Cannabis Considerations

Graphic by Grace Tawatao/Graphics Center

Marijuana has always been in the backdrop of my life. Whenever I would visit Hilo, the Hawaiian town my dad grew up in, he would jokingly play a song called “Who Is the Lolo Who Stole My Pakalolo?” for us in the car, en route to a party where pakalolo (weed) would certainly be puffed. At home in the East Bay, the scent of cannabis would fill the shed my cross country team stored our backpacks in. I distinctly remember a senior running his best race after hitting a blunt. Though I was too prudish to partake, my personal inhibitions could not prevent its presence.

Here in the Bay Area, weed is deeply ingrained in our culture. This phenomenon is not just in California; the number of states embracing legal recreational marijuana consumption continues to grow. 

I am speaking from the goody-two-shoes perspective of the daughter of a health teacher — attempting to prevent impending federal marijuana decriminalization is pointless. In fact, it might even make sense to lower the legal age.

Currently, the legal age for marijuana use in California, like most weed-friendly states, is 21. However, there is logic behind lowering it. Philosophically, yes, we are morally obligated to protect children from the harms of drugs and educate them on how to make healthy decisions. 

But from a practical perspective, regulating marijuana is smarter than banning it. 

Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance — the most hardcore drug classification. But if the haze surrounding Hippie Hill on Apr. 20 was any indication, this classification is not taken seriously.

Graphic by Anya Jordan/SF Foghorn

A University of Florida study found that 54% of Americans will have used cannabis before age 21. These individuals currently could face criminal prosecution if caught. 

Instead of banning marijuana, the legal age for recreational use should match the legal age for medical use — 18 years old in California. High schools and colleges should enforce effective education programs to raise awareness about the risks of marijuana use. Similar to sex education, having an honest conversation with young adults about ways to stay safe is more realistic than expecting them to not have sex or smoke at all.

Legalizing marijuana for 18-plus crowds would also grant currently closeted users access to regulated dispensaries. When pot shops are prohibited, the black market goes boom. This translates to the risk of buying weed from dealers who cut their product with lethal drugs such as fentanyl. Amid the continued allure of cannabis, market regulation makes the most sense as a solution to keep consumers safe.

Not everyone shares my point of view. The Foghorn conducted a poll through Fizz, an anonymous college campus social media app where users must have a “@dons.usfca.edu” email address to become a member. The Foghorn asked, “Do you think the legal age for marijuana consumption should be lowered?” The poll received 1,997 votes, with a margin of error of +/-2%. 41% of students (821 votes) responded “Yes.” The majority of respondents (59%, or 1176 votes) did not support a lower legal age for marijuana. It is worth noting that Fizz demographics skew young, with most users being freshmen and sophomores, who are typically under 21. These insights illustrate that students are somewhat split on this issue. 

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