Students entangled in rising drug debate

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By: Eric Han, Editor-in-Chief

As students prepare themselves for university, they find that they are increasingly involved in the drug trafficking issue of the United States. On Jan. 1, Sean Azzariti, an Iraq War veteran, became the first official man to purchase marijuana legally in the state of Colorado — the first of many who soon followed suit.

“Well I know that it’s an ongoing battle,” claimed Victor Jeong, a sophomore. Although students were aware of the drug progression in the United States, many had only limited knowledge on the subject.

Washington became the first state in all of the United States to legalize marijuana with the approval of Initiative 502 by popular vote on Nov. 6, 2012. However, Colorado took the matter a step further by becoming the first state to permit the commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana after Amendment 64 was passed on the same date.

“As a country that is leading in economics all around the world and is a role model to a lot of countries, I think drugs should be something that the U.S. prohibits,” senior Tom Kim asserted. He added that considering “the aftermath of what marijuana can do to you…opening up stores is a little too much.”

Other students, such as junior Josh Ryu, admitted that they had more ambivalent thoughts on the current state of affairs. “I think people would still do it [marijuana] even if it were not legal, so I don’t see a really big difference, but I don’t see it as a good thing either.” Despite his neutral stance on the legalization of marijuana, Josh did not think it acceptable for the government to use marijuana as a means of creating profit. “All of the side effects and disadvantages of doing marijuana — the government pushing that on its citizens is not really the best,” added Josh.

There were those, however, who held more controversial views on the movement taking place in the United States. Various students contested that the commercial sale of marijuana would be an investment opportunity for the United States. Lauren Ha, a senior, claimed, “It’s unreal, but it really does benefit the government; they can regulate it and put taxes on it.”

Fellow classmate Brian Lee expressed a similar opinion. “When the government legalizes things like marijuana, then it can take control and put heavy taxes on them. If people purchase marijuana, then the government will benefit from it; when the government has more money, it can start spending it for the public.” Indeed, Colorado reported that within the first five days of sales, over five million dollars’ worth of marijuana had been sold. Although the government has not yet decided on how to process the rather large influx of money, sales continue to rise steadily.

Moreover, certain individuals commented on the psychological impact that the legalization may have on previous users of marijuana. Senior Lois Kang mentioned, “For teenagers, at least, many people say that in a way, doing drugs is an act of rebellion. Some people enjoy it for the adrenaline and the excitement.”

The socioeconomic polemics of the United States remains highly controversial; nonetheless, it is much more difficult to argue that marijuana is beneficial for the health of any individual. The main component in marijuana is THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. The drug has a multitude of effects on the human body, such as slowed reaction time, increased blood pressure/rate of respiration, distortion of time perception, short-term memory loss, paranoia, anxiety, and depressed. Although these effects only last a few hours, some may linger for several days or even weeks.

Contrary to popular opinion, marijuana is addictive — research has shown that one of twelve users develop dependency on the drug and feel withdrawal symptoms, including aggression, anxiety, depression, and loss of appetite.

When administered in appropriate amounts, marijuana has demonstrated that some effects can be used for medical purposes. However, not only are its therapeutic uses quite limited and easily replaceable, but also, the issue lies in that, more often than not, the drug is used solely for recreational purposes.

As the debate continues to expand within the United States, multiple nations across the world are asking the same question: How will this affect the drug policy of other countries?

“America has a big impact on the rest of the world, and I think the rest of the world should wait and see what happens to America after a couple of years,” noted senior Lauren Ha. “If there is a better economy and drug addiction doesn’t skyrocket, then I think they [other countries] will follow.”

Much like Lauren, the majority of students were not very concerned that this issue will expand on a global scale, confident that the problem and its pertinent controversy will remain rooted in US soil for quite some time to come.

Even less were concerned that the matter at hand would influence the drug policy in South Korea, convinced that Korea’s rather conservative outlook would prevent legalization from occurring.

Lauren continued, “I don’t think that Korea’s laws are wrong in that they’re making stricter punishments because they really do help with the negative impact of drugs…but right now, Korea has a long way to go before they legalize marijuana.”