Why Young People Should Care about Marijuana Legalization.

Via Hayoung Terra Yim
on Aug 25, 2015
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In an interview with VICE magazine, the U.S. president summarized his attitude towards marijuana law reform:

‘”Young people, I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace—maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana.”

Listening to President Obama’s words, I bristled in mild offence. And for the next few months brooded, as brooders tend to do.

Me, Me, Me: Personal Importance

From a purely selfish perspective as a regular user, legalization is of course a major issue.

Why shouldn’t I be able to share with friends this social relaxant within the privacy of our homes?

Why can’t I choose weed as a recreational alternative that will (for once) spare my future self the discomforts of a hangover or as a migraine medication with minimal side effects?

Why can’t drug policies be based on empirical data, with legality based on quantitative individual and societal harm?

This is folly. By which I mean, complete and utter bullsh*t.

Dismissing the personal for a moment, though, let us discuss cannabis in relation to the broader issues of the economy and jobs, to war and human lives.

Economic Benefit: The Green Rush, Jobs and Public Expenditure

For generations, individuals have smoked marijuana regardless of its prohibition—have in fact been smoking more since the days of Reefer Madness. The only meaningful impact legality has on the demand and supply of cannabis is determining the type of economy in which transactions take place: formal or underground.

A Happy Taxman

The greatest benefit of legalization—as in the benefit which most affects society as a whole—lies in the collection of taxes.

While the amount won’t save a national budget, it still increases the provision of public programs and services—exemplified by Colorado’s Amendment 64, which requires that the first $40 million in marijuana tax revenue be appropriated into the public school capital construction assistance fund.

In 2014, Colorado collected 47 million dollars in tax revenue, 10 million of which was transferred to the fund—the amount of which was doubled in just five months in 2015.

Jobs (omg)

If implemented on a federal level, a legitimate cannabis industry could be a significant contributor to the economy in general—much akin to the alcoholic beverage industry responsible for over $170 billion in annual sales and 3.9 million jobs. Legal marijuana creates jobs for service-sector workers as cannabis cafes and dispensaries become as chic as wine bars and wineries—and creates investment opportunities at every step from manufacturing, distribution, retail and ancillary products and services such as quality-testing laboratories.

Hemp: The Versatile Industrial Plant

Perhaps the sector for which federal legalization in the U.S. (and the decades-overdue repeal of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act) will make the greatest economic difference is agriculture. The Cannabis plant isn’t limited as a mind-altering substance. As a fast-growing and relatively cheap plant with a long list of potential products, cannabis can be a lucrative cash crop for farmers.

Hemp is used as:

  • fiber similar in texture to linen, with historic uses as clothing and ship cordage
  • construction material producing durable, breathable and insulated housing when combined with Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)
  • a natural weed killer
  • composite material for automobiles
  • a high-protein food source with seeds rich in magnesium, zinc and iron
  • animal bedding
  • paper
  • and biofuel, though there are cheaper alternatives such as wastewater.

Most importantly, cannabis is a sustainable and renewable resource requiring little pesticide and no herbicide—and actually absorbs heavy-metal contaminants and other impurities, improving soil quality.

When it comes to hemp, everyone wins.

A Socio-Economic Effect: Women and Marijuana

The birth of a completely new industry also means the opportunity to bypass labour-market inequalities. It means the chance to build higher-management structures from bottom up, as opposed to infiltrating and reforming existing ones. And that’s exactly what female entrepreneurs have been doing in the developing cannabis industry: increasingly assuming leadership and CEO positions.

While one industry may not be enough to close the gender gap at the executive level, it certainly makes a difference—and makes for heartening progress.

Medicinal Benefit: A Magic Green Tree

The versatility of cannabis exceeds industrial uses. Medically speaking, marijuana is nature’s frickin’ miracle.

Cannabis compounds have the potential of becoming effective treatment for the following conditions:

  • epilepsy, with the capacity to regulate neuronal excitability
  • various types of cancer, with anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative properties inhibiting the growth of malignant tumors
  • chronic stress, with the potential to stabilize moods and mitigate symptoms of depression

And yet, despite the plethora of data indicating therapeutic use, the U.S. maintains cannabis as a Schedule I drug with high potential for abuse and no accepted medical uses, and has condemned paraplegics, individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and the terminally ill to prison for growing their own medicine.

Political Benefit: A War on Fellow Humans

The hypocrisy and outright injustice of prohibition isn’t limited to patients.

Individuals have been incarcerated, stripped of health coverage, separated from their children and executed in their own homes during surprise pre-dawn drug raids—all for using or distributing a substance less detrimental than a bottle of Chianti.

