The marijuana legalization movement in America has made some amazing strides these past few years. More and more states are abandoning their crusade against an herb that makes people behave like snacky philosophy freshman. But unfortunately for those who wanted their legal weed to come with a mellow high, it turns out that marijuana legislation has some crappy side effects, such as...
The decriminalization of marijuana has not only been hailed as a victory for personal freedom, but also as a blow to inequality. For too long, certain groups in this country have been unfairly targeted by both prejudice and the police via the illegality of weed. But now, everyone will be able to enjoy and profit from the benefits of legal weed, right?
Take Colorado, the birthplace of the legal stoner. As progressive as the state is, it is of course illegal for kids to possess marijuana. That makes sense. It also makes sense that because of that, juveniles tend to feature the most prominently in marijuana arrests. But everything stops making sense when you discover that it isn't white juveniles who make up most of the arrests, but young people of color, despite there not being much of a racial divide amongst those who smoke pot and those who don't.
Police say it's not their fault, but rather the fault of all those racist civilians they have to protect and serve. According to law enforcement, they receive substantially more reports of suspicious behavior when the behavior in question is being perpetrated by a nonwhite person, and the police are obliged to investigate. In Colorado, that means that black people in particular can still be 2.5 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses. Yes, there are still marijuana-related offenses. Call your congressperson.
But why settle for keeping the status quo when you can add another tile to the long domino streak that is institutionalized racism? Colorado, and others states following suit, have made it part of decriminalization legislature that people who've previously been arrested for possessing marijuana cannot get a license to operate a grow operation or run a dispensary. Guess which groups tend to have the highest conviction rate? Not the Chads of the world, to be sure. At the time that article we linked was written, out of Colorado's 424 dispensaries, one was owned by a black person. Within a year, pot has become the whitest industry since country music. To put it simply: Thanks to decades of racial profiling and disproportionate targeting, a whole lot of minorities were caught possessing marijuana when it was illegal, and now these same people are not allowed to sell the stuff even though it's legal -- incidentally leaving almost exclusively whites in a position to profit from the most booming startup industry this country has seen since the last tech bubble. Way to shake up the system with your revolution.
One of the main battle cries of marijuana advocates everywhere is that anything natural can't be bad for you. And they're partially right -- no one can deny that smoking weed is healthier for you than freebasing paint thinner. However, there are certain types of people who probably shouldn't be smoking pot ever. People with certain medical conditions, for instance. Particularly the condition some medical professionals refer to as "having another human growing inside of you."
For all its mellowing qualities, marijuana is still a potent narcotic. Some studies have shown that it can have horrifying effects on children, who can barely deal with their mind being expanded by basic math, let alone THC. So the fact that more pregnant women are using it and more children are being born THC-positive is all kinds of fucked up.
There haven't been a lot of studies done on how marijuana affects the fetus specifically, mainly because doctors don't want to ask a bunch of pregnant women to smoke pot in front of them (one of those boring "ethics" things). What we do know is that marijuana crosses the placental barrier, which means that bong-ripping mothers are hotboxing their fetuses in the womb. That could have disastrous effects for somewhat ironic reasons. Because weed helps combat cancer (which is a big reason it's now being legalized), it might also halt embryo development, which is tumor-like in its progression. That might explain why weed babies typically are born underdeveloped, underweight, and premature. Some researchers have even likened it to smoking cigarettes while pregnant, which we shouldn't have needed scientists to point out for us.
Besides, we have enough of a problem on our hands trying to stop all the already-born kids from opening their parents' edibles (because edibles look like fun cookies and candy) and needing to be taken to the hospital. So yeah. Don't smoke anything while pregnant. Not even a ham.
Back in the old days, it seemed that people could smoke doobies (or "jazz cigarettes") for days on end. That's why there isn't a single picture of Bob Marley in existence in which he is not smoking up -- not a single one. But the reason for that isn't that baby boomers had developed superhuman resistances to drugs; it's that our shit is a million times stronger. And worse.
Also, our standard for famous stoners has fallen off considerably.
According to a lab called Charas Scientific, the levels of THC (the stuff that makes you forget which day of the week it is) in what we're calling "classic" marijuana was usually 10 percent or less. But these days, the average is 18.7 percent, with some pot testing as high as 30 percent or more. It's similar to what happened with America's craft beer revolution. Since there are no real restrictions in place of how fucked-up your product can get someone, pot growers and sellers are competing with each other to get THC levels, and their customer base, as high as possible.
What's also surprising is that most of the modern weed looked at in the research contains basically no cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is the molecule in cannabis that provides it with antioxidant and neuroprotective properties -- or in other words, "the reason doctors get to prescribe marijuana for anxiety but not cocaine for narcolepsy." This means that a bunch of people may be getting marijuana thinking it will help them with their ailments, but what they're truly getting is a huge hit of THC, the psychoactive compound, so they'll only think they're getting better because everything is, like, super nice and fun and great right now. So essentially, the commercialization of weed has made it more like a drug and less like a medicine.
