BY IAN GEERTSEN
Last year, the people of California voted 57 percent in favor of their state to join eight others and Washington DC by legalizing recreational marijuana. As can be seen in the 42 percent of voters who disapproved of the change, there were bound to be a variety of reactions to the new law.
“I think legalization is a mistake,” says Matt Suess, a retired Navy commander and parent to three current or former Carmel High students. “It’s another step down a slippery slope of normalizing self-destructive behavior.”
While California’s legalizing marijuana can lead to things like pollution, excess water use and skyrocketing real estate prices for agricultural plots, most of the effects legalization of the drug will have are on the individuals that use it.
“Like alcohol and cigarettes, marijuana is a substance that leads to a lot of problems for individuals and for society, but enough people want to do it anyway, so the government is making it legal,” Suess explains. “And just like we have huge problems with alcoholism, drunk driving and lung cancer, legalized marijuana will present a whole new set of problems for us to deal with in the very near future.”
Others, though, see the widespread use of marijuana in an entirely different light.
“It makes no sense to try to outlaw marijuana any more than prohibition made sense for alcohol,” says retired syndicated journalist Peter Funt, another parent who put two of his own kids through Carmel schools. “It’s just too common in usage, it’s just too much of a waste of police time to try to go after pot cases—there are more important things to worry about.”
Although Funt personally supports the legalization of marijuana in California, like Suess, he recognizes the many dangers that come along with cannabis use.
“I think there needs to be more consideration given by the authorities to measuring DUIs for drugs,” Funt says. “We’ve made a lot of progress in evaluating breath tests for alcohol, but as a motorist I’m worried about people who are high almost as much as people who are drunk.”
In fact, the Highway Loss Data Institute estimates that Washington State, Oregon and Colorado have all experienced three percent more vehicle collisions than they would have if they had not legalized marijuana, according to Phil Lebeau of CNBC.
Within the scientific community, there is still much debate as to just how harmful smoking marijuana can be. For instance, one nation-wide survey done by the University of California at San Francisco found that marijuana smoke is less harmful to the lungs than tobacco smoke, although another study also carried out by UCSF found that rats’ blood arteries recovered from exposure to tobacco smoke 300 percent faster than when recovering from marijuana smoke.
“If people think marijuana smoke is somehow exempt from the harmful effects of tobacco and many other kinds of smoke, this is evidence that it is not,” said Matthew Springer, a professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at UCSF, in an interview with CBS News’ Dennis Thompson.
Studies like these that expose the possibly harmful effects of marijuana do not exactly represent the views of the country as a whole, though, as a recent study from Yahoo News/Marist Poll published in October found, parents are more worried that their children will start smoking than using marijuana.
According to the same poll, 56 percent of Americans think that smoking marijuana is socially acceptable, an idea that is shared by some teachers at CHS.
“I don’t mind talking about marijuana, and I never have shied away from talking about it,” Carmel English teacher Whitney Grummon says. “Since the ‘80s, I have believed that marijuana should be legal.”
In the 1980s, only 15-25 percent of Americans favored legalizing marijuana, although that number has changed drastically over the last 30-some years, as now 61 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana according to the Pew Research Center.
Students too feel that the stigma that surrounds the drug in some places may not be present on campus.
“I think there’s surprisingly little taboo around the topic, especially around peers” CHS senior Filip Zacek says. “I’d definitely be comfortable talking about it with a teacher.”
Zacek’s view is not shared by everyone at CHS: Many students remain uncomfortable discussing the topic. Those who look at the situation from the eyes of the federal government, though, think that marijuana might not be as protected as some might think.
“Yes it’s become legal under California law, but it’s not legal under federal law,” social studies teacher Bill Schrier says. “And like it or not, that means anybody who uses it is still committing a federal crime.”
Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is still illegal in the US, and as the Supreme Court ruled in Altria Group v. Good, state law is always trumped by federal law when they come into conflict.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been very vocal in his opposition against marijuana.
“Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” said Sessions, according to Newsweek’s Tim Marcin. “Marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”