The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

One drug, two nations and the marijuana debate

Pot fanatics are not holding it in any longer. Not only on campus, but nationwide, advocates for the legalization of marijuana have clearly voiced their demands.

In November 2013, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana, sparking nationwide movements and policy debates.

“The pulse of the country is changing and moving towards legalization and decriminalization,” said Will Pizio, associate professor of justice and policy studies. “I don’t think it’s right for us to stand in the way.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by a first-year who wished to remain anonymous.

“I definitely support legalization,” the first-year said. “I support any way to get my weed easier.”

Medicinal Value

To others, the answer to the legalization debate is not so straightforward: a distinction must be drawn between recreational and medicinal marijuana, they argue.

“When most people think of medical marijuana these days, they don’t think of Dronabinol; they think of the entire leafy portion of the plant, usually being smoked,” said Kevin Sabet, former senior adviser for policy to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama administration, in an email interview with The Guilfordian.

Earlier this year, Sabet founded Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), a combined initiative by medical doctors, lawmakers, and law enforcement to find a “middle road between incarceration and legalization.”

“(People) don’t smoke opium to get the medicinal benefits of morphine or eat willow bark to get the benefits of aspirin — why not apply the same logic to marijuana?” Sabet asked.

While many advocates of legalization expect marijuana to play a role in treating Crohn’s disease, cancer, and glaucoma, Early College senior Brent Eisenbarth, a victim of glaucoma, is skeptical.

“No doctor that I have spoken with has seriously entertained the option of medical marijuana,” said Eisenbarth. “Glaucoma has lifelong implications, and other drugs and surgical operations are more effective.”

Those who argue against legalization also point to marijuana’s addictive qualities, claiming that addictive harm from the drug far outweighs any medical benefit.

David Long is a former special agent with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, Division of Labor Racketeering. He pointed to the higher rates of addiction associated with alcohol and tobacco in comparison to marijuana.

“Tobacco and alcohol have much higher addiction rates,” Long said in a phone interview with The Guilfordian. “The logical argument then follows that, rather than banning marijuana, we should ban tobacco and alcohol. Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs and yet is legal.”

Long recently joined Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit of criminal justice professionals who “bear witness to the harms of our current drug policies.”

While Sabet also admitted to marijuana’s lower addiction rates, he highlighted several negative effects of its use.

“Addiction is not the only reason for which we should continue to restrict marijuana,” Sabet said. “Its use is significantly related to other serious health consequences such as mental illness, schizophrenia and hindered cognitive development (particularly for children).”

Social Consequences

Legalization also poses significant social implications for the country. At the spotlight of the concerns regarding legalization is the potential for greater adolescent use.

Many however, doubt that legalization will have any effect on children at all.

“The most foolish thing for us to do is to ban the production and sale of marijuana,” Allen St. Pierre, executive director of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told The Guilfordian in a phone interview. “Marijuana prohibition doesn’t stop usage in youth. People have more access to marijuana when it is illegal than when taxed and regulated.”

“In five to 10 years of legalization, we might have a slight increase in youth usage,” St. Pierre said. “But just like with tobacco and alcohol, usage would plateau and then decrease because people, as a part of human nature, won’t seek to harm themselves.”

Long also expressed similar sentiments as he explained the social costs of postponing legalization.

“Take for instance, California,” he said. “Every year we spend more money maintaining our prison population and incarcerating drug offenders than we spend on public education or health care.”

Long argued that not only are we imprisoning more criminals, we are creating them.

“We created Al Capone and we created the Mexican drug cartels and we have the power to put an end to them,” said Long.

Sabet, however, disagrees. “The drug trade is so profitable that even undercutting the legal (taxed) market price would leave cartels with a handsome profit,” he said. “Drug legalization would also do nothing to loosen the cartels’ grip on other illegal trades such as human trafficking, kidnapping, extortion and piracy.”

