Marijuana — a gateway drug that leads to harsher drugs? A mind-altering drug that leads to bad decisions and more crime? A drug that will only increase the war on drugs? Many of the 2016 GOP presidential candidates have used this reasoning to show that they support medicinal but oppose the legalization recreational of marijuana.
With the presidential elections underway, it’s worth considering which presidential candidates are for medicinal legalization and which are for recreational. Many of the prospective candidates are for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal reasons but unfortunately also believe it is a gateway drug due to generations of bias and media persuasion.
Many of the GOP candidate’s claim to have never tried weed, or had only tried it once in their lifetime. Donald Trump, whose use of pot is undetermined, supports legalizing medicinal marijuana but not recreational. Trump, with his usual lack of valid reasoning said, “I’d say (regulating marijuana) is bad. Medical marijuana is another thing.” He said on C-SPAN in February, “I think it’s bad and I feel strongly about that.”
Negative effects of marijuana like addiction, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, are not common.
According to Salon, the most commonly cited study on cannabis dependence declared that only 4 percent of Americans 15-54 are dependent on cannabis compared to the 24 percent who are dependent on tobacco and 14 percent on alcohol. Among users, they found that 9 percent of cannabis users who try it get hooked, as compared to 32 percent for tobacco and 15 percent for alcohol.
There is no apparent medical benefit to tobacco or alcohol consumption while studies continue to show medical benefits to marijuana.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio supports a limited legalization of medicinal marijuana and said, “if I tell you that I did (try it), then kids will look up to me and say, ‘Well, I can smoke marijuana because look how he made it. He did all right, so I guess I can do it too.’” The problem with this logic is that it could be associated to anything– including alcohol, which is very much legal, though it has proven to lead to addiction, over-consumption and death due to DUI and various diseases. “The bottom line,” Rubio continues, “is that it is a substance that alters your mind. Now when I was 17 and 18 and 16, I made dumb decisions as is. I didn’t need the help of marijuana or alcohol to further that.”
While marijuana is a mind-altering drug, depending on the method and quantity of consumption, it can enhance the mind rather than deteriorate it.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is another candidate that supports medical marijuana under certain circumstances but not recreational marijuana. “I think medical use of marijuana in compassionate cases certainly has been proven to be useful,” the retired neurosurgeon said. “But recognize that marijuana is what’s known as a gateway drug. It tends to be a starter drug for people who move onto heavier duty drugs – sometimes legal, sometimes illegal– and I don’t think this is something that we really want for our society.”
Yet again, lack of research and overall common sense make claims like this false. What is disappointing about claims like this is that it is making a generalization about users, placing them in a category where they are unable to have discretion on which drugs they use. By saying that marijuana is a gateway drug, you generalize that anyone who ever tries it will inevitably resort to harsher substances.
People have to choose to take harsher drugs just as much as they choose to smoke pot. Whether I like the effects marijuana has on me or not, I have to make the conscious decision to try something stronger in order to obtain the high.
According to Salon, a RAND Corporation study from 2011, titled ”What Can We Learn From The Dutch Coffee Shop Experience?” found no relationship between using cannabis and harder drugs. In fact, because legalization meant that people went to a coffee shop and not a dealer to get high, legal cannabis likely reduced rates of harder drug use.
It is obvious that Republican candidates concerns with legalizing marijuana is rooted from past fears of a drug correlated to Mexico and blacks rather than the current problems that hinder these very neighborhoods. For the Democratic candidates, the reasoning for legalization is focused on something else entirely.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is for the legalization of marijuana with his main concerns on the war on drugs and the criminal justice system. “I would vote yes because I am seeing in this country too many lives being destroyed for nonviolent offenses. We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away, and yet we are imprisoning or giving jail sentences to young people who are smoking marijuana,” Sanders said .
Former Maryland governor and Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley supports decriminalization and said to CNN “I think we need to have an open mind.” “I think there’s a lot we can learn from Colorado and Washington state. They seem to be keeping very good records. They understand they are the first in the nation, and I think we should be guided by what they are doing in Colorado.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also supports medical marijuana under appropriate circumstances. “I think that we have the opportunity through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana to find out a lot more than we know today,” she said during the first Democratic debate. “I think we’re just at the beginning, but I agree completely with the idea that we have got to stop imprisoning people who use marijuana.”
Marijuana is certainly a mind-altering drug, but not in the derogatory sense that many of the Republican candidates are trying to convey. The side effects of marijuana can also be treatments for many suffering with depression, anxiety and cancer. The government needs to reconsider the repercussions of continuing the legalization of alcohol while bashing marijuana– especially when alcohol continues to prove to be harmful while marijuana proves to be beneficial.
Opinion Editor, Monica Houston
Monica is a senior English literature major planning to eventually earn her master’s in education. Monica strives to combine her background in literature and passion for early education to influence future generations with her writing. “Don’t be offended this is all my opinion, ain’t nothing that I’m saying law. This is a true confession of a life learned lesson I’ve been sent here to share with ya’ll.” // LinkedIn