Barack Obama’s reelection to the U.S. presidency wasn’t the only big news to rock the nation Tuesday night.
Also on Tuesday, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, legalizing marijuana for recreational use by adults, making Colorado the first state to end marijuana prohibition in the United States.
Marijuana proponents around the country have been fighting for decades for its legalization. They point to the plant’s medicinal benefits as an effective pain reliever and sedetive, its diverse agricultural significance as hemp or bio-fuel, the fact that users cannot overdose on marijuana, and its low dependence liability/easy-to-manage side effects, compared to alcohol.
Also, legalized marijuana, proponents argue, would help stem the violence and corruption born of the underground drug trade in which billions of American dollars are spent in an overseas economy.
"Over the past eight years in Colorado, we have argued that it is irrational to punish adults for choosing to use a product that is far less harmful than alcohol," said Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, reported the Huffington Post.
"Today, the voters agreed. Colorado will no longer have laws that steer people toward using alcohol, and adults will be free to use marijuana instead if that is what they prefer. And we will be better off as a society because of it."
And that’s not all: Also on Tuesday night, the state of Washington passed Initiative 502, which regulates and taxes sales of small amounts of marijuana for adults, The Associated Press reports.
So if two states already are moving fast towards marijuana legalization and use, what’s stopping other states from quickly following suit?
Well, for one, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has vowed to continually stand against marijuana’s legalization. In fact, the DEA, joined by former directors of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, has stated publicly that marijuana for recreational use will have more harmful effects than helpful effects. And any steps toward legalization will lead to a "Constitutional showdown" with the federal government.
The DEA points to research which has shown that excessive marijuana use can damage the hippocampus-- the part of the brain that retains memory. Additionally, the DEA argues, it would be impossible to prevent illegal sales of marijuana, even if it were legalized, since marijuana currently sells for equal to or more than street prices. So if it were legalized, why would people want to purchase it at the taxed price rather than purchase it illegally tax-free?
But is this a battle worth fighting on behalf of the government, or should the fight be left solely up to the individual states?
Brooklynites, what do you think? Should New York state move toward legalizing marijuana use for adults?