On October 30, 2020, our seminar had the pleasure of speaking with a representative of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Minnesota (SAM-MN), Kim Bemis, who is also the founder of Gobi, a program that helps concerned parents of children who use drugs and alcohol. The talking points against legalization included the belief that no psychoactive substance is safe, there are projected increased healthcare costs with increased marijuana usage as a result of legalization, alleged connections between increased mental illness and physical and mental disability and marijuana usage, and concern with there being no option for cities or counties to opt out of having distribution centers in the current proposed bill in the Minnesota House for marijuana legalization of recreational adult-use.
In response, classmates brought up ideas like protecting individual rights, the lack of medical evidence of negative effects of marijuana on the body, and positive outcomes in states that have legalized marijuana, which were met largely with silence or deflection. This experience was valuable in that hearing both sides of an argument is important to being informed and attempting to work together towards a common goal, but it was also concerning because it seems that the general opinion of those against marijuana legalization has not shifted from the effects of anti-marijuana propaganda of the 20th century, including films like “Reefer Madness” and the War on Drugs, which disproportionately negatively impacts Black Americans as a result of over-policing and systematic racism, a topic that was notably not addressed at all by Mr. Bemis. Part of Mr. Bemis’ argument against the legalization of marijuana was inspired by the American Prohibition (of alcohol), moreover, which I referenced in my last blog post and discussed how it was a massive failure, but somehow in groups against the legalization of marijuana is seen as a massive success.
Though there are some valid points on the other side, including concerns about driving while impaired, it seems that there is a disconnect in the facts between the proponents and opponents of the legalization of marijuana, especially considering that the arguments against marijuana could be applied to several currently legal substances, most notably alcohol, which is proven to have adverse health effects yet does not have the same movement for criminalization. In the end, I believe that the only way for both sides of the argument to reach a consensus is going be to conducting good research on the effects of marijuana and presenting arguments rooted in facts, not fear.