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From the Daily: Small steps to legalization

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published November 13, 2012

Nov. 6 was a monumental day in American history, but not for the presidential reasons one may first assume. Throughout the country, various marijuana support ballot proposals garnered landslide victories. Each one passed works toward drug reform on a small scale, but with a similar large-scale goal in mind — total legalization throughout the United States, where federal law criminalizes pot. In Michigan, five individual cities voted to change marijuana laws, taking small steps in the uphill battle toward legalization. However, this isn’t enough. Michigan, along with the rest of the United States, should take a similar stance toward marijuana as it does alcohol. It should follow the trail of Colorado and Washington in passing legislation allowing marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes with appropriate regulation.

Grand Rapids, Flint and Detroit voted to decriminalize marijuana. Ypsilanti — advocated for by the Students for a Sensible Drug Policy at Eastern Michigan University — chose a more symbolic act, voting to make possession of the drug the lowest priority for law enforcement officials. Meanwhile, Kalamazoo voters called for better regulation of marijuana dispensaries by the city. Each of these ballot measures passed with more than 55 percent of the vote.

While a stigma against marijuana use still exists, the widespread passage of amendments across the country suggests that many citizens are open to legalization. Similar to the shifting views against the prohibition of liquor in the late 1920s, popular opinion about marijuana is changing. Medical and recreational purposes have become more accepted by society.

The main ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, bonds with lipids in the body, causing it to stay in the system longer than many other substances. While alcohol persists in the blood for only a few days, traces of marijuana can be found in the urine weeks after use. As a result, employers and law enforcement officials face difficulty in determining the accurate time of use, and whether or not it should factor into legal situations. Though saliva, urine, blood and hair follicle tests already exist, they are neither cost-efficient nor effective for determining whether misuse occurred in the workplace or behind the wheel.

Smoking pot is a personal choice similar to drinking alcohol. It also has medicinal properties beneficial to cancer patients, those afflicted with arthritis or fibromyalgia, and others suffering from depression and eating disorders. Studies have proven the long-term effects relatively harmless and addiction rate practically non-existent, especially in comparison to prescription drugs such as morphine or Vicodin. Marijuana can be a dangerous substance in the same way as alcohol. However, individuals who moderate their usage of these substances should be able to decide for themselves when it comes to marijuana use.

Rather than fill jails to fight this form of drug use — which is ineffective with atrocious costs and minimal results — full legalization should be implemented. Current possession charges allow for legal discrimination against otherwise harmless people. The stigma about the personal choice to use marijuana is eroding, paving the way toward widespread legalization throughout the country.


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