To some, legalizing the use of marijuana is comparable to opening Pandora’s Box.
With April 20 approaching, known to many as a day celebrating the use of marijuana, there have been new developments in America’s drug culture and the argument surrounding it.
Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational use of marijuana back in November, and in 18 states and Washington, D.C., medical marijuana is legal, according to the national conference of state legislatures.
In addition to legal status of marijuana on the state level, 52 percent of Americans support legalizing the drug versus 45 percent who oppose, according to a Pew Research Center poll that was released on April 4. This is a dramatic change from a 1969 Gallup poll where 12 percent supported legalizing marijuana versus 84 percent who opposed.
However, some at OSU oppose weed legalization.
“There would be no control over it (if it was legalized),” said Shaytell Furman, a third-year in social work, who thinks student performance would drop if the drug became legal.
Brian Fraley, a third-year in mechanical engineering, disagreed.
“I think its less harmful than alcohol,” Fraley said, pointing out that since alcohol is regulated, the same can be done for marijuana.
Keith Kilty, a faculty emeritus at the College of Social Work, said while he does not encourage people to use the drug, he does support legalizing it.
“‘The War on Drugs’ has been a total disaster,” Kilty said. “It has caused much more harm by making drugs a law enforcement issue as well as costing a lot more money than if we took a harm reduction approach.”
Kilty said he is encouraged by the public opinion shift.
“I’m pleased to see there is a likelihood of legalization in the near future,” he said. “I think we’re getting closer all the time.”
About 48 percent of inmates serving time in federal prison in 2011 were incarcerated for drug offenses, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That includes offenses for marijuana, Kilty said.
Marijuana should be legalized, regulated and taxed, Kilty said.
“There’s already a lot of students using it,” he said.
About 39.6 percent of OSU undergraduate students have used marijuana, according to a wellness report from the Center for the Study of Student Life that was released in September.
On the other hand, some experts such as Gary Wenk, a professor in psychology, think marijuana will never be legalized because the FDA does not agree with the change.
“They worry that once marijuana is out of Pandora’s box that it can never be put back in,” Wenk said. “Thus, marijuana will never be legal – the government will allow individual states to make slight modifications that violate federal law.”
Studies of the drug for the last 40 years still have not decisively determined whether marijuana is safe, Wenk said.