Marijuana made mainstream

Looking into effects, consequences after legalization

Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana across the state of California, passed Election Day, Nov. 8.

The ballot measure passed by a 14-point margin, as 57 percent of the 14 million votes cast were in favor of the proposition. The proposition states that any person age 21 or older can legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in his or her home.

Not only does the law lighten the consequences for individuals using and selling the plant, but it also lightens the burden on California’s criminal justice system.

The law allows for the lightening of marijuana-related prison sentences from before the drug was made legal. It will drastically cut the number of marijuana-related arrests, which, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, totaled nearly 500,000 in the past decade.

I work with teens, and I just think it makes it easier for teens to get their hands on marijuana,”

— Eric Pryor

Although the proposition creates new freedoms, individual companies can set different standards for their employees, even mandating that workers follow strict company policies regarding the use of marijuana.

According to the California Supreme Court, employers are not required to allow employees to use medical or recreational marijuana and can conduct drug tests as they please.

Even among legal adults, then, the use of marijuana remains risky and can even result in the loss of one’s job.

Law enforcement and private companies may have trouble distinguishing whether a person is actually intoxicated or the drug merely lingers in his or her system. THC, the intoxicating chemical in marijuana, can remain in the body for weeks longer than the effects of its use.

Though legal adults are given a great amount of leeway in the sale and possession of marijuana, authors of the new legislation have gone to some lengths to keep the drug out of the hands of minors.

Any minor found in possession of the drug will be required to attend a drug education course or similar counseling program and do community service.

The measure has additionally included a set of standards designed to keep companies from marketing the drug to children.

Companies cannot use any symbols, language, music or cartoon characters in their packaging or marketing that attempt to target minors. Additionally, Proposition 64 says that, in order for marijuana to be advertised on broadcast, cable, radio, digital and print mediums, the audience must comprise at least 71.6 percent adults. No distilleries are permitted within 600 feet of a school, day care center or youth center.

Regulations on marijuana sales extend further, as well. Businesses must first obtain a state license to sell the drug, and local governments retain the right to ban the sale of marijuana within their jurisdictions.

The proposition also added two taxes on the plant: on its cultivation and its sale. The taxes serve both to disincentivize abuse and raise funds for the state.

The California government plans to spend the revenue gained from Proposition 64 on matters such as drug research, treatment, enforcement, youth programs, health and safety grants addressing marijuana and averting environmental damage resulting from illegal marijuana production.

The bill takes effect over several years; in 2018, additional taxes and licensing provisions regarding the law will be introduced. The full implementation of the new law, allowing licenses for large companies, will occur over a span of five years as small growing businesses take root.

California voters were not alone in their decision; it is also now lawful to use the drug recreationally in Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts. All four states legalized marijuana for medical use at least four years ago, and will have similar restrictions and regulations surrounding the drug. In total, 28 states now allow medical marijuana and eight allow recreational usage.

In California, marijuana was made legal for medical use starting 1996, after it was demonstrated that the plant’s consumption had some positive health effects: decreasing anxiety, slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, controlling epileptic seizures and stopping the spread of cancer.

Due to the passing of Proposition 64, marijuana will become far more accessible to anyone 21 or older.

After this measure passed on the California ballot Nov. 8, it became legal in California for anyone that is 21 or older to possess up to 1 ounce of the drug and grow up to six plants in one’s home. The proposition will also allow for the sale and subsequent taxation of recreational marijuana Jan. 1, 2018.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of Americans claim to have tried marijuana, and 12 percent have tried marijuana in the past year alone.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse noted that national marijuana usage has increased since a study done in 2007. In 2007, an estimated 14.5 million Americans were considered regular marijuana users, but that number rose in 2013 to 19.8 million, an increase of 5.3 million people.

In California, medical marijuana already brings in $1 billion annually, and after Proposition 64 is imposed, the industry’s revenue is expected to jump. Now that marijuana can be lawfully used in California, it is legal on the entire West Coast.

“I voted against it.  I know that some think it’s a good thing, that it’s sort of inevitable in California.  I work with teens, and I just think it makes it easier for teens to get their hands on marijuana,” health teacher Eric Pryor said.

Pryor also said that the passing of Proposition 64 may only make things worse at the high school.  He said that as marijuana becomes easier to access, it will become more and more accepted and more students will use it.

“There might have been some students who might have been on the fence about using [marijuana], but now that it’s legalized, they might find it easier to say yes,” Pryor said.

However, he said that he didn’t know the exact situation of drug use at Oak Park High School, but said he thinks that the majority of it is marijuana use.

“My assumption is it might get to be even more common with students as marijuana is legalized,” Pryor said.  “I feel like it’ll be a lot like alcohol is; it’s illegal for teens, but they still get their hands on it.”

But those that are on harder drugs started with marijuana”

— Jeff Appell

Pryor said that he will still continue to teach the same as in the past on the subject of marijuana, but that the passing of Proposition 64 will make it more difficult to get his message across.

“My job was already hard to tell teens not to use [marijuana], and now it’s just going to be harder,” Pryor said.

Life skills teacher Dr. Jeff Appell said that he has mixed feelings about the passing of Proposition 64.

“I think that there can be some benefits financially … The taxes and the financials can be helped in terms of the state.  I think it may lower crime,” Appell said.  “But I also have concerns that people will drive high.”

Since 2012, eight states have legalized recreational marijuana use.  In Washington, the percentage of drivers in fatal crashes containing traces of marijuana in their blood has doubled since recreational marijuana was legalized.

“I think that a high percentage of individuals try [marijuana], but I think as far as using it consistently, it’s still a fairly low percentage,” Appell said.  “I don’t think it’s minimal, but I think it’s a fairly low percentage.”

Research suggests that the use of marijuana may lead to use and addiction to “harder” or more harmful drugs.  A 2016 study conducted by the National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders found that adults who reported marijuana use were more likely than non-users to develop an alcohol use disorder in later years. Results also linked marijuana use with nicotine addiction and other substance use disorders.

Marijuana use has potentially deleterious effects on the developing teenage brain. However, the law pertains to those 21 or older,”

— Jessica Hochman

“It’s a cause-effect.  Not everyone who smokes marijuana will definitely go on to harder drugs.  Some will,” Appell said.  “But those that are on harder drugs started with marijuana.”

Appell said that he also would not change the way he teaches about marijuana, because in class he always focuses on the negative effects.

“The only thing that it may add is a discussion on the advantages or disadvantages of the legality,” Appell said.

Appell said he would advise against marijuana use for all ages.

“We’re given one body in our life, and we should think about what we put into that body and what we do to it, good and bad,” Appell said.

Similar to Appell, pediatrician Dr. Jessica Hochman wrote to the Talon that she has mixed feelings about the passing of Proposition 64.

“On one hand I think legalization of marijuana will help diminish the ‘black market’ of marijuana selling and allow it to be regulated and taxed,” Hochman wrote.  “On the other hand, legalization may lead to more overall usage.”

Hochman said she believes that marijuana use is detrimental to minors.

“Marijuana use has potentially deleterious effects on the developing teenage brain,” Hochman wrote.  “However, the law pertains to those 21 or older.”