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Marijuana gets a fair chance

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Updated: Sunday, November 11, 2012 14:11

While Tuesday’s presidential election gained the expected national media buzz for most of the evening, a lesser-known but substantive victory took place in the Midwest: Colorado became the first state to legalize cannabis for recreational use. After failing in 2006, a remodeled Amendment 64 found success and will pave the way for a new system that allows for the taxation and regulation of marijuana similar to alcohol. When compared even with Amsterdam’s marijuana regulation, Amendment 64 truly is groundbreaking on an international scale.

Marijuana has a rocky history in the United States, one predicated on fear tactics employed by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Theories of addiction and pot’s “gateway drug” potential have all been debunked. Modern research abounds, touting the benefits of cannabis use to alleviate everything from mild headaches to severe pain caused by multiple sclerosis and a slew of other conditions in between. The irony of such fervent legal resistance is that marijuana is something we as humans have always partaken in and viewed as a positive influence. From its inclusion in various religious rituals to evidence that cannabis was Shakespeare’s muse, marijuana usage dates back to as early as 3000 B.C. Not only does marijuana provide health benefits, but environmental ones as well. Hemp as a crop can be grown to create fibers and rope that are much more durable for use in various industries. This material can be used to create clothing, textiles, paper, an alternative to plastic composites and even building construction material such as fiber insulation. Its possibilities are literally endless, and it could help phase out so many materials that are not biodegradable and that require wasteful production methods that pollute the environment. The legalization of marijuana in Colorado is also projected to bring the state anywhere from $5 million to $21 million in revenue annually.

The best part about Amendment 64: the term “recreational.” Residents of Colorado who are of age can obtain marijuana and simply enjoy it for recreational use. There is a strange double standard that exists currently in this country, one that sends the message that marijuana usage is taboo and that smoking weed is damaging to your brain, your motivation and your future. However, alcohol is a completely acceptable vice to indulge in occasionally or even heavily on certain occasions, despite the overwhelming evidence that alcohol consumption is so much more detrimental to one’s body.

A preliminary poll taken early last year found that 41 percent of Floridians would vote yes for an amendment legalizing medical marijuana in Florida, and another 17 percent stated they would probably vote yes, which would be nearly enough for a majority win. Unfortunately, the measure failed to garner support in the Florida Congress in May of last year.

With so many benefits, it’s difficult to understand why there is opposition about its legalization. As is the case with anything in the political spectrum, one only needs to follow the money to understand why the war on pot is profitable for other industries, such as alcohol companies and private prison companies like Corrections Corp. of America. That’s right: There is a private company that exists to benefit from individuals being incarcerated for the nonviolent crime of smoking marijuana.

Colorado’s new amendment may, however, be met with resistance from the federal government. DEA administrators have begun to put pressure on the U.S. Department of Justice, namely Attorney General Eric Holder to release a statement of opposition in response to Colorado’s amendment. President Barack Obama’s record on marijuana dispensary crackdown exceeds that of President George W. Bush, with more than 170 SWAT team raids in nine different states, resulting in more than 60 federal indictments since 2009.

While it may be a long uphill battle, legalization and safe regulation of marijuana is feasible in the United States. Citizens must let their state representatives know that legalization of marijuana is what they want, and state legislators need to recognize the financial, environmental and medical benefits to be reaped from it.

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