It’s high time for change

Alex Turbeville, Copy Editor

It is time for S.C. to legalize recreational marijuana. It may seem difficult to achieve in a state in which simple medical marijuana bills have not made progress, but it is not impossible. Momentum is in marijuana’s favor, with public support for recreational use higher than ever before and continually growing, according to the Pew Research Center. Additionally, data shows the benefits of this policy would far outweigh any perceived harmful effects.

In fact, much of what people fear about marijuana can be attributed to misinformation. The National Academics of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reviewed over 10,000 scientific abstracts and discovered many of the issues people have with marijuana are unfounded. They found there is no evidence that marijuana and workplace injuries are connected. There is also little evidence that there is a connection between using marijuana and beginning to use other illicit substances, which destroys the gateway drug myth. Furthermore, the Drug Policy Alliance reported states that legalized marijuana use saw no increase in teenage marijuana use after legalization, and there has been no increase in traffic fatalities. The main negative aspects that marijuana provides are irritability, sleep loss and decreased attention. However, these effects can already be felt by plenty of legal substances that provide many more negatives than marijuana.

These sources have also found multiple positive aspects to marijuana. As proponents of medical marijuana have discussed, marijuana is effective at treating chronic pain in adults. If marijuana is an effective painkiller and does not cause any harmful side effects, it is best to make it widely available to all rather than making it inaccessible without a prescription. Marijuana has also reduced opioid use, which is critical during the opioid crisis because of how much pain it has caused in S.C. In 2015, opioid use killed 600 people and sent over 5,700 people to the emergency room. Data is unavailable for the years after that, but with rising opioid use, the number most likely went up. This is why it is so important to find a valid alternative, and marijuana is safe and effective.

Some may argue that marijuana use is immoral. There are those who see any intoxication as something that must be avoided. This may be true, but it is not grounds for criminalization. Between 2008 and 2012, 82,000 S.C. residents were arrested for marijuana related crimes. This is far too high a number for a nonviolent crime. Taxpayers and prisons also have to pay to keep these people incarcerated. It would be a better use of resources to invest in rehabilitation rather than throwing nonviolent people behind bars.

However, even for people who see the benefits, they are often discouraged to vouch for it because it seems like a goal that could never be accomplished. This is not the case: Republican State Representative Mike Pitts previously introduced a bill in which marijuana possession would not be punished with an arrest. There is currently a bipartisan medical marijuana bill circulating in the S.C. legislature, and it would not be a huge task to present lawmakers with data and public opinion polls which clearly favor marijuana.