Legalization raises concerns

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By Rosa Cesareo

Infographic by Piktochart and McKenna Cooley
Infographic by McKenna Cooley

With the recent election and passing of Question 2 on the voting ballot, controversy has risen in Nevada regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana. As of Jan. 1, adults over the legal age of 21 may now purchase, possess, cultivate, and consume up to an ounce of cannabis or an eighth of an ounce of concentrated cannabis.

The recreational use of marijuana in Nevada was illegal; now, although it is still against the federal law, Nevada state law has been adjusted to meet the popular demand of citizens. In favor of the expanding business, 54.47% of voters won the majority.

“I support the legalization of weed because it will bring in a lot of money and the government can regulate the sales,” Justin Pleimann, sophomore, said. “Our money won’t be supporting drug dealers and will instead be used for good reasons to better our cities.”

Marijuana sales will include a 15% excise tax, with revenues going to law enforcement and schools; the ability to control and regulate the business will boost the economy, provide jobs, and diminish the power of violent drug cartels. An expected $60 million a year will go to the state and a net of $20 million to Nevada schools, which are infamously underfunded.

“I think this will greatly diminish the money flow to violent criminal organizations not only in the United States but also Central and South America,” William Holmes, junior, said. “Plus, buying from a dispensary means that you won’t get ripped off by your dealer, and it’s ensured that you are purchasing quality gas [product].”

Not only does buying from a legitimate dispensary minimize complications of performing illegal acts, but it also indicates authenticity and reduces risks of buying laced marijuana. Products are tested to ensure that cheaper additives are not substituting genuine hemp, greatly reducing the chance of a reaction to unknown chemicals.

“Even though weed is now legal and probably safer, I think many people, especially teenagers, are getting the wrong impression. Any type of drug is still bad,” Megan Van Alfen, sophomore, said. “Kids are making wrong decisions thinking that it is cool.”

Although some studies indicate that marijuana is safer than tobacco and alcohol, there are both physical and mental health risks associated with the drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana causes immediate effects of a slowed reaction time, poor coordination, dry mouth, short-term memory, anxiety, and increased heart rate. Studies show that adolescent chronic marijuana users may lose up to eight IQ points by the age of 35. Stoners exhibit poor behavior at school and have a higher tendency to drop out due to the impaired ability to perform complex tasks; they may also experience relationship problems, antisocial behavior, and financial difficulties.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Nevada since 2000, but the first dispensaries were not opened until the summer of 2015. Cultivating marijuana plants without a medical card is a felony as well and can result in jail time depending on the scale of each harvest. Plus, one may not grow cannabis if he or she lives within 25 miles of a dispensary.

“It’s up to an individual if he understands the consequences of smoking and chooses to do it,” Andrew Waldrop, sophomore, said. “But people shouldn’t use it in situations where they can put other people in harm’s way.”

Despite recent movements embracing the shift in its legalization, Nevada has implemented stricter laws concerning the drug than most other states. Compared to a tolerance for up to five nanograms per milliliter of blood set by the remainder of the West Coast, drivers in Nevada are subject to DUI charges for two nanograms and above. There has been an increase in marijuana-related DUIs in legal-marijuana states as well. For example, 745 drivers tested positive for pot in the first sixth months after its legalization in Washington state, compared to 1,000 the year before. The number of drivers in deadly car crashes who tested positive for THC jumped by 48% between 2013 and 2014.

“Drugs can cause many health problems,” said Van Alfen. “And I think it’s definitely not worth it in the end.”

In Colorado, hospitalizations due to accidental marijuana exposure have increased significantly in the two years since its legalization. Reports from Children’s Hospital Colorado show that most of these cases are due to marijuana-infused edibles that tempt children with their treat-like appearance.

“It’s too soon to guess what impact marijuana’s legalization will have on Nevada,” Pleimann said. “We’ll just have to wait and hope for the best.”