Legalizing weed: is this a good direction our country is heading in?

Jessica Gunther, Contributing Writer

When you are younger things seem black and white, especially in regards to drugs. Drugs are, simply put, just bad. Everyone knows that token kid from the “wrong side of the tracks” who is just a bad apple from a bad seed. That bad kid probably “grew up too fast” and experimented with drinking, drugs, and sex way before their peers. Kids are taught by their parents to look down on these bad eggs and that if they avoid smoking, drinking, and sex that they will be successful when they grow up. I have learned that as we grow older there is more of a gray area on what is good and bad. As college students, we can no longer accept the over-exaggerated warnings of our parents and seventh-grade selves. When it comes down to it, growing up involves a change in perspective and requires challenging preconceived notions.

With this in mind, the question arises: where do we get these preconceived notions about drugs from? Most likely you learned about good versus bad behavior from your parents and health teachers. Recall the comments your parents made about teenagers leaning against the wall outside the convenience store with their skateboards in one hand and their joints in the other. Or how your health teachers told you that pot is a gateway drug and after that first deadly hit you immediately start wanting to do other drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, or heroin. Pretty soon nothing will be enough and you’ll be passed out on some tattered old couch with drool hanging out one side of your mouth and a needle halfway out your arm. With this strong socialization from parents, how could you not grow up believing that weed is bad for you?

After your middle-school self hears these so-called facts about weed and the inevitable fate of those who try it, you’re now sitting at your desk wiping away the droplets of sweat that have accumulated just below your hairline. You think to yourself, man, that sounds scary. Then the bell rings right about the time you’ve finished making a silent oath to stay away from all of it forever. The key will be just to never get involved with any of it to begin with, to live above the influence and to silently shame anyone who’s lousy enough to ignore all the warnings.

When we graduate high school and enter college, we need to realize that we’ve been lied to all those years. It becomes clear that we can drink and smoke without becoming a bad person in the process. In fact, they don’t have to define you at all if you don’t want them to. We realize that a hit from a joint isn’t like smoking ten packs of cigarettes. We realize we were given neat little boxes of right and wrong, boxes that don’t actually hold up in any real life situation. And hopefully, even if you stayed true to your pledge to abstain from alcohol and drugs, you realize it’s not cool to shame others for not doing the same.

Those who learned to accept that weed is not the devil’s drug begin to question why weed is illegal at all. Alcohol obviously has hazardous effects, yet it becomes completely socially acceptable once you hit that magic age of 21. Regardless, the government is not even close to letting go of this idea of weed as the end-all-be-all of destructive behavior. For instance, go to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) page on drug scheduling. There are five categories of drugs ranging from Schedule I as having the highest potential for abuse and also most punishable to Schedule V as having the lowest potential for abuse and being the least punishable. There are some twisted things about these categories: marijuana is Schedule I while methamphetamine and cocaine are classified as Schedule II. You don’t even need to have too much life experience to know how illogical that is, but the DEA’s warped version of reality is completely accepted by society and only enforces the judgment we were indoctrinated with throughout childhood.

We need the United States and its institutions to wake up to the blunt facts (pun kind of intended). Weed is not as bad for people as society portrays it. People don’t die from marijuana overdose and it’s a drug that has a lot more uses than alcohol. Despite the strong resistance to the acceptance and especially legalization of weed, I truly believe that Colorado and Washington are only the first dominoes to fall in the movement nationwide. Once people realize that the federal government is looking a lot like you and your parents silently shaming those kids outside the convenience store, they will realize how unreasonable their stance on weed actually is.

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