Marijuana’s place in the bluegrass

Story by Ashley Traylor, Staff writer

Legislation to legalize medical marijuana was introduced in Kentucky this year, but was adjourned without action.   

After the presidential election on Nov. 8, many states voted to legalize marijuana, whether for medical or recreational uses. The states of California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts legalized marijuana for sale and consumption.

In total, 28 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico legalized marijuana for medical uses, according the National Conference of State Legislatures.  

Kentucky’s Clara Madeline Gilliam Act allows for marijuana to be administered by a public university or school of medicine when used for clinical trials.

Jared Rosenberger, program director of sociology, studied data on who supports marijuana usage and said the most recent data shows 61 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, but levels of support vary for different groups of people. Young adults between the age of 18-29 show 82 percent support for marijuana legalization. He said 70 percent of Democrats support it, but only 47 percent of Republicans.

“Kentucky, being a very red state, I think we have a very long way to go before this is taken up as a serious issue,” Rosenberger said. “I think there has been a lot of talk about it, but I think Kentucky is one of the few states solid in not taking up this issue too soon.”

EFFECTS OF LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA

Marijuana use by adolescents has grown as more states decriminalize marijuana, according to a study by the American College of Pediatricians. The study showed that legalization encourages young people to try marijuana, and this experimentation can lead to involvement in cigarette or alcohol use and drug abuse.

Yousef Yang, assistant professor of sociology, said 12 percent of students under 18 enrolled in school already use marijuana because of the social pressures.

“Especially young people, schoolers, they use that as a socializing tool,” Yang said. “If they offer you marijuana, it’s for you to fit in.”

Over the long term, there might be a small increase in world consumption of marijuana, he said.

Regarding college-aged students, Rosenberger said he does not know how big of a shift in marijuana usage there would be.

“I think many college students would still avoid the use of marijuana for the same reasons they avoid the use of marijuana now,” Rosenberger said.

MARIJUANA WITHDRAWLS

Yang said marijuana can be an addictive substance, just like any substance can be. He said one can experience withdrawal symptoms, if marijuana was used extensively and intensively for an extended period of time.

The study by the American College of Pediatricians found withdrawal symptoms for long-term users of marijuana include irritability, sleeplessness, and anxiety.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Medical marijuana can be used to relieve pain and suffering, according to the Drug Policy’s website. It reduces the symptoms of cancer, AIDS and glaucoma.

Yang said almost all drugs were once used for a medical purpose.

“The tricky part is drugs can be used for medicinal purposes, but just like any of your regular medication, if used improperly, it may harm your body,” he said. “It may harm your mental well-being.”

EFFECT OF LEGALIZED MARIJUANA ON CRIME

Colorado passed marijuana for recreational uses in 2012. According to the Denver Post, crimes rates in Colorado are higher, but the increase in crime is not related to the legalization of recreational marijuana.  

In 2012, there were 172 cases tied to marijuana and in 2015, there were 183 cases, according to the Denver Post. According to these statistics, marijuana makes up one percent of the crime rate.

Rosenberger said less than one percent of the state and federal prison population is imprisoned for marijuana possession.

Like any law, marijuana laws are expensive to enforce, he said, and millions of arrests are made for it.

Kentucky is not a state working on legalizing marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, the bill to legalize and regulate marijuana died.