In honor of our 4/20 issue and the recent advances in recreational legalization advocacy in Michigan, The Voice canvassed the student body to see where Washtenaw Community College students stand on the debate of legalization.
By TAYLOR MABELITINI and SOFIA LYNCH
Ann Arbor’s annual Hash Bash always creates a buzz, but this year, among an estimated 6,000 attendees, there was more than just smoke in the air – there was excitement.
At the April 4 event, State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) announced that he was drafting legislation that would propose legalization of marijuana for recreational use in the state. If it passed, Michigan would follow in the footsteps of Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, which have all legalized the drug in the past two years.
Marijuana is currently legal in the state of Michigan strictly for medical use under qualifying conditions and classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule I drug.
Every year, 640,000 people are arrested nationwide for the sale and possession of marijuana, costing taxpayers approximately $10 million. 2013 arrest reports from Colorado and Washington show that after legalizing marijuana, less than 16,000 people were arrested for crimes related to the drug in both states combined, all according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Irwin’s proposed legislation would let users grow and smoke marijuana in the privacy of their homes, but wouldn’t allow for smoking in public areas. Along with Irwin, three other groups – MINORML, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, and the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative Committee – have plans to push for full marijuana legalization in Michigan by 2016.
Although a much disputed topic, many Michigan residents now have marijuana on the mind, especially considering the recent decriminalization of the drug in Alaska. At Washtenaw Community College, the conversation is just as alive.
Out of 100 students surveyed, 77 believed that the drug should be fully legalized, 21 believed it should be legal for medical purposes and two believed it should not be legal at all. Of those students 64 admitted to smoking marijuana in the past, and 36 said they hadn’t.
Some pointed out that they don’t really see the need for controversy.
“I don’t think it’s a problem to legalize it because it’s not terribly addictive or dangerous as much as other drugs like heroin or cocaine – or even alcohol, which isn’t as regulated,” said 19-year-old broadcast arts student, Tierney Isaac. “It just seems rather superficial to argue about, since again it’s not as dangerous as other drugs.”
Others cited more political reasons.
“I’m a teacher and I think about the tax revenue that could be put into the public school system. You can just look at Colorado’s school system,” said a WCC instructor who wished to remain anonymous.
Some students believed full legalization is unnecessary with the existing medical legalization.
“I think it should be able to be used in very specific cases, like morphine and cocaine are used for medical use,” said an anonymous student.
However, the skepticism and controversy is also still alive and well.
“People view it as something that is not harmful to the body, but it can be harmful in many other ways,” said one student who wished to remain anonymous.
“For example, if you smoke and then drive your judgment is clouded – whether you want to admit it or not. It puts the person who is high in jeopardy, as well as making them a hazard to other people.”
With WCC students and Michiganders alike falling all over the spectrum of the debate, it is too soon now to tell the fate of marijuana in Michigan. Although the topic has gained new momentum, Michigan citizens will have to wait until 2016 to see if the tides have really changed.