Over the past few years, the debate on the legalization of marijuana has become a divisive issue. About 20 states and the District of Columbia currently allow medical use of marijuana, with many other states reviewing the issue. Residents of Colorado and Washington have recently voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana, and Colorado’s law was effective January 1 of this year.
The legalization of pot is still hotly debated, and recently President Obama put in his two cents, declaring that “marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol” during an interview in New Yorker Magazine.
President Obama admits to smoking pot when he was younger, and although some of his comments in the interview endorse legalizing marijuana, he has a more complicated stance on the issue. He believes that his smoking marijuana was a vice that he equates to smoking to cigarettes. He also discourages his children from trying marijuana, saying he believes it is “a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.”
Marijuana Less Dangerous Than Alcohol?
President Obama does feel that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, at least in regards to the impact it has on the individual consumer. His main concern about marijuana is the disproportionate arrests and incarceration for possession and use among minorities.
While children from more affluent families have the resources and support to avoid incarceration for marijuana, those who are poor, which are too often minorities, do not have the resources and support to avoid arrests and incarceration, which can negatively affect the rest of their lives.
He believes that creating a more equitable law through legalizing and regulating marijuana would be fairer than the current situation, where only a few people find themselves punished for something many do. However, he recognizes that legalizing marijuana will not solve the underlying issues involved in the inequity in the law.
A Complicated Situation
Although President Obama supports this one aspect of the argument for legalizing marijuana, he also recognizes that it creates a complicated situation that must be addressed. He believes marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, but he acknowledges that legalizing marijuana could lead to arguments for legalizing harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin.
If marijuana is legal, and alcohol is used as a comparison for whether something should be legal, then what would prevent the legalization of small quantities of harder drugs that are perceived as “safe,” or no more harmful than alcohol? With these harder drugs, the social and individual impact is so detrimental that it would be dangerous to allow that type of thinking to begin.
President Obama did not provide any answers in the interview, which was a lengthy story that covered many aspects of his presidency and other controversial topics; he merely voiced his opinion on the complicated issue.
Latest Gallup Poll
President Obama is not in the minority on this issue. A Gallup poll in October, 2013, indicated that 58 percent of Americans were in favor of legalization of marijuana, up 10 percentage points from 2012. By comparison, in the late 1960s only one American in nine thought it should be legal.
Although federal law trumps state law, the Justice Department – which has blustered about the fact that medical marijuana may be legal under some state laws but is still a violation of federal law – said it will not interfere with recreational use in Colorado or Washington as long as controls such as banning sales to minors and prohibiting driving under the influence are enforced.
In Colorado, state residents over the age of 21 can legally purchase up to one ounce per transaction, while tourists are limited to purchases of one-quarter of an ounce. In their first week of operation, Colorado’s 37 marijuana dispensaries had an estimated $5 million in sales.
Marijuana Still Has Real Health Problems
Studies have shown marijuana to be less dangerous, toxic, and addictive for individuals than alcohol and other drugs, which is one reason why it achieved enough momentum to be decriminalized and legalized, even if only for medical use. However, legal or not, marijuana can cause health problems for individuals, just like any other mood altering substance. Some studies have shown that long-term use of marijuana can cause changes in brain function, especially in adolescents.
People can become addicted to marijuana, and about 18 percent of individuals aged 12 and older entering treatment for drug abuse cite marijuana as the drug they most commonly abuse. Research has also found a correlation between marijuana use and subsequent addiction and mental health problems. Those who already have a mental health disorder are more susceptible to subsequently becoming addicted to marijuana when they turn to it to self-medicate or otherwise abuse the drug.
Marijuana Abuse Still A Real Concern
Whether marijuana becomes legalized, decriminalized, or remains an illegal drug, in any given jurisdiction, the negative affects should always remain in the public’s awareness, as is the case for alcohol and cigarettes. Marijuana can be abused just like any other legal or illegal drug, including alcohol, and some people will need treatment for their marijuana use or addiction. Sovereign Health Group offers treatment for marijuana abuse and addiction, as well as other drugs and alcohol.
Our state-of-the-art treatment program offers a combination of expressive and experiential therapeutic modalities including individual and group psychotherapy and complementary alternative therapeutic activities such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, equine therapy, and music therapy. To learn more, call our Admissions team at (866) 819-0427.
Blog post by: Marissa Maldonado