April was a big month for drugs. From Rihanna rolling a blunt on top of some guy’s head at Coachella to Santa Cruz’s renowned 4/20 celebration, people of all ages, cultures and beliefs got together to enjoy themselves. So why is marijuana legalization taking so long?
April also saw leaders meet for the Summit of the Americas. In an attempt to minimize drug violence, Latin American leaders at the summit pushed for the decriminalization of marijuana.
In response to this approach, President Barack Obama said, “It is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places. I personally and my administration’s position is that legalization is not the answer.”
With that said, the drug war will continue to fill up jails and waste taxpayer money and law enforcement time, all while still failing to find a solution to a pervasive, international problem.
Decriminalizing and taxing drugs could bring new resources to our still-fragile economy. Better yet, pump the new money into education reform. Dwindle down student debt, give teachers their jobs back and look into the research of active learning programs. The best way to stop the abuse of dangerous drugs is to better educate society.
Late last year, Gallup released annual survey results stating that 50 percent of Americans — a record high — favor the legalization of marijuana.
“If this current trend on legalizing marijuana continues, pressure may build to bring the nation’s laws into compliance with the people’s wishes,” the poll stated.
This is already happening at various levels around the nation. In 2011, Arkansas, California, Connecticut and Kentucky passed laws that lowered the penalties for the use and possession of marijuana. Colorado and Washington are now considering taking the next step: legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
With 50 percent of Americans now in support of the legalization of marijuana, the political liability is minimal. Public opinion, however, has yet to effect change on the federal level.
In 2008, more than half of Obama’s votes came from citizens under the age of 30, the same age group that supports cannabis policy reform. Marijuana is more than a recreational drug. It impacts many facets of American life, and could play a huge role in the 2012 presidential election. Students, as potential voters, should pay attention.
Andrew Gomez is a senior majoring in philosophy politics and law. His column “Bête Noire” ran every other Thursday.