“Do you have a card?”
The answer to this question separates those who can legally purchase and smoke marijuana in the state of California from those who must resort to using sketchy dealers and smoking in secret.
This question has also received significant attention in California lately, as legislators, civilians and marijuana users alike debate the legality of medical marijuana and how it relates to recreational use.
This is attention, however, that could—and should—be focused on much more important issues facing California right now, from the state of our education system to the tax code. The legalization of marijuana is a small fish in a big pond; we shouldn’t even be debating it at all.
California has relaxed marijuana legislation relative to the rest of the United States. For those who carry a medical marijuana card, private use of the drug is completely legal. Thanks to a bill based by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010, those who don’t have a card but are caught with up to an ounce of weed simply receive an infraction instead of a misdemeanor charge.
There are two reasons why there was a downgrade for the offense. First, marijuana is not nearly as harmful as staunch anti-marijuana advocates make it out to be. Marijuana is not physically addictive, tends to calm people down rather than promote aggression and violence (like alcohol) and has been accepted by the medical community as a safe and effective treatment for ailments such as insomnia and epilepsy.
Second, excessive prosecution for marijuana charges clogs up our court system and jam-packs our already overcrowded prisons. What’s the point?
By legalizing marijuana, time and resources can be put towards more prevalent issues, ones that affect the majority of California residents.
People are going to smoke no matter what, and it would be much better for the industry to be legally controlled. In the meantime, all the attention, money and resources that currently are being diverted into the marijuana debate could be used to tackle some of the state’s other problems.