Stakes high as states, feds debate legalization

News about legalizing marijuana changes daily as Congress goes to war with Attorney General Jeff Session’s war on weed. With California’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana use after 21 years of illegal applications, state legislatures and their constituents have begun questioning where the rest of the country stands regarding the issue. Wisconsin, however, does not seem close to following more permissive states in the near future.

According to Chapter 961 of Wisconsin legislature on the sale of marijuana, all types of sale and use are crimes with federal charges with the “exception for pharmacy or physician dispensing” cannabidiol in a form without a psychoactive effect as treatment for a seizure disorder” (Wisconsin Marijuana Statues).

However, regardless of the actual laws in place, citizens of Wisconsin and students at West hold varying views on what the laws regarding the use of marijuana should look like. One anonymous senior, “Mary,” sees both sides of the issue.

“I think using marijuana for medical purposes is acceptable because it can help patients in need that don’t have other options,” she said. “However for recreational use, I don’t think it serves a positive purpose to our community.”

One West teacher, “Jane,” feels similarly to the anonymous senior, as the drug can have negative effects on users.

“It can make people really stupid,” she said. “If you talk to someone who has been smoking for years, they struggle having a coherent conversation with others.”

“Mary” agrees with this argument, as many high school students see the negative social effects of marijuana first hand.

“For recreational use, I don’t think it serves a positive purpose to our community because it makes people lazy and disconnected from those around them,” she said.

Carolyn Dodenhoff, a California native, has experienced the process of the legalization of cannabis for sole medicinal use to the current 2018 legislation of recreational use, and sees its effects in her daily life.

“I have found that most people in Los Angeles have become normalized to marijuana use and it’s not uncommon to see teenagers, along with adults, using throughout a normal day,” she said.

While “Jane” understands the benefits of limited usage, she sees too many come to a dead end on options.

“I can see there’s some benefits,” she said. “But there’s a difference between legalizing it for medicinal use to assist patients and legalizing it and having people sit around and get stoned all day.”

Dodenhoff, however, does not see this type of use in her daily life with recreational marijuana, although she recognizes this was a concern of many before it was legalized.

“Most people, at least those around me, aren’t smoking all the time; it’s more of a social thing,” she said. “It really depends on the person because it is very easy to become a burnout when you don’t have anything else to do.”

With the only legal medical use of marijuana in Wisconsin being the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, for a seizure disorder, many have similar views regarding medicinal marijuana. With marijuana holding a pejorative reputation, doctors and patients alike are hesitant to use it medicinally.

“It’s a relatively new lift on medicine restriction in Wisconsin,” Oshkosh physician said.  “It is fairly uncommon to see doctors prescribe it; they usually pull out the CBD when all other classic forms of medicine have failed.”

An anonymous group of West juniors feel as though this use of medicinal marijuana is beneficial to patients, as it lessens the dangers of pure marijuana, getting rid of the physiological changes that high rate users get from frequent and abundant use.

“I think it does serve a purpose for medicinal purposes, specifically when using CBD, which does not cause a high for the user but can help with their symptoms when they face no other options,” they said.

On the flipside, Dodenhoff says, in California, it is very prevalent  for those in the medical field to prescribe medicinal marijuana to patients suffering neurological conditions.

“It is common for neurologists to prescribe medicinal marijuana for patients struggling with pain and movement disorders,” she said. “However, practicing physicians sometimes refrain from prescribing this because it is still federally illegal.”  

While being split on recreational vs medicinal legalization, many also find themselves questioning the extreme criminalization of those caught possessing or selling marijuana. Currently, Wisconsin legislature states that a possession of marijuana misdemeanor calls for up to six months in jail and up to a $1000 fine. Because of these punitive measures, “Jane” disagrees with Wisconsin’s current legal policies.

“I think that there’s too many people in prison for marijuana when they could be going after more severe criminals,” she said of the ramifications.

“Sally,” an anonymous West junior, is also split on the issue, recognizing the negative and positive effects of the legalization of marijuana.

“I think maybe it should be decriminalized because the punishments for marijuana currently are too severe for its repercussions, but legalizing it for recreational purposes might cause more problems than it solves,” she said.

Being completely recreationally legal in some states while serving severe consequences in others brings up the question of whether the federal government should take a stance on whether or not they will allow current legislation to stay as is.

As of now, federal legislation defines the illegality of marijuana for any purposes, classifying it in the highest level of drug classification, along with drugs like cocaine. “Mary” thinks there needs to be a federal decision on what to do with cannabis throughout the country.

“I think the federal government should take a stance on the legalization of marijuana because it either should or should not be legal for medical purposes and for recreational purposes,” she said. “When every state decides for itself, it makes it confusing.”

The anonymous faculty member agrees with this stance, as classifying cannabis with severe drugs has become controversial, especially as it has become more accepted and legal throughout the states. Similar to the legal ramifications of alcohol, the abuses of both fill prison systems and bring tragedies on the road.

“It’s a difficult question because marijuana and alcohol serve severe dangers to the community, especially regarding driving,” she said. “But adding marijuana to the mix just serves as another legal substance that people could use while driving and injure others in the process.”

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