Made every day in the name of the war on drugs: heavy-handed measures and violations of human rights.

Yes, frequent use of marijuana is not without its risks—most notably a small yet discernible effect on short-term memory, working memory and attention skills. No, it won’t increase crime rates. And no, Mr. President, you can’t just dismiss the gravity of the issue.

When cannabis was initially criminalized in the U.S., it was done so against the advice of the American Medical Association; against the tenets of science and empiricism. The sheer economic and human cost of the insensible public policy—for which lies and propaganda were key instruments and which was only implemented to serve the funding agenda of a single politician in the 1930’s—isn’t just asinine. It’s a moral outrage.

Yes, legalization is about fighting for the right to use mind-altering substances; a behavior exhibited by our species since recorded history. But it’s also so much more. As a direct result of prohibitionist policies, human lives are adversely affected—and too often extinguished.



Is Marijuana good for your Mental Health?


Author: Hayoung Terra Yim

Editor: Travis May

Image Credit: Flickr/Cannabis Culture


About Hayoung Terra Yim

Hayoung Terra Yim is a graduate of University of Toronto with an Honours B.A. in Political Science and English.

She is a Third Wave feminist and a member of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. She is the blogger of Pot And Prose and the author of Epiphanies Whilst High Out Of One’s Mind: a series of narrative nonfiction essays written on the subject of cannabis, seeking to both entertain and educate.

She is also an avid fan of all things science-fiction and fantasy.

Read more of her work at Pot And Prose.


4 Responses to “Why Young People Should Care about Marijuana Legalization.”

  1. Jen C. says:

    Certainly a very complex, polarizing topic with serious societal ramifications. As the marijuana industry seeks new and regular users, (and who do think are some of the most influential and vulnerable populations?) Knowing the current research about marijuana and it's effects on the brain, especially in the developing brain (which is up to 26 year of age), why would we encourage our society, especially our youth, to use a drug (legal or not) for recreational purposes? In my opinion, I would rather my children (and all of our society!) learn the skills and practice of meditation to deal with life's challenges than to use pot or any other drug to get high and mask or avoid pain. It's critical to understand the science, and truths about marijuana use and the motives of industry, which appear very similar to those of the tobacco industry. Keep asking questions and connecting the dots.

  2. Greg says:

    Except legalizing it does not equal encouraging use. I get your opinion, but it is hardly a reason to keep cannabis criminalized. The only lives that have been ruined by cannabis are because of its legal status, not its adverse effects on health. It's also a big assumption to claim that marijuana users partake to mask or avoid pain. Does a person who has a glass of wine with dinner do so to mask their pain, or can it just be a pleasant way to relax? Meditation is great and has its place… so does cannabis. I wouldn't suggest that my group of friends have a quick meditation on the nature of humor before watching a funny movie… passing a joint around sounds like more fun to me.

  3. floridahempalliance says:

    "It's critical to understand the science, and truths about marijuana use and the motives of industry"… Do YOU understand the science and truths about marijuana? Do YOU know that all vertebrates possess an endocannabinoid system? Do you know that humans possess cannabis receptors in our brains, throughout our bodies and that we produce endogenous cannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG. Do you know that many of the leading scientists, researchers and Doctors in the field of Cannabis Therapeutics hypothesize that many of todays illnesses may very well be caused by an imbalance of the endocannabinoid system and that introducing phyto cannabinoids (plant based) such as those in the cannabis plant may hold the key to restoring balance to the body. Do you know that cannabis promotes cell apoptosis (programmed cell death) which can stop the growth of cancer cells and in some instances even reverse tumor growth? Do you know that just because there is a correlation between adolescents who used marijuana and the development of schizophrenia , correlation does not = causation. Are you aware that as opposed to being a "gateway" drug, cannabis holds the potential to be an "exit" drug in treating opioid dependency such as heroin addiction? Do you know that the main reason behind cannabis prohibition in the first place was due to "Special Interests" in keeping competition away from the newly thriving plastic industry since hemp was a sustainable crop used to create fabrics, rope, building materials? Do you realize that Marinol, which is a synthetic laboratory produced drug is 100% thc (the psychoactive property in marijuana), is regularly prescribed to patients by their physicians and is classified Federally as a Schedule III drug but cannabis, which is produced naturally by Mother Earth is classified as a Schedule I drug which states that it has no accepted medicinal use? Do you even know anyone in the "industry" personally? You do, however give a great piece of advice at the end of your comment, "Keep asking questions and connecting the dots", I strongly encourage you to take your own advice. Do the research on your own, all the information is out there, connect the dots ~ Special interest groups are the driving force behind prohibition not the dangers of cannabis consumption.

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