Up in smoke: marijuana for recreational use

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Matthew Miller

Marijuana. Colloquially known as grass, pot, ganja, mary jane, el gallo etc. Call it what you will, but marijuana has been in the public eye in a number of states across the United States, including Massachusetts. With the recent election on the horizon, there is much talk of decriminalizing the aforementioned substance and selling it for recreational purposes legally. There are a number of states that have legalized the medicinal sale, but have yet to sell it recreationally. This upcoming election could change that. Massachusetts could become one of four other states to decriminalize marijuana. If marijuana were to be legalized in Massachusetts, could this be problematic or a solution?
Many fearmongers and naysayers would say that decriminalizing marijuana for the sake of recreational use could be problematic. Marijuana provides alleviation for those afflicted with medical conditions that are unbelievably painful such as those recovering from chemotherapy.
With this in mind, could legalization of cannabis for recreational practice create problems in the future? In reality, marijuana is not truly addictive and only has been in rare conditions. However, this dependence is associated with stress and mental illness. Those who are afflicted with those series of disorders should probably avoid cannabis, as it can be quite addictive. Other than that, there are no real problems with cannabis.
Now to address the “gateway drug” aspect of marijuana; does it really deserve that label? Some may argue that it serves as an introduction towards other harder and more dangerous narcotics. This idea of the gateway drug has been debated but no-confirmed. There is no true and definitive connection written and is prone to personal bias.
Scaremongers might want you to believe that marijuana is addictive, which it can be. But, it is nowhere near as addictive as they would want you to believe. Most people have the mental capacity to understand the difference between something as the cannabis in question and something like heroin or methamphetamine – the latter two are highly addictive.
There is also the theory of reverse gateway drugs, which implies that once someone is introduced to marijuana, they will eventually transition to nicotine and tobacco when there was no prior use of. This places some supposed high odds against the drug in question, but are they actually true?
In most cases, cannabis does not serve as that gateway drug towards further addiction into hardcore narcotics. If one were to stop and quit smoking, they would not experience withdrawal. Take a strongly addictive substance like crack cocaine, a powerful stimulant. The signs of withdrawal include increased anxiety, depression irritability and of course an increased craving for said drug. Cannabis on the other hand, has minor withdrawals such as muscle aches and the occasional vomiting. However, these withdrawals appear more so in chronic and habitual users.
While sloganeers and crusaders against marijuana will attempt to persuade against it, do not become discouraged. It is not truly addictive unless you excessively smoke it. If people abuse a substance, it tends to garner this less than stellar reputation and people will scream to have it banned. Marijuana is no stranger to this concept. It has been chastised and demonized by the media. In reality, it does not harm to the extent of other substances.
So what does this mean for the future of Massachusetts and recreational cannabis usage? With the election on the horizon, Massachusetts’s voters should not fear what marijuana represents in some circles. It is not dangerous and habit forming unless you make it so. Marijuana has socially become this stigmatized and supposedly destructive substance that causes severe cases of backlash. Yet, a substance like alcohol is still legal and it can be far more dangerous in scope than marijuana.
On the plus side, if Massachusetts were to allow recreational sales, there could be industry in a field long considered to be shady and demeaning. However, in order to legally dispense and sell marijuana both medicinally and recreationally, you must not have a controlled felony substance charge on record. Why not profit from this industry and create another source of revenue for the economy?
In the long run, voters in Massachusetts on Nov. 8 should look beyond the social stigma associated with cannabis and accept something different.

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