents’ reaction when I told them I tried weed for the first (and last) time in the Netherlands.

People obviously worry about how legalizing marijuana would impact society. Legalization would make people more aware of the consequences of using marijuana. Often, doing something illegal is considered a compulsive action. It may seem OK at the given moment because people often don’t think about what comes after. When people are given the information they need to think about what they are doing, they can consider how it will affect their lives. Making marijuana illegal won’t stop people from using it. There are always back doors the people will find and use. Making marijuana legal would provide people with information so they can make an educated decision about their actions.