Most Americans are pro-legalization of marijuana, and it seems like the Castleton University community is in favor of legally passin’ around the peace pipe too.
According to recent Gallup Poll, 51 percent of Americans support legalization, compared to 12 percent in 1969. Although some on the campus oppose legalization, mostly for law and health reasons, a majority of students and professors interviewed support it.
Sociology and Anthropology Professor Philip Lamy believes marijuana has a positive impact not only on health, but also in creativeness, reaching specific spiritual experiences, and healthy recreational uses.
“If it’s so dangerous to peoples health, where’s the statistics, show me them … people don’t die from marijuana … marijuana is not physically addictive and I believe that. It’s low on the totem pole of social problems and crimes,” he said.
But Castleton Chief of Police Peter Mantello does not support legalization for a couple of reasons; one being that it won’t positively impact crime rates.
“I don’t think illegalization is going to curb crime in reference to drug abuse; do I have any facts to back that up? No, that’s just my own personal belief. I think there’s a possibility that people have a perception that when we legalize that drug it’s going to curb a crime and possession of marijuana and usage, but I think that’s going to affect the upper-tear drugs, the narcotics,” Mantello said.
Before commenting, Director of the Wellness Center Martha Coulter emphasized that the Center would not “take a stand” about legalizing or not legalizing marijuana based on conflicts of interest. Coulter suggested that people should study the consequences of marijuana first and become educated about the topic before making any legalization decisions.
“I think we are lucky to see what happens in Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Ohio, so we have them to study and to understand if they have any impact on overuse, misuse … we have seen an increase in marijuana use and I think we should pay attention to what the health effects can be in terms of impacting people’s career paths or academic paths just like we need to look at the use of alcohol for health impacts,” Coulter said.
“Part of the issue with marijuana is the concentration of THC is higher in today’s crop of marijuana, its hybrids … I think anytime you legalize any kind of drug, are they going to legislate the potency of it like they do alcohol?” asked Mantello.
Students like junior Karyn Burns and senior Bob Culver are part of the supportive 51 percent and believe there’s a lot of good to come out of legalization.
“I think it should be. There’s more benefits than consequences, especially with cancer and health, I know when I’m sick it helps me,” said Burns.
“I think it would be a great thing, not only for people who smoke it recreationally, but for manufacturing and medical use as well. There are so many uses for it. Not to mention it is safer than both tobacco and alcohol, both of which are legal. If anything people drive slower stoned,” said Culver.
Mantello agreed that there is value to medical marijuana, as well as a potential benefit to the economy, creating revenue through a cash crop.
“It could be, and make sure you quote that, could be,” he said.
Even students who don’t smoke themselves say it should be legalized.
“I don’t smoke, but I think it should be legalized … prohibition doesn’t work and I think we should take these kids out of jail just because they use it,” said Junior Dan Aiello.
Lamy currently teaches a class, Social Movements of the 1960s. He spoke about why support for legalization is so much greater than in the ‘60s.
“It’s one of the oldest natural medicines in the world and I think most people see that,” Lamy said.
Coulter thinks usage is increasing for other reasons too.
“Availability maybe, I actually don’t know what the science is behind it, but I also believe that the legal use of medicinal marijuana has made it more acceptable to some people who might not previously have approved of marijuana use.”
Lamy is co-teaching a class next semester with philosophy Professor Brendan Lawler called, Cannabis Culture and Consciousness.
“We are not trying to promote marijuana, we are going to be as objective as possible … we are going to look at the psychological experience, spiritual experience, the history of it, its use and role in today’s culture,” Lamy said.
But Mantello raised an interesting question about legalization and how would it affect employers and employees in the work force?
“Would you want a dentist to come in who’s really high working on your mouth?” he asked.