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RBHS students, Colorado residents discuss merits of recreational marijuana

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Where does 420 come from?[/heading]

Today marks the date that has been whispered and shouted in connection to marijuana for more than 40 years.

It’s not the day Bob Marley died.
It’s not the number of chemicals in marijuana.
It’s not the number of a bill in United States Congress to legalize pot.
It’s not the police code for marijuana.
It’s not the best time to plant your herbs.

So what is this strange array of numbers that stand for everything cannabis lovers believe in?

The origin of 420 lies in 1970’s San Francisco, where a group of students would say to one another “420 Louis!” in reference to anything marijuana: Think: Do you have any? Do I look stoned?

This group of teens, who  stood by a wall outside their school and called themselves the Waldos, would later go smoke around their town at 4:20 p.m. The phrase spread through the town and was later adopted by the magazine High Times where it gained worldwide recognition.

Rock Bridge High School journalism students, along with nearly 3,000 journalism students from across the country,  travelled to Denver for the National High School Journalism Convention, held twice a year in various cities around the United States.

For this spring convention, they went to Denver, coincidentally during the weekend before  today, Monday, April 20. They were emerged into a town where smoking marijuana was the norm because of the recent legalization of recreational marijuana use.

They started asking people in Colorado how the passage of the law had changed the town. As they asked questions, they received conflicting responses. They heard reports of lowered crime rates and also that they had increased.

Has the legalization of marijuana positively or negatively affect the city? Was this the future of America or was a new prohibition on the brink?

Rock Bridge students and residents of Colorado weighed in on the topic.

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Helping Hands Herbals, 1021 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302[/heading]
There are 63 dispensaries in Denver alone. This dispensary is tucked away down some stairs between restaurants and souvenier shops.

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Souvenir shops in Denver take stock[/heading]

One of the consequences of marijuana legalization has been an increase in tourists coming to the state.  In fact, tourists have been buying approximately 90 percent of the cannabis purchased in Colorado’s ski towns.

Shops along the 16th Street mall in Denver have capitalized on the extra customers and have changed some of their inventory.

“I think it’s had a pretty positive effect, truthfully,” Welcome to Denver, 717 16th St., Denver, cashier Eric Min said. “A lot more people approve of it. I like it.”

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]The Buck Stops Here[/heading]

Recreational marijuana in Colorado has a 10 percent special state tax, and the usual 2.9 percent state sales tax and whatever the city tax is, and sometimes more, if the dispensary includes its own 15% percent wholesale tax.

The state uses the money  for school construction projects and enforcement of regulations on the retail marijuana industry.

“I’d say definitely, the economy has been affected by it, not personally because I don’t work for any of it,” Denver resident Heather Bartow said. “It’s brought in a lot of money. I think recently that I read that education has been affected by it. It’s probably affected criminal activity. People still do have dealers, which is illegal, but it’s probably not as much.”

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Increase in use could to lead break down relationships[/heading]

With legalization, recreational marijuana use could become just another activity, such as drinking alcohol. However, the potential for abuse or overuse would still be present, and so would the same negative social effects.

“I don’t think legalizing would be good for any community,” sophomore Max Schaffer said. “There are already tons of vices that are legally tearing families and friends apart in all senses of the phrase and I don’t see how the introduction of yet another toxin into the lives of the public would be beneficial to the overall wellness and culture of the populace regardless of if it is taxed or not.”

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Impact on Police Time[/heading]

The increased revenue isn’t the only reason some students believe the legalization of recreational marijuana would be beneficial. Junior Marco Rea said enforcing some drug laws take up too much time.

For instance, 749, 825 people were arrested for marijuana law violations in 2012.

“I don’t smoke, but I feel like weed isn’t dangerous and it doesn’t kill,” Rea said. “Police spend too much time trying to arrest pot smokers when they can focus on other more important things. I think alcohol is worse, and if that’s legal, weed should be too.”

Still, the Colorado State Patrol said they issued about one in eight citations  for impaired driving involving suspected marijuana use last year.

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Medical issues may matter more than commerce[/heading]

Marijuana contains the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC , that causes the majority of the side effects, but no evidence currently suggests implementing medical marijuana laws would impact the rates of adolescence use.

“Legalizing it would lead to regulation and a safer environment for those wanting to obtain marijuana,” senior Jilly Dos Santos said. “It also has medical benefits that go untapped because of stigma, and it’s extremely hard to study the drug  and perform research on the drug because it is classified as a schedule 1 drug and supposedly has ‘no medical benefits’ and such. I’m going to school in Vermont and they’re looking to legalize it… and let’s just say I’m a little more than excited if that actually does happen.”

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Eufora Cannabis Dispensary, 401 16th St., Denver, CO[/heading]

Because marijuana has only recently been legalized in limited states, there has not been comprehensive research on the medical effects of the drug. Some  research indicates there is no known link between marijuana use and adverse mental health or cancer rates.

“I think it should be legalized,” sophomore at University of Central Florida, a tourist in Denver last weekend, Parker Lynn said. “I do not think it is an addictive drug. I think there are more benefits than adverse effects.”

However, some effects of smoking marijuana include altered senses, altered sense of time, changes in mood, impaired body movement, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, impaired memory, breathing problems,  increased heart rate, temporary hallucinations, temporary paranoia, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts among teens.

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Teens may be unaware of the negative effects[/heading]

Especially for young users, marijuana could have long-lasting effects on brain development, including decreased thinking, memory and learning and changes to how the brain builds connections.

“I think recreational marijuana should not be legal in our state, let alone our country because there are serious side effects that can put people in danger,” freshman Kaitlyn Smith said. “If it was legalized in Columbia in the future it would be a big concern for college and high school students [because symptoms like] distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty in thinking and problem solving [and] ongoing problems with learning and memory are harmful and could impact a person’s life significantly.”

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Could legalization cause more usage?[/heading]

One argument against legalization of recreational marijuana is that it will lead to an increase in usage.

“I think that making it legal will increase the amount of people who will get addicted and use it,” junior Matthew Hoeppner said. “With easier access, I believe it will be bad for the U.S. and Columbia.”

Other students, such as senior Aaron Ghidey, disagree.

“It should be legalized. It’s harmless compared to most drugs that are legalized,” Ghidey said. “Lack of knowledge is stopping it from being legalized.”

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Candy-like edibles could be misleading to children[/heading]

Legalization of recreational use would also welcome edibles, or marijuana-laced treats. In 2014,Colorado sold 4.8 million edible marijuana products, according to Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division.

These products range from candy bars to gummy bears, and, according to Time Magazine, these treats can appeal to children and are indistinguishable from regular candy when removed from the wrapper.

“I oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana in Missouri because of the mass marketing of edible marijuana in the form of candy bars and brownies to the public,” sophomore Patrick Burnam said. “Not only are these products higher in THC content than smoking the common joint, but the delayed effect of consumption of marijuana can lead to overdose. The main argument in my opinion is the packaging of edibles. They are marketed as candies and sweets which can easily be confused for actual candy bars and consumed by small children.”

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Cannabis use in college towns is already highest[/heading]

Beyond concerns for the welfare of children, Burnam believes the legalization of recreational marijuana would adversely affect Columbia, Missouri.

“Being in a college town with a high concentration of wealthy or upper middle-class individuals, the amount of marijuana on the streets would be unheard of, and with a higher concentration of legal marijuana it can easily be sold to underage consumers.”

By Madeline Kuligowski and Emily Franke
Additional reporting by Alice Yu

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