April 5, 2010

Calif. Marijuana Debate Reaches Cornell

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John, a junior at UCLA, is worried. For the past three years, he has been earning extra cash at school by dealing marijuana, and if new legislation passes in November, he might have to get a less lucrative job, such as filing books at the library.

“It’s time that the government legalized pot,” John, who declined to give his last name, said. “I probably need to find something else to do, but in terms of pot itself, everyone already does it. there’s no point in keeping it restricted.”

In November, California might become the first state to legalize sales of marijuana. As that date approaches, discussion is sprouting across the nation and at the University on whether or not marijuana should be legalized country-wide.

694,248 signatures, significantly more than the 433,971 needed, were collected to put the legalization of marijuana on this November’s ballot, according to The Los Angeles Times. Richard Lee, a marijuana mogul from Oakland, Calif., who made $1.3 million from his businesses, is the leading advocate for the campaign.

“We’re one step closer to ending cannabis prohibition and the unjust laws that lock people up for cannabis while alcohol is not only sold openly but advertised on television to kids every day,” he told The Times.

Meanwhile, students and faculty at Cornell remained mostly supportive of the legislation.

“There are probably not too many people impatiently waiting for marijuana to become legal so that they can try it for the first time. To the extent that legalization would mean that the person selling you marijuana would no longer necessarily know where you can find heroin, this would be a very good thing,” Prof. Emily Owens, PAM, who teaches a course on the economics of drugs and gangs, said.

“It is hard to say with certainty what will happen if the voter initiative passes,” Owens added. “To the extent that legalization will make people smoke more and drink less, this would on net probably reduce crime,” she added.

Students were even more in favor of the legalization efforts, arguing that the legislation could allow the government to better control the marijuana market.

“It’s impossible to ignore that people in the country are doing pot. I think if the government orders more moderate use then [fewer] people will abuse it,” Christina Bailey ’12 stated.

“It already happens, so why not control it?” said Carolyn Braza ’11. “The only reason why it’s dangerous is when it’s laced with others drugs, people are gonna do it anyways, and if the government can regulate it, it’d be much safer. More people’ll try it [if it was legalized], but in terms of frequent users [I think] the number will stay the same.”

Others noted that although marijuana has traditionally been considered an illegal drug, it is “not a dangerous drug per se,” unless it were to be “abused,” according to Bailey.

Yet some students feared the consequences of legalizing a drug, which still has the potential to harm.

“The reason [marijuana] is so expensive now is because its illegal, and I realize that doesnt deter regular users, but it still does the job,” said Nandini Das ’11, a student from Cupertino, Calif.

Traditionally, the marijuana legalization debate has broken down along clearly defined issues.

On the one hand, opponents contend that although marijuana is not as addictive as cocaine or heroine, it is still a drug that influences behavior and has adverse health effects, and should remain outlawed. Pot farmers are also against the legalization of marijuana, because although the legalization may spark an increase in marijuana demand, it will undoubtedly drive down the price of marijuana and with it their profit margin, reported Reason.com. Others have pointed to studies, such as one conducted by the RAND corporation, which show that smoking marijuana reduces math standardized test scores by 15 percent.

Proponents of the legislation, on the other hand, have pointed to the decrease in costs for housing prison inmates on marijuana charges and an increase in tax revenues that legalization could bring. According to Time magazine, California’s economy would receive a boost of $1.4 billion in tax revenue if a tax of 10 percent is levied on the $14 billion industry.

“I will be interested to see what happens in November,” Owens said. “It looks like both sides are rallying the faithful to raise money and motivate voters.”

Original Author: Lucy Li