There are many competing issues when it comes to marijuana legalization and implementation. There are social, environmental, financial and health concerns and a balance needs to be struck between these areas. Washington is one of the most marijuana friendly states in the USA, sharing a border with Canada where recreational marijuana is soon to be legalized. But there are still many decisions to be made.
In terms of medical marijuana, it is more often the social stigma associated with the opening of a medical marijuana dispensary that turns many residents off of the idea. Many voters are ok with the idea of allowing patients to obtain medical marijuana to treat their condition, but when it comes to the opening of a medical dispensary next door, objections are swiftly raised.
Clark County and the Human Cost
Clark County councilors will soon consider whether to allow the sale of recreational marijuana in unincorporated Clark County. A council work session is planned for December the thirteenth.The risks and human costs of introducing pot sales at some 70 proposed store locations must be assessed along with the benefits of a tax boost and some new jobs according to the council.
If the Washougal City Council public hearing on Aug. 22, 2016, is a guide, testimony from interested citizens will be influential. In Washougal, council members heard students from Washougal High School describe the devastating impact pot has had on some of their classmates, family members, and themselves.Marijuana is psychologically addictive (and not chemically addictive, as many politicians will try to argue despite all the medical evidence) and there is a danger that people who are already mentally unwell in some way will use it as a crux to get better, often over indulging as opposed to being more active and purposeful. However, these very same arguments can be made of alcohol. Many people are alcoholics and it is more down to the individual that the substance itself. Of much more serious concern is the potential for young individuals to smoke marijuana. This can have detrimental effects on a crucial stage of development and will have a negative impact on test scores and academic (as well as athletic) performance.
A school administrator testified that pot sales would undermine student performance and send impressionable students the wrong message. The Washougal City Council eventually voted against pot sales. Camas has also decided against recreational pot sales.Washington projects it will receive $730 million in taxes from marijuana sales for 2017 through 2019. Only 4 percent — $30 million — goes to the local governments such as Vancouver and Battle Ground that permit sales. The city of Vancouver receives $500,000 per year, expected to rise to $2.1 million by 2020, funds it devotes primarily to the police department.
One argument put forward is that up to 20% of the cultivated marijuana makes its way underground, where it can go to children. However, this is not really an argument, as marijuana is already widely available and can be easily obtained anywhere in the USA. If marijuana was fully legalized then this issue would be lessened, as it would be regulated and cheaper, with rules on advertising and effectively putting the black market out of business altogether. Black market environments can technically only exist in prohibition or on high tax items, otherwise there would not be a market at all.
A Moot Point
There is truth in the statement that marijuana is not ideal for teenagers, who develop bad habits and become lazy and unmotivated. But putting a complete ban on marijuana on this basis is absurd. A percentage of marijuana will always get their hands on some marijuana as well as tobacco and alcohol. It does not make sense to banall of these items for everybody instead of simply managing the problem like adults. A balance needs to be found, but so far many cities are losing out heavily to others who allow marijuana businesses to settle in their areas. There are some social costs, but the combination of millions of dollars, as well as the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of the residents, is enough to tip the balance in its favor. The fear of students all becoming addicts is overblown, as it is already readily available for those who seek it and recreational marijuana would not allow vendors to sell it to them. Surely $700 million is enough to compensate the students “affected” by marijuana who are getting lower test scores with some sort of program?
Banning marijuana because adolescents might smoke it is as sensible as banning cars because sometimes adolescents are involved in car crashes, or banning the sale of butter because people grow up to get heart disease. Recreational marijuana is legal in Washington and it is not in short supply, and it is definitely better to tax and regulate the market than to leave it to black market sellers, who will always show up when bans are put in place. The testimonies of those from Washougal City Council public hearing who said that pot had ruined the lives of their family members all obtained black market marijuana in an area where it was forbidden, so in a sense was not really applicable.