One of the most contentious topics among U.S. citizens right now is the debate over the legalization of illicit substances, particularly marijuana. The politcal landscape has changed drastically over the last decade and America’s youth are now reconsidering the debate and how detrimental the drug actually is. The scientific community is split over the debate, some research suggesting that weed is relatively harmless in moderation, yet others calculating that weed is an unpredictable substance that will affect each individual differently – resulting in permanent harm with certain cases. With all the dissonance among the current world, the question becomes muddied – should we continue to prohibit marijuana?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN Health has been consumed by the question. In his article: Why I changed my mind on weed he says that “Reading these papers five years ago, it was hard to make a case for medicinal marijuana. I even wrote about this in a TIME magazine article, back in 2009, titled ‘Why I would Vote No on Pot.'” This is a clear example of the adapting times, without the current evidence or knowledge that has been popularized today, most citizens were in agreement against weed.
The problem that we’re facing today as a society is how we should act and interpret the new studies we are seeing now, despite their release being decades ago. After Sanjay wrote his reasoning for his history with weed, he immediately followed it with: “Well, I am here to apologize.” For the rest of the article, Sanjay clarifies that Marijuana’s position as a “schedule 1 substance” was completely ill-informed and irrational in the face of research. It was placed there by the DEA (ranking higher than substances such as meth-amphetamine) for it’s lack of medical application and ability to be abused. “They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true.” Sanjay writes. Through his research and experience, his perspective on the issue has shifted. “It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works.”
The problem that Sanjay is addressing in this article – and the problem we are trying to solve in the debate over the War on Drugs – is how inaccurate a majority of information has been. Dr. Roger Egeberg, the Assistant Secretary of Health, was in strong support of marijuana’s role as a schedule 1 substance due to the “void in our knowledge of the plant and efects of the active drug in it”. However, Dr. Sanjay writes that “Egeberg did in fact have important research already available to him, some of it from more than 25 years earlier.” The existence of truly concrete scientific evidence condemning the legalization of weed was never the issue as many believed it was – it was that the effects of it were declared a myterious danger to public health. As time goes on, it’s revealed to us that this couldn’t be further from the truth – we seem to have a relatively firm understanding of what the drug can do and how we can regulate it – though more studies aren’t produced easily as Sanjay writes. “Scientists can get research marijuana from a special farm in Mississippi, which is astonishingly located in the middle of the Ole Miss campus, but it is challenging.” There are legal restrictions that require approval that bar potential research, as acquiring the substance itself can be difficult but the process to allow the research in the first place is tedious.
The evidence that supports the legalization of marijuana is shifting into the focal point for our culture, and there’s a rising outcry for the modernization of our policy against it. The people want to stop the skyrocketing incarceration rates brought on by the arbitrary cases of marijuana possession/distribution, and the academic society wants to be allowed to replicate studies to properly assess the implicaitons this substance has for the modern world – because it doesn’t seem to be as damaging as we were initially led to believe. “Stuck in the middle are the legitimate patients who depend on marijuana as a medicine, oftentimes as their only good option.” Dr. Sanjay explains. It’s a substance that could be used to the advantage of thousands of people, but we continue to deny it from being utilized in spite of the evidence we’ve had for decades. The legalization of marijuana is something that this country needs to understand from a pragmatic standpoint – otherwise we’ll be stuck in place.