The Need for Nationwide Marijuana Reform

Nationwide support for marijuana legalization has increased dramatically over the past few years, especially in the previous few months since the passing of pro-pot ballot incentives in Colorado and Washington last November. According to a poll conducted in mid-March by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, a nonpartisan “fact tank” that concentrates on public opinion of government policies, 52 percent favored cannabis legalization over the 45 percent that did not, “with 72 percent who say that the cost of federal law enforcement efforts are not worth it.”

As expected, a whopping 62 percent of young Americans, the population currently between the ages of 18 and 32 who have also been referred to as the Millennial Generation or Generation Y, support legalization. Interestingly enough, according to Pew’s results, half of the baby boomer generation also favors cannabis reform, a fraction so high that it’s doubled from a poll taken in 1994 and “among the highest percentages ever.”

Louis Di Paolo, president of Ramapo College NORML, one of New Jersey’s two college chapters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, explains:

“The high percentage of Americans who now support marijuana legalization shows that the issue of marijuana reform is no longer taboo. People are finally starting to realize that marijuana is not as dangerous as we have been told to believe previously, and the problems associated with marijuana are products of its criminalization. History shows prohibition does not work. It is no secret that marijuana is safer than other legal drugs, including alcohol, prescription medications and even caffeine. It has become blatantly obvious that the punishment for marijuana arrests does not fit the crime anymore.”

What does this all mean at the end of the day? Pew’s poll dug deeper than acceptance over the political intervention of marijuana laws, but weaved through more detailed opinions about the shifting of public opinion. More Americans accept the medical uses of cannabis, agree smoking marijuana is not morally wrong, and disagree with how the federal government handles their efforts and enforces the policy than those that do not.

Secretary of Ramapo College NORML Eric Vitale said, “It’s obvious that research is expanding about marijuana, since it was never done before. As the research has been moving along, it’s showing that marijuana is better than what we previously thought. Along with that, opinions are going to change as new information develops. Previously, research has been biased or interrupted. So, now, research can be more efficient than before to factually study the plant.”

Ramapo College NORML, with help from 1Step, a campus organization dedicated to environmental conservation and sustainability, will be holding its annual all-day Greenfest event on Saturday, April 20 on the Bandshell lawn.

Although the majority of Americans favor marijuana reform, the Drug Enforcement Administration does not. In fact, two years ago, the DEA released and published a position paper on marijuana, thoroughly outlining its stance against reform. In the paper, the agency blatantly denies the medical uses of cannabis: “Specifically, smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science-it is not medicine, and it is not safe.”

The Vermont House approved a decriminalization bill last week. The bill hopefully will be on its way to the senate and the governor after its final vote sometime this week. Public Policy Voting, a United States polling firm established in 2001, reported in February 2012 that nearly two-thirds of Vermont voters strongly favor decriminalization of marijuana.

There is only progress forward, initiated by the public, for cannabis reform not only in Vermont, but nationwide.