New laws highly progressive

Selena McPherson / The News

The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board

Selena McPherson / The News

Selena McPherson / The News

After the results of Tuesday, Nov. 8 were revealed, half of America rejoiced while the other half grieved.

We’re, of course, talking about the news that seven states passed new marijuana laws.

While President-elect Donald Trump and candidate Hillary Clinton were neck and neck, there were actual laws being passed that had nothing to do with elephants or donkeys.

Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota legalized medicinal marijuana and California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada legalized it recreationally.

Just like the election, though, the legalization is more complicated than it might initially seem, and it doesn’t mean sudden death (or sudden loopy happiness) for anyone. Here’s what you need to know about what happened Tuesday.

MEDICAL USE

In Arkansas, the Medical Cannabis Act allows patients with qualifying conditions to receive prescriptions for the drug and protects those patients from being discriminated against during hiring. However, the act does not permit working or driving while under the influence. Using the drug medicinally, then, would make people treat it like other medicinal drugs. This means it’s still not acceptable to show up to work under the influence – anyone hoping these laws change that should give up.

The Florida Medical Marijuana Initiative had similar provisions – and as Ballotpedia.org notes, the new law requires the Department of Health to regulate production and distribution centers. Translation: legalizing and regulating a drug like marijuana means more dealings are out in the open instead of taking place in a drug dealer’s basement.

In North Dakota, a patient must be suffering from a ‘‘debilitating condition’’ according to the Medical Marijuana Project’s website, mpp.org, in order to qualify for use. The citizens taking advantage of these new medical marijuana laws will not be strung-out teenagers looking for a way to skip class and zone out – it will be cancer patients, elderly suffering from Alzheimer’s or heart disease or someone with HIV/AIDS.

It might take time for marijuana to lose its stigma as a party drug and be considered a legitimate medication, but rest assured the new provisions are helping patients rather than hurting them.

RECREATIONAL USE

In the states that most recently passed recreational laws, they mimic alcohol laws the U.S. has had in place since 1984. Under the new provisions, adults 21 years of age and above can possess up to a certain amount – an ounce, in most cases – and dispensaries will have to have licenses to sell (like liquor stores).

However, like the states who allow medical use, the laws do not give citizens a pass to work or drive while under the influence. And, like current alcohol laws, it doesn’t legalize public intoxication.

WILL EVERYONE BECOME STONERS?

No, the United States of America will not become a united stoner nation. Right now, the use of marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, so you cannot visit California to buy it and expect to not face consequences in Kentucky when caught with an ounce. It’s odd, though – marijuana is the No. 1 cash crop in our bluegrass state, according to the U.S. Justice Department website but it could be a while before Gov.  Matt Bevin warms up to the idea of even medical green grass.

When the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage would be legalized across the U.S. (since many states had already legalized it and recognized its validity – sound familiar?), people feared it would somehow transform heterosexual people into homosexuals or affect current heterosexual marriages. And yet, it didn’t. All it did was help the people who wanted to get married.

Legalizing medical or limited recreational marijuana will not turn the nation into potheads. Ideally, it would help patients who are suffering get the relief they need.