The grass will be greener: Students, staff respond to marijuana legalization

Governor JB Pritzker addresses an audience at an event hosted by Women for JB on August 7th of this year. Earlier that summer, Pritzker signed legislation that would make recreational marijuana legal in the state of Illinois starting January 1st, 2020. “The war on cannabis has destroyed families, filled prisons with nonviolent offenders, and disproportionately disrupted black and brown communities. Law enforcement across the nation has spent billions of dollars to enforce the criminalization of cannabis, yet its consumption remains widespread,” Pritzker said that day. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The grass seems to be getting greener in Illinois as the date of legalization, January 1st, dawns upon the state. The drug will not only be legalized for medical purposes but recreational as well.

Cannabis, a plant whose active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC is a famous depressant that people have used for generations to not only relax but also to relieve both physical and mental conditions.

However, the bigger picture has not been acknowledged.

Senior Grayson Macgillivray said that the new legislation will not come with some misgivings, indicating that it will challenge many people’s ideas since the shift is such a radical one. 

“I’m very torn on it. I have very split opinions on the situation,” MacGillivray added. “I feel the world is misconstrued on the very real, long term effects of weed.” 

MacGillivray went on to say that despite the medical implications that can come from marijuana use, he is still reluctant to support the initiative fully.

“I’ve had personal experiences as an outsider looking in. My extended family, for example, have picked up more diseases in trying to fix the medical problems they already have,” MacGillivray added. “The false claims and advertisements of weed have made people believe it’ll cure their diseases.”

Historically, the United States has not approved of the legalization of marijuana. Young adults have been taught their whole life that marijuana possesses no benefits.

Junior Kaitlyn Meixensberger, on the other hand, noted that marijuana legalization will have benefits beyond the medicinal or recreational and will stimulate the local economy to some extent. 

According to a report published by Investopedia, Colorado collected more than $135 million in tax revenues related to recreational and medical marijuana in 2015 alone.

Meixensberger also said that marijuana use has been stigmatized for far too long to ignore these potential benefits.

“When it was made illegal, it wasn’t because it was dangerous but it was so the FDA has something to blame the drug epidemic on,” Meixensberger said.

Although society is changing its views regarding recreational and medical use of marijuana. 

For instance, the OE student body seems to be more in favor of the drug being legalized. 

In a poll taken at OEHS with a sample size of 500 students, 62% of the student body voted yes in favor of legalizing marijuana both medically and recreationally. 

Senior Will Martinez said he believes that the legalization of marijuana can be beneficial to the economic health of the United States as well as the health of individuals.

“Legalizing weed will be a really good addition to our current economics and help people in search of jobs,” Martinez said. “As well as helping people who suffer with chronic pain …, [it’s] definitely something society needs as it’s going to be good for the economy as well as an influx of new jobs.”

Although, not everyone is convinced as 38% of the school voted that they are not in support of legalizing marijuana for any recreational purpose whatsoever. 

“Legalizing weed will be a really good addition to our current economics and help people in search of jobs. As well as helping people who suffer with chronic pain …, [it’s] definitely something society needs as it’s going to be good for the economy as well as an influx of new jobs.”

— senior Will Martinez

Health teacher Michael Heath, a 13-year teacher at East, said he does not support the recreational use of marijuana because of the negative ramifications it may have on users of the drug.

“Recreational [marijuana] is a terrible idea because having those freedoms for everyone will be abused, will cause a lot of complications, and overall, will not be worth it,” Heath said.

Heath added that he does approve of the medical use of cannabis but he cannot see the benefits of marijuana use recreationally.

“Recreational will be harmful while medical is absolutely a great alternative. I just don’t think legalizing it recreationally will be beneficial in the bigger picture,” Heath added. “I think it will be a hard transition for America.”

Alcohol is legal only for people age 21 and older to use freely in the state of Illinois. Nevertheless, many minors can get their hands on it with relative ease. The same situation could occur with marijuana.

Senior AJ Argyilan said he believes that the legal age of marijuana should be lowered as many people are considered adults by the time they turn 18.

“You’re an adult, you should be able to make your own decisions,” Argyilan said.

Argyilan added that the drug’s positive effect on relieving stress could aid many high school students in coping with their stress.

“I’ve known people to use it and I’ve heard it helps with mental issues immensely,” Argyilan said.

Argyilan is not alone in his opinion as around 35.8% of students polled by this publication said that that the age limit should be lowered. Yet the majority, 64.2% of those polled, said that the age limit should be set at 21 years of age. 

Senior Sebastian Corona said he believes that the current age limit proposed for marijuana is fine as it is because of its similarity to alcohol.

“It’s a smart choice to make it 21, because alcohol is also 21 and it’s a drug too,” Corona said. “Alcohol intoxicates people and so does marijuana, so the ages should be the same.”

Corona went on to say that with the legalization of the drug as well as the regulation of it will help people access marijuana from a safe source.

“Whether it’s legal or not, people will get their hands on it somehow, so it should be regulated so people know what they’re getting is safe,” Corona added.

“Recreational [marijuana] is a terrible idea because having those freedoms for everyone will be abused, will cause a lot of complications, and overall, will not be worth it.”

— Health teacher Michael Heath

This age requirement makes sense, humans are not fully developed until our mid to late 20s, sometimes even our early 30s. So withholding a substance that turns off one’s inhibitions until an older age requirement is met. 

Contradicting this, though, is the fact that in the United States, they are officially an adult at 18 years old.

Junior Trevor Knight said that there is a very realistic component to the age requirement associated with this legislation in that will help regulate the drug.

“I honestly think it’s a good idea since people, of any age, will use it regardless of whether it’s legal or not,” Knight said. “So it’s smarter that there are regulations for it.”

Honors Anatomy & Physiology teacher Robyn Mellas said that it’s a wise idea on the part of the state to provide some regulations when legalizing the drug for medical or recreational use.

“[Twenty-one years of age is] as good an age as any, because people under 21 will get their hands on it regardless so I guess this age restriction will prevent it somewhat,” Mellas added.

Mellas said that she does believe that people are not looking at the drug’s actual medical effects as not much research has been done to see the various effects it has on different people.

“I feel that the legalization is being rushed into without looking at the medical side effects. It’s more beneficial economically but not so much the medical, ‘safe’ part,” Mellas said.

An individual capable of making their own decisions have a choice in what they want to put into their body. 

The majority of those polled appeared to be in agreement, 45% were in favor of having the freedom to do what can be done to their bodies. Only 33% disagreed with this statement. Summatively, society appears to be leaning more and more towards legalization of marijuana with each passing day, as the popular opinion seems to be in favor of legalizing the drug for all purposes: both recreationally and medically. 

“I’m fine with it being legalized,” senior Maggie Schultz said. “It’s super beneficial medically. I think use for it should depend on how old you are, whether medical or recreational, because it’s still a drug. Despite the fact it isn’t a ‘bad’ drug, it is still a drug.” 

Marijuana will be officially legal for recreational use starting January 1st, 2020.

Gabrielle Bostwick & Anuraj Nair are staff writers for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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