Staff Editorial: Marijuana legalization causes controversy

By Duke Staff

On New Year’s Eve, many Americans had their eyes fixed on Times Square to see the ball drop in New York. As 2013 slipped into 2014, the country shifted its focus west to Colorado, but for reasons of speculation instead of celebration.

On Jan. 1, 37 dispensers legally opened and were able to selll up to an ounce of marijuana or roughly $200 worth to each customer for recreational use.

A combined $5 million in sales were reported in the first week alone by The Huffington Post. With a 25 percent state tax on the drug on top of a 2.9 percent sales tax, many critics believe that the decision to sell retail weed is a positive one.

Taking the money that would have gone toward illegal drug cartels and putting it into state resources such as school funding is another benefit of the new law.

The drug is treated similarly to alcohol and can only be purchased by adult 21-year-olds unless medically diagnosed and is also illegal to be consumed in the public sphere.

On the other side, people against the new law believe that the choice to “go green” was not the smartest one to make. CNBC reported back in 2010 that marijuana is currently a leading cause of substance dependence other than alcohol in the U.S.

According to CNBC, the use of marijuana is responsible for 4.2 million of the 7 million people dependent on illegal drugs in the United States.

Last year an average of 900,000 people were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) according to Considering that recreational marijuana will be treated similarly to alcohol, it is more than likely that a spike in DUI’s and DWI’s will ensue with the addition of the new product.

But for another demographic, many Americans are simply confused as to how the newly instated law will operate in the country in our society today.

Organizations like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are working toward defining these gray areas, and in support of “responsible use of marijuana by adults,” according to their website.

With diverging opinions regarding recreational marijuana a close one (55 percent of Colorado voted for the legalization according to CNN), this issue at hand is an issue generating multiple viewpoints. Other states like Washington plan to also make the jump to legalize and the rest of America will be watching, bloodshot-eyed or not.