By Aaron Chowdhurry, Chattanooga, Tenn.– In a recent online poll at UTC, 64 percent of over 130 students and faculty are in favor of the full legalization of marijuana, and two bills pending in the Tennessee legislature may result in changes to the state laws regulating the drug.
Marijuana, or weed, is the most commonly used illicit drug, and ranks third behind alcohol and tobacco as the most used recreational drug.
After the state of Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, many Americans now favor the legalization of both recreational and medical marijuana.
According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, at the University of Chicago, 52 percent of Americans are in favor of legal marijuana, up nearly 20 percent from 2002.
Over 30 states have pending legislation over marijuana reform laws in 2015.
The state of Tennessee has two companion House and Senate bills regarding both legal and medical marijuana reform. The House/Senate bill states that possession of a half ounce or less of marijuana would be decriminalized and individuals with medical issues could obtain medical marijuana in certain circumstances. The Senate/House bill says that carrying less than half an ounce and the casual exchange of marijuana will no longer be illegal but may result in a fine.
The House bill, which covered mainly medical marijuana regulations, was delayed Wednesday until 2016. The companion Senate bill has also been pushed back. Although the majority of Americans support legalization, many oppose.
“I feel as though marijuana is a Pandora’s box to other drugs,” said Chattanooga Police officer Damon Hairston]. “I do not think it should be legalized.”
Some students also are wary of legalizing marijuana.
“I really don’t think it will be a good thing, but it also won’t necessarily be a bad thing either,” said Kayla Wilson, a junior from Knoxville. “People will definitely abuse it.”
One of the main arguments for legalizing marijuana is that it will help decrease the amount of arrests. For medical use, many studies have found that marijuana can be beneficial to one’s health, but it definitely has its side effects.
In the same poll conducted on April 2 through 16, 87 percent of the UTC faculty and students surveyed believe that medical marijuana should be legal, while 13 percent disagree or remain undecided. The survey was completed by over 130 students and faculty in 3 days.
When it comes to medical marijuana the majority of people in the U.S. favor the legalization of medicinal marijuana.
“If it is justified through a professional medical person, then I have no problem with it being prescribed, but it must be legislated,” said officer Hairston.
As it stands currently the federal government considers marijuana a schedule I substance, meaning there is a high possibility for abuse as well as no medicinal purposes.
For more information on marijuana visit norml.org, drugabuse.gov, or drugpolicy.org.