Economic Impact

Legalization may also have economic repercussions — many of which have proven to be especially dividing.

“It is a waste of money to keep it illegal,” said Adam Pearman ’09.

Proponents of the economic argument claim that the government will not only save money from reduced drug enforcement spending but will also gain significant revenue from taxing the sale of marijuana.

Sophomore Jordan Williams is in favor of the taxation.

“My gut instinct is to say that, if legalized, marijuana should be heavily restricted and taxed,” Williams said.

Pizio agreed with Williams, saying that, “The amount of money we spend on trying to keep these drugs out of the American people’s hands is exorbitant — not to mention the costs associated with combating drug cartels.”

“I understand the government’s duty to protect society but they have to allow citizens the freedom to make their own decisions and help themselves,” he said.

Sabet, however, advocated a different position.

“For nearly every $1.00 gained in alcohol and tobacco tax revenues, $10.00 are lost in social costs,” argued Sabet. “The tax revenue estimates that legalizers promote are unrealistic for a number of reasons: a) legalization will drive the market price of marijuana down b) lower prices and greater social acceptability increase harm (to both users and society) and raise social costs c) tax revenues would be exceeded by legal, criminal justice, and regulatory costs, and d) tax evasion would be widespread.”

An Uncertain Future

As evidenced by the myriad of opinions and arguments with respect to the legalization of marijuana, one could argue that the issue is complex and multifaceted. With 20 states having already legalized medical marijuana, the question that now remains is: will others follow suit, or will they turn away?

View Comments (13)
More to Discover

Comments (13)

The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Guilfordian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • S

    stephen brophyOct 4, 2013 at 9:05 am

    rhetoric is another name for bulls**t cannabis is the best medicine and the pharma knows it too! That why it is/was uk/usa illegal, side effects are minor unlike pills and other drugs we are given.

  • D

    Dave K, Phoenix, AZSep 25, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    During the entire article I was expecting to see pot fanatics. Other than Sabet I didn’t see any… Reefer madness is severely injured but certainly not dead yet.

  • D

    Dave K, Phoenix, AZSep 25, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Even if everything that Sabet said is true it is not reason for masked men to enter people’s houses using battering rams, automatic weapons, and flash bang grenades to kill pets and people. I believe in public safety and I believe that police should be safe but the public is put at risk by heavily armed masked men in our communities. Our forefathers separated police and military for a very good reason. If we wish to live in a free country it is important that the police departments across the country not receive all the available military hardware. We can ensure the safety of both the police and the public if we are careful to do the right thing. Unless there is an immediate emergency SWAT teams should only be used if approved by the courts.

  • T

    T. AromaSep 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    What are the rules for comments here? I see my simple statement of fact was not approved by the moderator. Are facts not relevant when discussing this particular topic?

  • W

    WindySep 21, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    What a load of bull!

  • M

    Malcolm KyleSep 21, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Association is not Causation

    Schizophrenia affects approximately one percent of the population. That percentage has held steady since the disease was identified, while the percentage of people who have smoked marijuana has varied from about 5% to around 40% of the general population.

    Despite a massive increase in the number of Australians consuming the drug since the 1960s, Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland found no increase in the number of cases of schizophrenia in Australia. Mitch Earleywine of the University of Southern California similarly found the same with regard to the US population and Oxford’s Leslie Iversen found the same regard to the population in the UK. According to Dr. Alan Brown, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University, “If anything, the studies seem to show a possible decline in schizophrenia from the ’40s and the ‘50s”.

    Kindly Google any of the following combinations:

    Nicotine and Schizophrenia
    Alcohol and Schizophrenia
    Chocolate and Schizophrenia
    Sugar and Schizophrenia
    Gluten and Schizophrenia

    So should we hand the market in any of the above substances to criminals (which is what prohibition effectively does) because its use is “associated” with a certain minute part of the population? Many bipolar patients misuse caffeine and tobacco in an effort to bring on a manic state, thus becoming a danger to themselves or others. Should tobacco and caffeine or whatever works for each individual be prohibited to boost ratings or rhetoric also? Where does it end?

