Seeing green: marijuana gains support

Samantha Durham, Opinion Editor

Pot smokers rejoice as Nevada is now allowing the production and sale of recreational marijuana. According to Rolling Stone, Nevada is the fifth state to allow the opening of dispensaries for recreational users; following behind Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Colorado. While these states are opening dispensaries other states across the nation are slowly following suit, this raises the question on everyone’s mind; what is stopping all the other states?

According to Business Insider, as of December 15th residents of Massachusetts are allowed to grow up to 12 marijuana plants in their homes. Residents are also allowed to consume and carry small amounts of the drug without legal repercussions. Massachusetts however is still a little bit behind when it comes to tolerating marijuana. Business Insider also reported that the state’s governor delayed the opening of retail stores from early in 2018 to mid-year; leaving residents asking questions about the fate of this growing industry in their state.

Massachusetts might have its set backs on the road to legalization but some other states are taking it in stride. Maine is one of those states as Business Insider reported that the 2016 Election allowed residents of Maine to posses up to 2.5 ounces of weed, which is almost double the limit in other states. However, retail stores will have to wait as they have not been approved to open their doors until 2018.

While this is big change for some states, not all of the rules are the same in every state. Many states across the country have begun allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes; while recreational use still remains illegal. While the United States is slowly turning green, it is important to note that each state that allows recreational marijuana use has its own rules and regulations; just as they do for the use of medical marijuana.

For example, Business Insider reported that our nation’s capital that voted in favor of nonmedical marijuana in 2014, only allows people to carry up to two ounces and “gift” up to one ounce, as long as no money, goods or services are exchanged. However, Washington State has different rules. Business Insider explained that while Washington State allows recreational and medical marijuana, it does not let just anyone grow it. The state requires that all growers must have a grower’s license for medical purposes only. However, citizens can carry up to one ounce of the drug without repercussions from law enforcement.

Now this is all leading up to one important question that has politicians debating back and forth; should all fifty states legalize recreational marijuana or is this a bad idea all together? Before I state what I think consider what this newly legalized industry is doing for its states. Colorado is a perfect example of a state that is reaping the benefits of this drug.

According to the Chicago Tribune, in 2015 the legal marijuana industry in Colorado generated $2.4 billion in economic activity and 18,000 full time jobs. The state not only saw a jump in jobs but also a study reported by the Chicago Tribune states that by the year 2020 more than 90 percent of the recreational marijuana market will be supplied by regulated, state-licensed dealers. The remaining 10 percent will come from home growers and a small number of unregulated dealers. Finally, the Chicago Tribune reported in 2015 that marijuana taxes raked in $121 million in revenue for the state. This number is expected to rise to $150 million by 2020.

There has been a lot of debate on this topic and it seems that the nation is split. Is it or is it not okay to legalize recreational marijuana? I say let them smoke their pot and let the state benefit from it. You know where all that tax money goes? It goes to educating the youth of America, repairing damaged roads and offering reform services for those who are incarcerated. A lot of good could come from those tax dollars. People argue that allowing the legal sale of weed is only going to increase crime and other issues. According to the Washington Post, marijuana has little impact on traffic accidents as the DPA stated that in Colorado and Washington the post-legalization traffic fatality rate has remained statistically consistent with pre-legalization levels. Not to mention that the overall crime related to marijuana has plummeted since it was legalized, as reported by the Washington Post.

Overall, here is my stance on legalizing recreational marijuana: first, if it isn’t legal people are still going to do it anyway. According to NORML, North Carolina saw 26,433 marijuana related arrests in 2012. However, these arrests obviously go down in states that have legalized the drug; allowing law enforcement to concentrate on other drugs that are much more dangerous such as opioids, which according to WWAY, Wilmington has had a 73 percent increase in opioid related deaths since 2005. Guess how many people use a fatal amount of marijuana? None, as reported by the Huffington Post. More people die from alcohol poisoning which is legal in all 50 states.

Secondly, if people are going to do the drug anyway, then why not tax it and make it beneficial for everyone? I think a lot of good can come from those tax dollars that some states aren’t getting because the drug isn’t legalized. I have never smoked pot in my life, but I would love to see the benefits of others doing it help schools receive more funding or highways get repaved for safer driving conditions.

A lot of changes need to be made before we can see a country that is fully tolerant of marijuana. I think more education on the benefits and the drug itself can help lawmakers along with citizens see how this drug can help their state in a way that many never thought it could. At the end of the day, it’s not going away and people will continue to use it not matter if it is legal or not.  However, we can choose to make something of it for everyone or continue to fight against it.