Marijuana Use and Sensibility


John Rickert, Writer

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to crackdown on the legal marijuana industry in coming months. Under the Obama administration, when some states voted to legalize marijuana, Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued the “Cole Memo,” instructing federal prosecutors in states with legalized recreational marijuana to not go after growers, distributors, and users so long as they are following federal regulations. As a Senator at that time, Sessions criticized the Memo, calling it a mistake. His comments raised fears that he would reinterpret Cole, allege states and individuals involved in the industry are not complying, and start a crackdown on legal marijuana. It seems this is what he is doing as he sent a message to states who have legalized marijuana, writing the DOJ (Department of Justice) “remains committed to enforcing” the federal ban on marijuana.


Marijuana laws have always confused medical professionals and the general public that is educated on the drug. The cultivation and production of cannabis took place in the Americas as early as the 15th century, but was not outlawed until the early 20th century.


The head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics during the 1920s when marijuana was originally outlawed, Harry Anslinger, needed a new purpose for his department to execute after the prohibition on alcohol came to an abysmal end. He decided to go after marijuana.


Before his department started going after the drug, Anslinger stated that “there is no greater fallacy” that marijuana makes a person violent. However, he later came to say that marijuana turns man into a “wild beast” and will reach the inevitable end of “insanity.”


The Marijuana Tax Act, a bill that levied a tax on marijuana and placed restrictions and provisions on the drug, was supported by Anslinger, and opposed by the American Medical Association, who cited their support for the medical and therapeutic benefits of marijuana. According to many studies, and no reported incidents of opposal, many aspects of society are improved with the legalization of it.


Marijuana can treat pain and illnesses, and can lead to a healthier population. In states where marijuana laws have become more relaxed, there have been less teen absences at school due to illness. Further, the mortality rate of opioid overdoses is 25% less in states with a medical marijuana law.


In a study from the American Medical Association, researchers found that using marijuana does not impair lung function like using tobacco does, but it actually improves lung capacity. It can also ease a person’s anxiety.


Violent crime has gone down in states that have legalized Marijuana. Washington, the second state to legalize it, has seen a drop in violent crime since legalizing the drug in 2012. In 2011, there were 295.6 violent offenses reported per every 100,000 Washington residents, in 2015, three years after the passage of question 2, (legalization of marijuana in Washington state), the number of violent offenses per 100,000 residents reduced to 284.4. It is true that violent crime has gone down nationally, but Washington’s violent crime rate in 2015 was still substantially lower than the national rate.


Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and other anti-marijuana legislators, have challenged that there is a link between marijuana and violent crime. Some Washington legislators have stated they believed violent crime would go up and the black market would thrive under the legalization of Marijuana. Both of these opinions came to be untrue. In states with legalized Marijuana, violent crime has either stayed at a steady rate or gone down since legalization, and as Washington representative David Sawyer said: “Legalization takes money out of the hands of criminals.” He went as far as to say, “Violent crime is linked to keeping marijuana illegal.”


If Alcohol and Tobacco are the line for what a person is allowed to consume, then marijuana should surely be legal. Alcohol has been known to tear families apart and kill people through overdoses, drunk driving, and other forms of death. Tobacco is one of the leading causes for cancer in the US, as proven by the decades-long halt to the cigarette industry, but because of corporate interests, these two dangerous substances are embraced while relatively harmless marijuana is demonized. Alcohol kills 40,000 people every year. The sum of deaths from marijuana from all of human existence is 0.


Cigarettes and other Tobacco products can cause throat cancer, mouth cancer, and lung cancer. Meanwhile, marijuana has been known to prevent the spread of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Researchers also found that teens are less likely to resort to cocaine or heroin if the state they are in has legalized or relaxed marijuana laws.


Seamus Cassidy, a freshman at Northeastern University and Oakdale alum, believes marijuana should be legalized in all 50 states and at the federal level. He would also like to see people imprisoned for marijuana charges have their sentences commuted or reduced. “Our prison system is all sorts of messed up. Why do we have people serving 30 years for a marijuana charge but some low life serving a year for rape” he exclaimed.


He further explained: “American tax dollars are being wasted by keeping these people in our prisons for so long. We’re also wasting money by policing areas where marijuana is used or sold.”


Furthermore, Eddie Houston, a senior at Oakdale High School, believes the only reason marijuana is still illegal is to protect the tobacco and pharmaceutical industry, among other industries. Houston stated: “If you look at who is funding these anti-marijuana campaigns, it’s big tobacco and big pharma trying to make sure their profits aren’t affected.” For years now, the legalization of Marijuana has been blocked by lobbyists protecting their profits.


Houston later elaborated: “If money didn’t talk, marijuana would be legal. It makes all the sense in the world to legalize it, and no sense not to, except that it will cut into profits of other industries. States such as Colorado are using the marijuana industry to pay off state debt. The drug doesn’t kill anyone.”


Our streets are safer, our prison system is less crowded, and we are healthier if marijuana is legalized. It makes no sense not to.