    On average, a person with a chronic mental illness will die 25 years earlier than expected for the rest of the population. Tobacco smoking is the major contributor to this premature mortality. This population consumes 44% of all tobacco cigarettes.

    The Cigarette smoking rate of the American population is approximately 23%, whereas rates of smoking in clinical and population studies of individuals with neuropsychiatric disorders are typically two- to four-fold higher.

    Caffeine is most certainly linked with mental illness—even with psychosis.

    Broderick, P. & Benjamin, A.B. (2004). Caffeine and psychiatric symptoms: a review. Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, 97(12), 538-542.

    Hedges, D.W., Woon, F.L. & Hoopes S.P. (2009). Caffeine-induced psychosis. CNS Spectrums, 14(3),127-129.

  • T

    Tony AromaSep 21, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I’d like to point out that people who choose to drink willow bark tea instead of taking pharmaceutical aspirin are not arrested and imprisoned. The decision of which medicine to take is up to them, not the government.

  • D

    darkcycleSep 21, 2013 at 11:29 am

    “(People) don’t…. eat willow bark to get the benefits of aspirin — why not apply the same logic to marijuana?” That is true. It is also true that we don’t throw people in jail and ruin their lives if they are caught with a small amount of Willow bark in their pocket..

  • M

    Malcolm KyleSep 21, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Health Organizations Supporting Immediate Legal Access to Medical Marijuana


    AIDS Action Council
AIDS Treatment News
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Medical Student Association
American Nurses Association
American Preventive Medical Association
American Public Health Association
American Society of Addiction Medicine
Arthritis Research Campaign (United Kingdom)
Australian Medical Association (New South Wales) Limited
Australian National Task Force on Cannabis
Belgian Ministry of Health
British House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology
British House of Lords Select Committee On Science and Technology (Second Report)
British Medical Association
Canadian AIDS Society
Canadian Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs
Dr. Dean Edell (surgeon and nationally syndicated radio host)
French Ministry of Health
Health Canada
Kaiser Permanente
Lymphoma Foundation of America
The Montel Williams MS Foundation
Multiple Sclerosis Society (Canada)
The Multiple Sclerosis Society (United Kingdom)
National Academy of Sciences Institute Of Medicine (IOM)
National Association for Public Health Policy
National Nurses Society on Addictions
Netherlands Ministry of Health
New England Journal of Medicine
New South Wales (Australia) Parliamentary Working Party on the Use of Cannabis for Medical Purposes
Dr. Andrew Weil (nationally recognized professor of internal medicine and founder of the National Integrative Medicine Council)


    Alaska Nurses Association
Being Alive: People With HIV/AIDS Action Committee (San Diego, CA)
California Academy of Family Physicians
California Nurses Association
California Pharmacists Association
Colorado Nurses Association
Connecticut Nurses Association
Florida Governor’s Red Ribbon Panel on AIDS
Florida Medical Association
Hawaii Nurses Association
Illinois Nurses Association
Life Extension Foundation
Medical Society of the State of New York
Mississippi Nurses Association
New Jersey State Nurses Association
New Mexico Medical Society
New Mexico Nurses Association
New York County Medical Society
New York State Nurses Association
North Carolina Nurses Association
Rhode Island Medical Society
Rhode Island State Nurses Association
San Francisco Mayor’s Summit on AIDS and HIV
San Francisco Medical Society
Vermont Medical Marijuana Study Committee
Virginia Nurses Association 
Whitman-Walker Clinic (Washington, DC)
Wisconsin Nurses Association

  • M

    Malcolm KyleSep 21, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Health concerns regarding marijuana tend to come from a self-fueling group of discredited scientists funded by the pharmaceutical, prison, tobacco, and alcohol industries. They push non-peer-reviewed papers, fraught with conjecture and confounding variables, while relying upon reports issued by others in their own group to further support their own grossly misleading research and clearly biased agendas.

