Opinion: It’s time to legalize marijuana in Florida

Marijuana is beneficial to the current political and economic climate.

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Opinion: It’s time to legalize marijuana in Florida

Pierce Trudeau, Contributing Writer

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Editor’s note: This editorial is a counterpiece to contributing writer Stone Bloom’s anti-marijuana article. Expect to see dueling editorials from both writers weekly.

College-aged students in the United States have the highest rate of marijuana use in the country by far, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For the majority of these students, it’s a crime that could have lasting impacts on their careers beyond graduation.

But there’s no need for these harsh penalties. The United States made marijuana possession illegal in 1937 against the American Medical Association’s opinion — and there’s evidence to support that its legalization will benefit Florida’s climate and politics today. Our neighbor, Canada, legalized recreational marijuana last year, and I believe it’s time for the United States to do the same.

Marijuana is safer than you think

No one is under the impression that using marijuana is void of risks and negative effects.

Unfortunately, decades of fear-mongering and American-produced propaganda films such as “Reefer Madness” have led to misleading talking points on the effects of marijuana.

THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient responsible for most of the psychological effects. While these natural cannabinoid chemicals might not be a source of damage, smoke is harmful to your lungs and the cardiovascular system no matter the source.

But that doesn’t make marijuana itself dangerous. It may be less dangerous than tobacco, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found — even when smoked.

Beyond smoking, there are many other ways to consume marijuana, including some ways that don’t have to be inhaled at all.

One such method is edible products infused with marijuana. Eating these marijuana-based foods doesn’t affect lung function, nor does it give you the possible increased cancer risk that smoke inhalation does.

Marijuana can lower crime rates

Let’s say that you do believe that marijuana is relatively safe and healthy to use as an adult, but you’re still against legalization based on the fear that it will drive up crime.

Drug trafficking crimes are relatively common in Florida. We are now the largest source of drug planes in the United States. And just last year, Miami-Dade police seized nearly $4 million worth of illegal marijuana from a grow operation.

With so much illegal money and drugs moving through Florida, there is no doubt violent crime is accompanying it.

Legalizing marijuana can mitigate this violence.

Legalization will not only lower the obvious low-level, drug-related crimes through decriminalization, but it has actually been shown to lower violent crime in border states by more than 10 percent on average, said the Economic Journal.

Legalizing marijuana will not only make our state safer, but will make other states around the country safer as well.

We need to legalize marijuana here in Florida, and we need to do it right.

We must allow adults to possess it, allow them to grow it, and regulate the sale of it with minimal taxing.

This must be done so that we can remove marijuana from unsafe drug deals while making sure people are purchasing a safe, unadulterated product.

Legalization had a slow start, but has recently picked up its pace

Oregon decriminalized marijuana back in 1973, becoming the first state in the nation to do so. Other states and localities soon followed with their own slow process of decriminalization — which has featured a reduction of penalties — but have lacked true elements of legalization.

Not until 2012 did any state actually legalize it for recreational use, but now that it’s begun, the effects of legalization are snowballing.

Legalization is finally moving on from simply being on ballot initiatives to becoming the agenda of politicians.

Two years ago in New York, a state of similar size and makeup as Florida, Gov. Andrew Cuomo stated that marijuana was a “gateway drug” and that he was fully against a move towards recreational marijuana.

Cuomo’s thoughts changed two months ago.

“Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana, once and for all,” he said in regards to the use of marijuana.

Back in our own political sphere, the newly elected Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, recently announced that the ban on smoking medical marijuana must be removed. It appears as though he has embraced the ballot that initiative Florida voters overwhelmingly approved in 2016.

Marijuana laws on the East Coast might soon look like those of the West Coast. It only took Massachusetts one election cycle to go from medical marijuana to full recreational marijuana.

Legalization is inevitable

An October 2018 Gallup poll found that two out of three Americans now support the full legalization of marijuana. This is an upward trend that has been continuing for decades. Even a majority of Republicans and Americans aged 55 and up now support the legalization of marijuana, Gallup said.

The District of Columbia and 10 states have legalized recreational marijuana, and many more states have made it available for medical patients.

Although, in states like our own, smoking it is still illegal — even for approved patients.

Why is it still a criminal offense to possess a substance that is safer and less addictive than alcohol and tobacco, especially when it’s supported by a majority of Americans?

Pierce Trudeau is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].