By Uche Onyebadi
IF you love the pleasure of smoking marijuana, then the new haven and place to be is a state called Colorado in the United States. And, here are some added incentives for you to go there: you can purchase an ounce of the drug at a time, several times over; you only have to be 21 years old or above to buy the stuff; you don’t even need to be a Colorado State resident to buy or smoke it.
The only proviso is that while residents can buy an ounce, you are limited to an eighth of an ounce at a single purchase; and, here is the best incentive of all – you can purchase and smoke it openly without the fear of being arrested by any policeman or woman, neither do you have to be afraid of being sentenced to serve jail term because of marijuana. No matter from which angle you look at it, the state of Colorado has become the marijuana smokers’ paradise.
Colorado’s marijuana law went into effect on January 1 this year. It allows the sale and use of marijuana for what is called recreational use. On the first day of recreational marijuana, we all watched television images of people queuing up in huge numbers in the very cold Colorado weather waiting patiently to buy their cannabis. From how long the queues were, you might have thought that Apple or Samsung had released the latest in cellphone or i-pad technology and people were quite eager to be the first to own the gadgets.
Colorado is only a pace-setter in this match to reduce marijuana to items you can easily pick up from the shelves. Three other states have also legalized the use of the drug but have not put it into effect, and many more are watching for reactions to Colorado’s lead before they too launch their pro-marijuana laws. Sooner than later smoking marijuana might become legal in a majority of states in the US.
The progress of the pro-marijuana campaign began years ago with the focal point being its use for medical reasons. Today, twenty states have legalized medical marijuana. Late last year, the CNN somehow “joined” the campaign for medical marijuana when its senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, did a highly publicized documentary that showed how the use of marijuana could be panacea to a variety of medical problems. Now, the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is the in-thing!
This article is not about the pros and cons of marijuana becoming legal in the US. But, one cannot fail to notice that the intensity of the pro-marijuana lobby might indicate that what is happening in Colorado will soon become nationwide. The advocates of legalizing marijuana say that, among other things, the act will yield quite a handful of revenue for the US economy. It has been projected that Colorado stands to gain an annual revenue of about $67 million in taxes from pot smokers. T
here is also the argument that making the weed legal will free law enforcement agencies from deploying time and resources towards going after pot smokers when they should be concerned with more serious crimes in society. In other words, the benefits of legalizing marijuana have been heavily advertised.
But, what is not being talked about loudly for now is the cost side of the issue. Of course it is foolhardy to write off legalizing marijuana as an issue without adverse consequences. For instance, the US is experiencing an increase in gun-related shootings and deaths. Over 10,000 victims of such deaths are recorded each year. Each time such deaths occur, we are informed about the myriad of mental problems the shooters suffer from. Now, the unfettered freedom to smoke cannabis is being added to the mix.
I do not live or teach in Colorado. But, I just wonder how some of my colleagues in that state will now feel in the knowledge that a few students in their classes might be high on marijuana for recreational purposes! Worse still, some of them might have easy access to guns. With Colorado already high on mass shootings in schools, school authorities will have to beef up their security alert systems in order to ensure the safety of their wards.
How about parents and raising their kids in Colorado? With marijuana floating around for easy purchase, I guess parents will have to redouble their efforts in convincing their kids that smoking marijuana is not the same thing as buying hamburgers at McDonalds, especially when the drug has been legally transformed into an object for entertainment.
My point is that the social problems associated with this liberal access to marijuana have not been fully explored and publicized. Sometime in future, those issues will have to be addressed.