Legalization of marijuana: debate “grows”
By Hunter Samuelson
It was probably not a “sugar high” that teens across the nation were zealously anticipating this Easter. With the proliferation of the cannabis culture as well as reform organizations like the THC Ministry and the Marijuana Policy Project driving the nation on the road to legalization, it might not be precise to say 420 happened to land on Easter, but rather, Easter happened to land on 420.
That’s right. Call the calendar companies because a there’s a new national holiday: National Weed Day or 420. Its name comes from the 1970s at San Rafael High School, CA, where a group of students met every day at 4:20 p.m. to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they learned about in class, and eventually got together to smoke pot. Since then, it has become the police dispatch code for smoking marijuana and the ubiquitous code-word for marijuana.
Across the nation, states must answer the question: should we legalize marijuana? Perhaps it’s better to live in a nation where there is a profusion of recreational pot stores rather than a profusion of drug dealers, but whether or not the black market would be alive and well if New York State were to end the prohibition of marijuana is debatable.
Would having recreational pot stores replace drug dealers?
Senior Braden McGee believes that “legalization would bring in good tax money, but that is not an end all be all to drug dealers because drug dealers have better supply and better prices.”
According to an interview in USA Today, Lt. Mark Comte of the Colorado Springs Police Vice and Narcotics unit said that the legalization “has done nothing more than enhance the opportunity for the black market.”
This past April, a 25-year-old was shot dead trying to sell marijuana illegally, two men from Texas set up a warehouse to grow a superabundance of marijuana, and three people were robbed at gunpoint in a grocery store purchasing pot.
Senior Nicholas Mason believes that prohibition of weed is much like the prohibition of alcohol during the 1920s, saying, “They still had to deal with illegal distillation of it (making liquid THC) and had to make laws against transporting it.”
Mason believes legalization would not abolish the black market, and because consumption will happen whether a state prohibits marijuana or not, he believes legislators might as well make consumption safe: “It would make things a lot easier in the long run because people could get non-laced weed and weed would be less dangerous.”
With unregulated drugs like marijuana, users have no idea of knowing what substances could have been added, such as cocaine, crack, PCP, or even embalming fluid, which dealers have been known to lace with their marijuana.
“I think it should be legalized with strict regulations, and the government could tax it but they would have to crack down on illegal production and selling,” Mason said.
Would New York State be able to crack the whip down hard enough on the black market, or would it continue to thrive?
More about the pros and cons
The issue of marijuana for medical use and recreational use finally seems to be growing on New York State lawmakers as well as Governor Cuomo, who has hinted his support. It’s also the number two cash crop in the United States.
Senior Jenna Grainer believes there could be an economic benefit to legalization: “If it was legalized, the government would tax it, therefore more revenue would be coming in. The only problem is, it’s unhealthy.”
Are some of us that desperate that we are willing to sacrifice the health and well being of New Yorkers by giving them easier and legal access to marijuana? While you may say pro-legalization lawmakers care about the economy more than the health and safety of citizens, junior Jamie Jensen believes marijuana wouldn’t hurt the health of citizens at all, but help it: “Marijuana helps people with seizures, eating disorders, and mood swings.”
Senior Emily Sternisha points out that, “Marijuana has two types: indica and sativa. One causes a stronger body-high, which may or may not result in a small form of ‘tripping.’ Also, one strand makes people drowsy and can aid insomnia, while the other stimulates hunger.”
Along with curing eating disorders and sleep deprivation, senior Skylar Emery has heard that marijuana even has the potential to fight cancer. A scientist in the UK found that compounds called “cannabinoids” can kill cancerous cells found in people with leukemia, a form of cancer that is said will cause 24,000 deaths in the United States in 2014.
“Cannabinoids have a complex action; it hits a number of important processes that cancers need to survive,” said Dr. Wai Liu, an oncologist at St. George’s University of London. Marijuana has groundbreaking potential over drugs that have only one function, and many doctors believe it has a great future, particularly with standard chemotherapies.
There is also the psychological phenomenon of “wanting what we can’t have.”
Maybe it’s not the marijuana that’s doing the damage. Maybe it’s the prohibition. “The fact that marijuana is illegal makes it more desirable,” said Emery. Like Jensen, Emery believes that marijuana can help people live better lifestyles since “so many people need some calming down.”
