In what’s become a surprisingly divisive decision, recreational marijuana was approved in Illinois this year. Legalization starts on Jan. 1, but the scrambles that have led to so many unanswered questions will not end there. They will only continue into the new year and well beyond.
The polarization comes from extremists on both sides. Anti-legalization partisans argued marijuana is a gateway drug and pointed to studies that showed the threat or mental health damage and an increase in car accidents. Legalization supporters point to studies that show exactly the opposite. If you have an opinion about recreational marijuana legalization, you can find or manipulate a study that will support your position.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Illinois, and there have been no reports of potheads rampantly crashing cars or buying heroin or ending up in psychiatric wards. The votes in the Illinois congress reflected the polls that have been taken around the state: Citizens are OK with or ambivalent about legalized marijuana.
The first painful steps of the legalization process have brought about plenty of anger and frustrations. Cities opting in or opting out of sales or production have been heated decisions with extensive debate. Those cities opting for dispensaries are either bound to reap the benefits in taxes or to be overwhelmed with car accidents involving incoherent dopeheads.
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Or more likely, they will wind up with some combination of the two that’s similar to however they presently deal with alcohol.
Those who insist legalized recreational marijuana is an instant cure for a multitude of mental health issues are as extreme as those who think consumption of the devil’s lettuce is a gateway, or ultimately ends up ruining every life it touches.
The truth, as often is the case, lies somewhere in the middle. There will be incidents with people under the influence that will infuriate supporter and opponent alike. There will also be incidents where miracles of science occur, and anxiety and stress will be dramatically increased for some users.
How do we know that to be true? It’s already happening, with those who are using the herb medicinally. It won’t work for everyone. It’s worth the experiment to find out how many it can help. We can and will have to revisit the subject as time goes on.
Ultimately, the argument teeters on which side of the argument you fall. If you think society has more important things to worry about, you’re fine with someone enjoying a safe buzz, from alcohol or marijuana. If you think legalization marks another step toward our ultimate decline, even years of incident-free legalized marijuana isn’t about to change your mind.