The Rubicon

Continuing the chemical health conversation: marijuana legalization

Marijuana+has+been+fully+legalized+%28including+medicinal+and+recreational+use%29+in+nine+states%2C+while+many+have+only+defined+its+use+in+medical+treatment+as+legal.+%E2%80%9COne+of+the+biggest+things+is+that+%5Bmarijuana+legalization%5D+allows+a+legal+market%2C+so+it+can+be+taxed.+It+also+allows+for+job+creation+and+private+enterprise%2C+so+there%27s+an+entire+new+market+to+be+entered%3B+it%27s+a+great+tax+benefit+for+the+government+as+well%2C%22+Elsaesser+said.+Data+source%3A++Marijuana+Policy+Project+
Marijuana has been fully legalized (including medicinal and recreational use) in nine states, while many have only defined its use in medical treatment as legal. “One of the biggest things is that [marijuana legalization] allows a legal market, so it can be taxed. It also allows for job creation and private enterprise, so there's an entire new market to be entered; it's a great tax benefit for the government as well,

Marijuana has been fully legalized (including medicinal and recreational use) in nine states, while many have only defined its use in medical treatment as legal. “One of the biggest things is that [marijuana legalization] allows a legal market, so it can be taxed. It also allows for job creation and private enterprise, so there's an entire new market to be entered; it's a great tax benefit for the government as well," Elsaesser said. Data source: Marijuana Policy Project

Sharee Roman

Sharee Roman

Marijuana has been fully legalized (including medicinal and recreational use) in nine states, while many have only defined its use in medical treatment as legal. “One of the biggest things is that [marijuana legalization] allows a legal market, so it can be taxed. It also allows for job creation and private enterprise, so there's an entire new market to be entered; it's a great tax benefit for the government as well," Elsaesser said. Data source: Marijuana Policy Project

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In 1966, California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use, and has recently legalized it for recreational use as well. Since 1966, more than half of the states in America have legalized medical marijuana. Furthermore, nine states (and the District of Columbia) have legalized it for recreational use. The current status for Minnesota remains legal for medical usage only.  

While many see the changes at the state level as positive, marijuana remains illegal under the federal law. Although the Obama administration chose to allow state-level rules to be the standard, the Trump administration has chosen to enforce the federal standard. Senior Nikolaus Elsaesser discusses the economic benefits of legalizing marijuana for recreational usage, in relation to the Trump administration.

“One of the biggest things is that [marijuana legalization] allows a legal market, so it can be taxed. It also allows for job creation and private enterprise, so there’s an entire new market to be entered; it’s a great tax benefit for the government as well. I think that it’s kind of a waste of resources for [the Trump Administration] to take away that opportunity to gain from [legalization], and it’s not really worth their time, but it’s within their rights to do so,” Elsaesser said.

The war on marijuana in particular has cost the U.S. 50 billion dollars in prevention and incarcerations, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. The subsequent detentions, arrests, and convictions associated with the conflict have contributed to the significant growth of America’s incarcerated population, now the largest in the world. Data from the NAACP has showed that the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites. Elsasser believes that legalizing the usage of marijuana would decreases this racial disproportionality.

A lot of it has to do with how our brains develop, and what age is is dangerous for marijuana to be used. In comparison to other drugs, it’s less harmful, but that doesn’t mean that no harm can exist”

— Nikolaus Elsaesser

“With the entire redirection of the war on drugs, possession of marijuana disproportionately affects people of color. When it comes to things like possession, many people [of color] are arrested and then the sentences are very disproportionate and very cruel…They are imprisoned much longer than they should be, and if you legalize marijuana and possession isn’t illegal and use isn’t illegal, then you wouldn’t have the issue of crowded prisons and mass incarceration.”

Sophomore Helen Bartlett agrees.

“There has been a trend of racial disparities for a long time…I think that if marijuana were to be legalized, then the racial disparity in drug arrests would go down,” Bartlett said.

Aside from potential social benefits of marijuana legalization, including economic growth from its taxation and the reduction in incarcerations, there are downsides to consider, including health risks. Some studies have shown that marijuana usage during the developmental ages of the brain can adversely affect cognitive function. One study found that frequent marijuana use is associated with an average loss of 8 IQ points. Another study showed that cumulative lifetime exposure to marijuana was associated with lower scores on a test of verbal memory. For this reason, Elsasser supports the legalization, but not use of marijuana.

“I personally don’t support the use of it, especially for younger people, because it [affects] brain development. In light of legalization, it would become a similar thing as the use [of alcohol and tobacco] where alcohol in large amounts is not very healthy and good for you; however, that doesn’t mean something should be illegal and prosecuted… A lot of it has to do with how our brains develop, and what age is is dangerous for marijuana to be used. In comparison to other drugs, it’s less harmful, but that doesn’t mean that no harm can exist,” Elsaesser said.

There are different alternatives to the full-fledged legalization of recreational marijuana. A city or state could legalize possession but not sales, or an area could allow distribution only within private clubs. It isn’t just a dichotomy between prohibition and legalization: it is also about choosing what would produce the most benefits for a community. There is currently little discussion about how recreational marijuana legalization might affect the local Minnesota community, but USA Today predicts Minnesota to be one of the next 15 states to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. The debate surrounding recreational marijuana is ongoing, as is chemical health overall, and states like Minnesota will likely come to consider the economic, social, and cultural implications of legalization as the future unfolds.  

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About the Contributor
Sharee Roman, Science & Technology Editor

Sharee Roman is the Science and Technology editor on The Rubicon. She started Rubicon in ninth grade as a way for her to express how she felt about community issues and has since been on staff.  In addition to Sharee’s role on the staff, she also helps design for the Iris Art and Lit Magazine. Outside of school, she participates on the Vertical Endeavors climb team and volunteers at the humane society. At home, if she is not studying, she can often be found watching old VCR tapes with her puppy, Leo. Sharee Roman can be reached at rubicon.spa@gmail.com.

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