Also, it’s hard to call innocent drug an oxymoron when comparing marijuana to alcohol: “Alcohol is the worst drug you can take, and it’s legal. Weed causes you to calm down, and maybe hallucinate, but when you drink enough alcohol, you can do that too,” said Emery.
Athough marijuana is accused of being a “gateway drug,” smoking and alcohol use typically precedes marijuana use, but alcohol and smoking are still legal.
According to an article from Time Magazine, those who demonize marijuana by calling it a “gateway drug” believe that correlation is cause, but it isn’t: “Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang members are probably 100 times more likely to have ridden a bicycle as a kid than those who don’t become Hell’s Angels, but that doesn’t mean that riding a two-wheeler is a ‘gateway’ to joining a motorcycle gang.”
According to Senior Gary Nephew, “Marijuana is far safer than other forms of chemical entertainment, namely alcohol. Have you ever heard of someone roasting themselves to death on joints? Of course not, because it doesn’t happen. It is certainly possible to overdose on marijuana, which consists of an intense high and an even more intense fit of sleep. This is child’s play compared to overdosing on drugs like opiate-based pain killers, or alcohol, which are both popular in America.”
According to the The New York Times, rates of opiate abuse have risen continuously over the last decade, and according to government statistics, reports on heroin use in the last 12 months have nearly doubled since 2007 to 620,000. Perhaps the question is, how many of those 620,000 people used marijuana as a gateway drug?
Senior Annie Coons would probably say a lot: “Users say it’s not a gateway drug but it’s all about willpower. They use marijuana to escape their problems. I know a group of kids who lived in an apartment together and did weed, and guess what? They’re still in Gowanda.”
Coons knows of a heroin user who started off smoking weed.
Telling Coons that Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Matt Damon, Justin Bieber, or Madonna used weed won’t sway her opinion even a little: “Don’t tell me the entertainers do it because they aren’t giving us anything. It’s the police force and the doctors who are the ones that help us. I want to do something with my life,” said Coons.
Senior Emily Sternisha would disagree with marijuana being a gateway drug: “Most stoners don’t just think ‘hey I’m going to try crack today.’ They usually have other influences, such as family, stress, pressure, or the convenience of other drugs.”
This past April in Denver, the first death caused by marijuana intoxication was said to have happened when Levy Thamba, 19 and an engineering student from the Republic of Congo, visited Denver for Spring Break, and ate an entire marijuana cookie. (It was his first time trying pot.) Reports say he acted erratically, became sick, and ran straight over the hotel balcony. He had 7.2 nano grams of THC in his body, which exceeds Colorado’s impairment level when driving, 5 nano grams.
“Weed makes you unintelligent,” said Senior Ben Farley. “Most intelligent successful people don’t really do drugs, and most people who do weed aren’t really successful, and the majority of dropouts are involved in drug-related incidents. It just doesn’t make you yourself,” said Farley.
If Colorado is the guinea pig for legalization, its success is controversial, especially with marijuana-related incidents involving youth like Levy Thamba. But of course, money is much more appealing than safety, especially to lawmakers.
“I think if it were legal, New York State would tax the heck out of it, drop a lot of arrests, and save cops a lot of gas,” said senior Cody Richter. “In a small town, they know everyone’s a dealer, but they don’t bother to pick anyone up, and they make a bunch of arrests off of it, but they’d rather keep it illegal and arrest everybody.”
What’s more beneficial to the state, arrests or sales? Perhaps that’s not the question. Maybe the question is, what is more fair to the state, arrests or sales?
Sophomore Clayton North believes marijuana “is a natural substance, so it’s not addictive. It’s good for kids that have seizures and it’s good for medical purposes.”
If marijuana really is a “natural substance” then of course it would be unfair to arrest someone for using it, and having a boost in the economy seems to be a more desirable way to get money than a boost in the crime rate.
“Having marijuana be sold and taxed in dispensaries is good for the economy, and some will grow their own in order to avoid capitalism all together and enjoy legality,” said Nephew.
There’s no toke that cannabis capitalism has allowed Colorado to reel in millions in recreational pot taxes, $2 million to be exact.
Senior Eryka Kusiowski said, “America already uses billions of dollars to punish people who use it. Colorado is using the money to build schools and make a better education with their money.”
Colorado used their state marijuana proceeds for school reconstruction, and Governor John Hickenlooper used thousands of the 2014-15 fiscal year to create substance abuse treatment programs that prevent underage residents from abusing marijuana.
