The recent spike in emergency room visits caused by the drug spice gives lawmakers one more reason to legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana. This strain of synthetic marijuana, an herbal base mixed with synthetic cannabinoids, has caused a major increase in hospital visits and poison control center calls in April. Over 1,000 incidents have been reported, and an unknown number have died from consuming the drug. Legalization of herbal marijuana would protect consumers from these considerably more dangerous and volatile synthetic replicas.
With its current Schedule I classification by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the federal government considers marijuana as dangerous as heroin and more dangerous than methamphetamine. This misplaced association with substances that have far more dangerous consequences has lead to unnecessary mass incarceration and miscommunication about the consequences of truly dangerous drugs. Without federal regulation or recognition, the sale of marijuana still flows largely underground, except in states where it is currently legalized.
If given the opportunity to regulate the manufacturing and sales of marijuana, federal regulators could help consumers safely navigate the market to make sure they experienced the product’s intended effects. Those interested in consuming marijuana would be able to do so without adverse effects. The dangerous substances would still be available, but the amount of people mistakenly poisoning themselves would decrease.
Colorado has shown that regulated markets for marijuana work, creating a safer purchasing experience and more straightforward explanation of the effects of each strain. More money flows through the economy and tax revenue from the legal sales could give lawmakers more funding to spend on researching and regulating the product to protect consumers instead of imprisoning those same individuals needlessly for possessing that same substance.
The tides are shifting on the legalization of marijuana. Changes in public opinion about the substance have gone hand in hand with state governments legalizing its medical or recreational use for the public. As the 2016 election cycle kicks into gear, the topic of legalization will certainly be on the minds of the public and the candidates. In addition to the positive effects of medical marijuana, the cases of poisoning and overdose that come from mislabeled drugs should be included in the discussion. Making it clear that marijuana is safer than other Schedule I substances — and possibly even alcohol — would make its use, and the use of other substances, more safe.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 28 print edition. Email Matthew Tessler at [email protected]