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One of the most common, and convincing, arguments for legalizing marijuana is that it will kill the illegal trade of it. No longer will you have to buy your drugs from some skeezy dealer on the street; now you get to buy your weed from a skeezy small business business owner in a corner store. But a lot of marijuana aficionados aren't opting into the new legal high. It turns out that pot smokers aren't the most proactive bunch, and a lot of them are sticking to the system that was already in place.
For instance, in Colorado, currently the capital of cannabis in the country, a full 41 percent of users don't get their dope legally. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, because marijuana dispensaries have to include a 30 percent tax, street drugs are still a lot cheaper. Second, oftentimes the same laws that legalize the sale of marijuana also give the okay for individuals to grow plants for personal use. So any amateur botanist with a large social circle can hook up their friends without them ever having to go and buy their drugs in a store like a total square.
These states are caught in a huge bind. In order to rake in that sweet, sweet revenue they promised legalizing weed would get us, they need to heavily tax the market. But that's also what pushes a lot of people to get their marijuana from the street. Which again shows that the government is filled with a bunch of dweebs who don't know how smoking weeds works. Why tax a pot smoker when they're at their most lucid? All they need to do is make buying weed duty-free and then raise the hell out of taxes on gas station snacks. We'll be building our schools out of gold in no time.
Gentrification has become a scourge for small business and hipsters everywhere. These days, you can't even throw a rock without having to reimburse Starbucks for a window. But if you think overpriced coffee is bad, wait until you see what the weed industry has in store for us. Because it turns out that getting people fucked up is an amazing business model with a diverse customer base, which means we should all get ready for every other building in the world to become a dispensary.
Marijuana businesses are so lucrative that they're willing to pay any amount renters want to charge them (and boy do they want to charge them). They also take up a ton of industrial space, because dispensaries and cultivators aren't allowed to take up shop near schools. This means local businesses end up getting "priced out" of their own communities, unable to compete with Big Weed and its shrewd, mentally acute business leaders who are all named Bodhi.
But this isn't only about the marijuana storefronts and grow operations. Where there's legal weed, there's a reason for college grads and other categories of young-to-middle-aged people with disposable incomes to come a-knocking. Denver was the first place where marijuana became legal. Since then, Denver's real estate has become absurdly pricey -- thanks in part to marijuana. This does not only affect new homeowners, but also the homeless, who are literally running out of places to camp down for the night to make room for all those cash-flinging celebrators of personal freedom.
When we hear that weed is now legal in a state, a lot of people think of it that way -- "totally legal" as opposed to "pretty much not illegal sometimes." But the juridical maze surrounding weed has only gotten even more overgrown, to the point where law enforcement doesn't know when they're supposed to prosecute someone for handling the sweet, sweet cheeba.
For instance, a lot of these laws aren't passed through the state legislature -- they're passed by the voters. And that causes a tremendous headache for the courts, who have to clarify these laws, and police officers, who have to enforce them. Denver's cops even asked the state to stop making new marijuana laws for a while, since they were changing the law so often that cops weren't always sure exactly what was legal and what wasn't, leading to them confiscate pot which may or may not be perfectly legal.
Not to mention the strained relationships between states that have legalized marijuana and states which haven't. For instance, the attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma started up a lawsuit with the Supreme Court over Colorado's marijuana legalization, arguing that it placed an unfair burden on their states, and violates the supremacy clause of the Constitution. They feel that it's unfair for them to fight a crime next to a state that has decided said crime is a crime no longer. It takes a ton of money and resources to confiscate weed that only became illegal the moment it crossed state lines, and they don't think they should have to shoulder the burden of another state's legislation.
Another complication? Driving while high is illegal, obviously, but law enforcement doesn't have a reliable test for marijuana levels, mainly because there isn't a quick enough test, and even if there was, marijuana levels don't necessarily translate into a measurement of how intoxicated a person is. Researchers and businesses are working around the clock to be the first to bring a marijuana breathalyzer on the market, but it will be quite some time before something like that's in place. Some say a spit test would be more effective, which we assume would have a higher compliance rate than a breathalyzer, because nobody blazing down the interstate in their Honda Civic would miss a chance to spit at a cop.
We can't even agree whether or not being totally baked impairs your driving. Certain cannabis activists insist that we can't tell if marijuana impairs your ability to drive at all, while actual research and common sense suggests that it absolutely does. The bottom line is that the legality of weed (much like the legality of alcohol) extends well beyond whether it's legal to possess and consume. It's going to take time to iron out all of the kinks. It's a process, man.
Nimby Smith is a total square.
For more ways we're acting like total squares, read 5 Reasons Legalized Marijuana Might Be Bad For Pot Smokers and 4 Reasons Legalized Weed Is Proving To Be A Total Bummer.
And be sure to check out 9 Types Of Coworkers To Make You Want Your Head To Explode, and let us know about other headsplosion-worthy employees we may have missed.
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