The inevitable legalization of marijuana
A few days ago happened to be April 20. No matter how secluded anyone is, after coming to college they certainly know about so-called “National Pot Day.” Marijuana culture in college is pervasive; even those who don’t actively participate or never have participated are nonetheless informed about certain well-known aspects of it. Similarly, there has been an active push lately from certain organizations toward marijuana legalization; in the last few years, it has become medicinally legal in California, Colorado and many other states, and in 2010, California narrowly voted down a measure to fully legalize cannabis. Taking a historical perspective, particularly from alcohol prohibition, it could be argued that the criminalization of marijuana is not beneficial to society at all and that legalization is inevitable, although it may take a long time.
However certain the eventual legalization of cannabis may be, the culture surrounding it certainly does not help. Shops such as Sunshine Daydream on the Delmar Loop promote a very public image of users of such substances being individuals for whom their drug use is definitional. While such people do exist, the vast majority of the users do not treat it as such, rather regarding it as something done only recreationally. Nonetheless, the image of the former is what is often portrayed in the media, thus leading to the formation of groups such as an Anti-4/20 group at the University of Colorado Boulder in response to the massive 4/20 Smoke Out on the campus.
Truth be told, the most dedicated users of any controlled substance are similar. Everyone on campus has no doubt had an experience in which they’ve overheard another person or group talking about the drunken exploits from the previous weekend, and no doubt many of you have participated in such discussions. These are no different from the “in your face” images that are often portrayed by the mainstream media of marijuana users who will convince today’s “fragile youth” to try cannabis, which itself leads to unfounded and non-scientific allegations that marijuana is a gateway drug that will inevitably lead most users to use much worse substances such as cocaine or heroin. The best way to seek marijuana legalization, in addition to demonstrating how much money and time prohibition wastes, is to recast the image of the user from a “pot-smoking hippie” to a normal, hardworking individual who simply chooses to do what he or she wants during free time.
As the legalization movement gathers steam, it is important to remember that cannabis is less harmful than some legal substances, such as alcohol or tobacco. Most people have no problems with users, so long as those users do not obstruct the day-to-day affairs of others. Other substances, such as alcohol or tobacco, can be physically addictive and can lead to many more secondary deaths through drunk driving, secondhand smoke and other external effects. Nonetheless, in order to make legalization far more tolerable to the population in general, users need to recast their image into something seen as less obnoxious in this day and age. While this may seem like a sacrifice of identity, it doesn’t really have to be; users should just employ far more discretion about the image they want to portray in order to push for legalization. In that regard, the 4/20 Smoke Out on the University of Colorado Boulder campus is incredibly misguided. Rather than demonstrating to the world that they are mature about their choices, events such as this make smokers appear to be obnoxious, attention-craving druggies with little regard for how their hobby may affect others.