    The Duke University (New Zealand) study, the one which claimed that smoking marijuana in your teens leads to a long-term drop in IQ, has since been utterly rebuked by a new paper, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that examined the research and found its methodology to be flawed.


    Here is a recent peer-reviewed Study proving that Marijuana is not linked with Long Term Cognitive Impairment:

    Amy M. Schreiner of the Department of Psychology at the University of Central Florida recently led a study that looked at 33 existing meta-analyses of cognitive impairment experienced by heavy cannabis users. Schreiner was unable to provide evidence of long-lasting impairment. Specifically, the participants demonstrated no significant cognitive deficiencies once the intoxication period ended. Additionally, Schreiner found no symptoms of impairment in the individuals who had abstained for 25 days. In conclusion she said, “These results fail to support the idea that heavy cannabis use may result in long-term, persistent effects on neuropsychological functioning.”


    Schreiner, A. M., Dunn, M. E. (2012). residual effects of cannabis use on neurocognitive performance after prolonged abstinence: A meta-analysis. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029117

  • D

    Duncan20903Sep 21, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Evidently “Dr” Sabet doesn’t much care if his assertions are based on fact. Oh right, I forgot rule number 1 which uses language identical to the motto of his ilk and kin:

    “Never let the facts get in the way of disseminating an effective piece of hysterical rhetoric” ~~ The motto of the prohibitionist parasite

    In this reality there’s a thriving trade people who are buying and selling willow bark as a headache remedy. A Google search for — buy willow bark — returns 703,000 items.

    You’ve got to ask yourself, is “Dr.” Sabet promoting fiction on purpose or is he just plain incompetent? Of course either choice makes anyone who believes his fairy tales a certified chump.

  • B

    Brian KellySep 21, 2013 at 7:53 am

    In the prohibitionist’s world, anybody who consumes the slightest amount of marijuana responsibly in the privacy of their own homes are stoners and dopers that need to be incarcerated to protect society.

    In their world, any marijuana use equates to marijuana abuse, and it is their god given duty to worry about saving us all from the evils of marijuana use.

    Who are they to tell us we can’t choose marijuana, the safer choice instead of a glass of wine for relaxation, after a long, hard day, in the privacy of our own homes?

    People who use marijuana are smart, honest, hard working, educated, and successful people too, who “follow the law” also.(except for their marijuana consumption under it’s current prohibition of course) .

    Not the stereotypical live at home losers prohibitionists make us out to be. We are doctors, lawyers, professors, movie stars, and politicians too.

    The President of The United States himself has confessed to his regular marijuana use during his college years, as has a long and extensive list of successful people throughout history at one point or other in their lives.

    I am an educated 40 year old professional, and I am blessed with a wonderful family and life, and I’ve worked real hard for everything I have, but that doesn’t mean a dam thing to people who will make comments like “dopers” and “stoners” about anybody who uses the slightest amount of marijuana although it is way safer than alcohol.

    To these people any use equals abuse, and that is really ignorant and full of hypocrisy. While our society promotes, glorifies, and advertises alcohol consumption like it’s an All American pastime.

    There is nothing worse about relaxing with a little marijuana after a long, hard day, than having a glass a wine.

    So come off those high horses of yours. Who are you to dictate to me that I can’t enjoy marijuana, the safer choice over alcohol, in the privacy of my own home?

    I’ve worked hard my whole life to provide for my loved ones. I don’t appreciate prohibitionists trying to impose their will and morals upon us all.

    Has a marijuana user ever tried to FORCE you to use it? Probably not. So nobody has the right to force us not to either.

    Don’t try to impose your morality and “clean living” upon all of us with Draconian Marijuana Laws, and we won’t think your such prohibitionist hypocrites.

    Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!