Although pot brownies sell like hotcakes in Colorado, New York State is taking baby steps with the proposed marijuana bill, and it’s the medical marijuana bill that is gaining momentum in Washington. However, senior Beth Myers believes not even medical marijuana would be taken seriously: “People use pot too much, and they would abuse medical marijuana. They would fake issues just to get their next fix.”
Thousands across the nation enjoyed a hempful Easter, and it’s crystal clear that money is not the only green thing that gives people euphoria. But is it more than a casual hit humans have been taking since the dawn of history for recreational, medical, and spiritual purposes, or is it the first step to a longer career of drug use?
Nephew believes pot is nothing more than an innocent natural substance, saying, “The first time marijuana was declared illegal, it was made because a white man claimed the drug made his wife want black men; this claim was made during the time of segregation.”
New York State Lawmakers as well as proponents say that revised legislation allowing medical pot could be approved in Albany this year, which could be any day now, but if recreational pot prohibition was merely a misapprehension due to the time period like Nephew said, then the hazards of recreational pot may not be as severe as we think.
Regardless of your feelings on this issue, it’s clear that it’s not going away anytime soon.
A guide to a pain-free research paper
By Delaney Van Wey
It’s that time of year again! The big, bad research paper has been handed out to juniors in Mrs. Propp’s and Mrs. Giancola’s English classes, and students can be seen running for the hills. Well, maybe not running for the hills, but students will definitely be moaning, groaning, and having nervous breakdowns as March 25th grows closer and closer.
However, there is a way to avoid nightmares about in-text citations and thesis statements, I promise. I’ve wrestled the same bear, and now I want to give to you some of the lessons my fellow seniors and I have learned from having two research papers under our belts. Now that you’ve picked your topic, here are five helpful hints to writing a stress-free research paper:
1) Use your Research Paper Manual. SERIOUSLY.
This manual will become your bible for the next month and a half. You will use it every time you find a new source, and it will be critical to your success. Mrs. Propp and Mrs. Giancola have spent hours of their time perfecting the manual and keeping it up to date, so make sure that you utilize its wealth of knowledge. In fact, I know of college students who still use their manuals, and even share them with their classmates. The almighty manual contains everything you need to know about MLA style, the paper’s format, and research techniques, so crack it open and soak it in.
2) DO NOT procrastinate.
I know that you’ve heard this before. Everyone and their brother tells you that this is important, but you still end up waiting until the clock strikes midnight. However, on this bear of a project, it is essential to get started early. Thankfully, your teachers do a wonderful job of keeping you on track with mini-deadlines and checkpoints, so if you do what they tell you, everything will probably turn out okay. Be sure to use your free time, though, especially over February break. It may be helpful to schedule a set time, for example from 3 to 4:30, which you will dedicate to your paper. It is also important to have other people read your work when you have completed the paper. For me, my mom was my editor, and she helped catch the little details that I had gotten wrong. Your teachers can also be your editor, as long as you give them plenty of time, as they are busy people.
3) Be organized.
Organization is critical to this paper. Without it, you will forget deadlines and lose track of important research. This connects back to the Research Paper Manual, in a way. In the manual, it tells you to use note cards to keep track of and organize your research, and your teachers will make you do this. Don’t fight it, embrace it! I know from doing a 12-page research paper without them, that they are worth the time and effort. When it comes time to finally start writing, you will thank your teachers and their infinite wisdom for making you do them. Also, keep a calendar or organizer of important deadlines. Missing them hurts your grade, and you definitely don’t want that. This could be helpful for setting aside time to work on the paper, too.
4) Have a clear thesis and prove it.
Whether you are creating a slant on a famous person’s life or defending a position on a controversial topic, make sure you have a clear, concise thesis that you can prove. A strong thesis can make or break an essay, especially a long one like the research paper. Create an original, interesting thesis, and make sure that you center your paper on it. This is the easiest way to make sure you have a strong and focused paper, which will get you well on your way to an awesome grade. If you aren’t sure if your thesis is good enough, then ask your teacher. They don’t bite!
5) Don’t give up.
Sometime in the next month, you will want to completely give up on the research paper. You will stress, you will doubt yourself, and in the end you will come out on top. Always remember that, when everything is said and done, you will have accomplished something amazing. Don’t ever stop pushing yourself, and always challenge yourself to do better. Use more creative words, find more trustworthy sources, and delve deeper into your topic. You can do it. I believe in you.