Legalization of Marijuana
By Molly

The argument regarding the legalization of marijuana was recently addressed in an article by Timothy N. Baldwin. I was intrigued with his opinion because there are always controversies about this topic. Marijuana law varies from state to state, and the controversy never seems to get resolved.

Baldwin believes that it is time for marijuana legalization. One of his reasons behind the legalization of marijuana is, from his experience, that "[he] would estimate that of the thousands of [criminal] cases [he] handled, at least half (if not more) were a direct cause of alcohol consumption or addiction. Yet 
             alcohol is legal and marijuana is illegal." 

Baldwin also posed the question, "How many drug rehabilitation programs are funded by tax dollars to “treat” these ‘drug addicts’?"

The minute I saw Baldwin’s use of "drug addicts" in quotations, my blood pressure skyrocketed and I could feel my skin crawl. I am the first to admit to anyone that, in fact, I am one of those drug addicts and alcoholics. It outrages me that some people, specifically non-addicts, can be so naïve and ignorant when it comes to addiction—thinking they know all the answers.

Addiction and the Legalization of Marijuana

I spent 6 months in rehab for alcohol and marijuana addiction, and for me they go hand-in-hand. I was educated on the disease of addiction. And yes, I said it—addiction is a disease. For me, I think I was born with this disease; extended family members of mine are also alcoholics. Out of the 200 people I was recently in treatment for marijuana addiction with, about 20% of them were there strictly for marijuana abuse and addiction. Counteracting Baldwin’s statement, in an article written by Dr. Robert L. DuPont, DuPont points out that, "marijuana was an identified drug of abuse for 57% of individuals referred to treatment from the criminal justice system." 

Weed isn’t addictive, huh? In my opinion, everyone should be educated about addiction and the destruction it will ultimately cause. Since I was a daily marijuana smoker, I have firsthand experience with the chaos that follows. It is commonly discussed in treatment and 12 step programs that marijuana is a gateway drug. Regardless of whether it is legal or not, marijuana is a mind-altering substance, just like alcohol. I know from experience that weed can lead to other drugs or problems. Kids introduced to weed can be introduced to drinking (underage, of course) and potentially can be lead to more dangerous hard drugs. Many people start off by smoking marijuana before moving to other drugs. It is also commonly known that marijuana smokers are at risk of abusing this drug and others.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "A person who smokes marijuana is more than 104 times more likely to use cocaine than a person who never tries pot." More and more studies are showing that most people who are addicted to serious drugs like heroin and stimulants first smoked marijuana.

It seems to be undeniable that marijuana use often serves as a gateway to other drugs of addiction. No one is quite sure why, but among several theories is the suspicion that the brain's chemistry is actually changed in such a way that the chance of developing an addiction to a subsequent drug is increased. 

I can vouch for this because I started out smoking here and there when I was in middle school, became an abuser, and then became addicted to it.

Although some may argue that marijuana is not addictive, I strongly believe that it is. I also know first-hand that marijuana is a gateway drug. For me, marijuana abuse opened the door to my dormant alcoholism.

When I was a senior, my alcoholism appeared when I was put on random drug tests and could no longer use my drug of choice — weed. I quickly became an alcoholic, craving a mind-altering substance to change the way I felt inside. Since I could not smoke, I turned to drinking instead, and my life spiraled out of control. I felt I needed some substance to stop feeling. Weed got me out of myself temporarily; I became the giggly, fun, and funny girl I always wanted to be, and marijuana, and eventually alcohol, gave me that opportunity. 

Alcohol and the Legalization of Marijuana Debate

In Baldwin’s experience, he explains that many crimes were caused by the consumption of alcohol. People often drink too much and become violent. Sometimes drinking too much causes people to neglect their children, or drive drunk and hurt someone, or hurt themselves. Just because alcohol is legal and causes so much harm, why does that mean we should endorse the legalization of marijuana or legalize any other harmful substances? Maybe we should be focusing on making something that can be harmful and dangerous, like alcohol, illegal.

This may be my own stubbornness, but just because Baldwin worked with criminal cases that were mainly the result of alcohol abuse, it does not mean that his statistics are the true statistics or the only statistics. How many people aren’t caught high or with marijuana? Driving without a license? I question him on this because I have done these in the past, and gotten away with it with no legal consequences, and know many other individuals who have done the same.

Shouldn’t we spend more time on trying to make our roads saferinstead of arguing for the legalization of marijuana? Even something seemingly minor like texting and driving can be destructive, but again, not all who text get in accidents—just like not all who get high or drink and drive get caught. I am very strongly against the legalization of marijuana, because I have personally experienced life falling apart from smoking pot.

DuPont's article talks about a study that indiciates around 25% of extremely injured drivers admitted to a trauma center tested positive for marijuana. In a study in Washington state, almost 13% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for marijuana. These studies demonstrate the high prevalence of drugged driving as a result of marijuana use. This couldn’t be truer for me.

Possible Effects of the Legalization of Marijuana

On January 9th, after being 9 months sober, I went to a friend’s house where there were people smoking marijuana. You can read my entire marijuana addiction story here, but long story short, I took one (and I repeat ONE) hit from a bong, got in my car with my best friend in the passenger seat, and the next thing I remember is my best friend screaming my name. I came out of my "fog," attempted to slam my foot on the brake—which ended up being the gas pedal—and got into a 4 car accident. Before I got sober, I drove high all the time; I was known for calling myself a better driver when high! 

This is a perfect example to counteract his statement about having more cases that involve alcohol. This may be legitimate in Baldwin’s experience, but incorrect. Who can read that story and still completely believe that marijuana is not "that bad?" Admittedly, that was what I thought before my accident. Marijuana had never gotten me in trouble before and I thought that it was "ONLY" weed. I have to say, I am lucky to be alive after that night.

In Pennsylvania, where I live, driving while under the influence of a controlled substance gets consequences equal to the highest BAC penalties, or having a BAC of .16% or higher. With no prior DUI offenses, driving while under the influence of a controlled substance is considered to be an ungraded misdemeanor, carrying a $1,000 to $5,000 fine, a suspended license for 12 months, and anywhere from 3 days to 6 months in prison. Someone found guilty of this first offense may also be ordered to attend alcohol highway safety school and/or drug and alcohol treatment.

In other words, driving under the influence of substances like marijuana is considered as dangerous and extreme as having double the legal limit of BAC or more. I guess Baldwin did not take this into consideration with his opinion of marijuana law and whether the legalization of marijuana is really safe or wise.

In conclusion, I don’t understand why we should push for the legalization of marijuana, a drug just as dangerous as alcohol. Yes, alcohol is legal. But as I said before, it just doesn’t make sense to continue to legalize any dangerous drugs or mind-altering substances. If anything, we should be working on making other dangerous substances like alcohol and cigarettes, things that have become normal, acceptable, and even encouraged in our society today, illegal. 

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