BY JOSEPH SANDFORD
One of the most important rhetorical questions college students will ask themselves this upcoming year is: “What if like, everyone smoked pot, wouldn’t the world be so much better, man?” (In their best imitation of Cheech & Chong.) Engineers, athletes, and sorority sisters alike will explore this delicate issue, before promptly being interrupted by a turn at Mario Cart and the arrival of a forgotten order of Insomnia Cookies.
But the times they are a changing, and the use of pot is no exception. Four states allow for the recreational consumption of pot, twenty-five and D.C. allow for the use of medical pot, and recent polls show that as of 2015 somewhere between 44% and 49% American adults have tried this psychedelic. Numbers which are all trending up. This leaves no doubt as to America’s increasingly liberal view toward the stickiest of the icky. This prompts a timelier question for our couch-locked philosophers: “How is the world a better place because of pot?”
Colorado has benefitted tremendously from this liberalization. Recreational use became legal in Colorado in 2012, and the state is expecting pot sales to reach $1 billion for 2016. And beyond the boon to local pizza shops, Coloradans enjoy improved roads, parks, schools and health services thanks to huge tax revenues from the pot industry. Some of this money is then reinvested in oversight of the industry to keep the goals of the dealers dispensaries in line with the community.
The tangible benefits of pot sales remain secondary to the change in our attitude that the above numbers represent. Pot is no longer recognized as a scourge to our society, and is instead understood as a mild psychedelic with legitimate medical uses. For millennials, lighting a bowl of some purp is equivalent to pouring a glass of your favorite IPA (they are, in fact, cousins). There is a growing recognition that it should be within the discretion of individuals to inhale as they please.
However, the leaves are not as green on our country’s east coast. D.C. voted to legalize recreational pot in 2014 only to be severely limited in this freedom by congress. Additionally, the DEA has recently announced that these bodacious buds will remain a schedule 1 drug, and in doing so took the opportunity to proclaim their steadfast defiance of any medical benefit pot offers.
Fortunately, change is brewing (or, perhaps I should say, budding) in our nation’s capital. The stances of Congress and the DEA are in direct conflict with the Justice Department, which in 2013 stated it will respect state policies allowing recreational pot.. Further, there is widespread disapproval of the DEA’s position within the political class – evidence that politicians are coming to terms with pot’s growing acceptance.
The joint of change has been lit. We must now bide our time (preferably with our own joint and bag of Doritos) while D.C. inevitably succumbs to the will of the people in ending this disgraceful prohibition. Politicians should feel more confident speaking bluntly on issues surrounding drugs once this ounce of prohibition on its way out. For the conversation is just getting started. We can now imagine a world focused on public health over drug wars, and can begin to inhabit a world based on truths rather than deception.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joseph is a student of all that can be found on earth and beyond. He and Natalie met during their freshman year of college, and they’ve been debating everything from the pitfalls of democracy to the wonders of astronomy ever since. Joseph is a historian by training, who’s searching for meaning through the art of the essay. An avid skier and golfer, he currently lives in Boulder, Colorado (420 anyone?).