An election year is kind of like buying a new CD. At first it is exciting; you eagerly await the chance to hear it, and as soon as you get your hands on it you listen to it over and over and over. Initially, hearing the same thing repeated countless times does not bother you, but as time goes on, that CD gets really old, really fast. By the time the election rolled around, a lot of people were sick and tired of the bickering and petty insults being thrown around by members of both parties.
However, there was one controversial topic in this year’s election that had not been discussed in years past: the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. While the presidential candidates rightfully took the attention of the public in the months leading up to the election, the media has now turned its gaze toward Colorado and Washington and the legal mayhem that is sure to ensue in the wake of their residents voting to legalize marijuana.
This issue has obviously churned up a passionate response. Some were elated at the news, immediately taking to Facebook with statuses proclaiming their victory, while some simply shook their heads and wondered what the world was coming to. The people opposing the propositions as well as the people supporting them both made some valid arguments as to why marijuana should or should not be legalized; but for right now, as we sit on a largely conservative campus surrounded by people who are likely appalled that the propositions passed, let us take a moment to consider that these legislations may not be all bad.
To start off with, I will use the argument that you have probably heard a million times before: money. According to balancedpolitics.org, the legalization and regulation of marijuana will not only generate a substantial amount of tax revenue for Colorado and Washington, but their economies will also benefit from increased tourism, and the industrial use of hemp, which has a plethora of applications. In addition to this, states the site, the police in these states will be able to better focus their resources so as to prevent more serious crimes instead of wasting their time on a bunch of high-schoolers who are trying to be cool (and probably failing).
While the revenue created by marijuana would be negligible on a federal level, that money goes a lot farther within individual states, and the Associated Press claims that marijuana taxes could bring up to $22,000,000 for their states. According to the Huffington Post, this money is slated to be used to improve education and help teachers keep their jobs, while simultaneously eliminating a huge part of the black market. Obviously drug cartels will not entirely cease to exist, but the fact that money from marijuana is going to schools instead of murderous drug lords is definitely a plus.
Aside from the usual arguments for legalizing marijuana, let me make a more reasonable, political argument lest I be accused of being some sort of tree-hugging, hippie fanatic. If I am not mistaken, the entire platform of the Republican Party is based on the idea that the federal government should have minimal power. This makes it possible for the state governments to operate independently so as to better represent the people. Conservatives are all about smaller government (unless it involves gay marriage), so why are they so opposed to the federal government stepping back and allowing Colorado and Washington to pass these propositions?
In my mind, if the legislation made it past all the red tape necessary to appear on the ballot, and the people in those states voted in favor of it, I see no reason the federal government should deny them their right to pass it. If the federal government has the ability to overturn propositions that have been legitimately passed in individual states, who is really representing the voters of those states? One of the greatest things about the United States’ system of government is that no one entity has all the power. Power is not only divided between the branches of the government, but also between the individual states. If the residents of a particular state wish to pass certain legislation, if it is Constitutional and if they go about it in a legal manner, why does the federal government have the power to stop them?
In the end, it comes down to a matter of rights. Not just on this issue, but on any other issue which might be brought up in political discussion. I am in no way condoning the use of marijuana; and, while some may argue that it is not any more destructive than tobacco or alcohol, it is far from harmless. However, I firmly believe that a federal government with too much power is a dangerous thing. While legalizing marijuana might seem trivial; the principal of the federal government overturning propositions that were legally passed by voters is no minor issue.
Of course there are lots of arguments both for and against the legalization of marijuana that cannot be addressed in a single newspaper article; but for now, I do not see any problem with these propositions being passed. I think we are blessed to live in a country where we are free to voice our opinions and where people are free to propose legislation which they think will improve our nation, and this case is no different. There are a lot of topics that America will never agree on, but I think it is safe to say that we are all grateful to have such freedom.