The Word on Weed

On April 17, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a bill to legalize a form of medical marijuana.

The bill takes effect July 1, 2014 and allows the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) to dispense a form of medical marijuana known as CBD oil or cannabidol to patients with prescriptions for the drug to treat seizure-causing disorders.

Ole Miss has been growing medical marijuana since 1968 when it became part of the federal government’s Investigational New Drug program.  

In the WAPT News article, Bryant said he is against any legalization of marijuana or any of its extracts not covered in the bill.

According to a Sun Herald opinion column, Mississippi’s marijuana laws are lax in comparison to other states in the “Old South.”

Sun Herald opinion columnist, Charile Mitchell compared the penalty for possession  of marijuana in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.

In Mississippi, the penalty for having 30 grams of marijuana (not in a vehicle) is a fine of $100-$250. In Alabama possession of any amount carries a fine of $6,000 and up to a year in jail.  In Arkansas, a first-offense possession of one ounce or less carries a fine of $1,000.

Mitchell also noted that Mississippi is the only state in the Old South to have decriminalized marijuana although it only applies to amounts of 30 grams or less.

University of Southern Mississippi junior business major Brandon Warden said he believes it is “very likely” that Mississippi will legalize  marijuana in 10 years.

“Once a few states begin to do something it usually trents to the others,” Warden said.

As noted in a New York Times article, states considering legalizing marijuana are looking to Colorado and Washington to see how their legalization efforts pan out.

One concern ahead of legalization in Colorado was that crime would increase.

Although Russia Today article cited information that crime rates actually fell, authorities cited in the article were cautious to draw grand conclusions from the “encouraging” short-term results.

A sophomore USM advertising major who didn’t want her name used said she believes legalizing marijuana “could raise crime rates only because weed affects everyone differently and can make some people do stupid things.”

A Daily Mail article covered concerns that Colorado’s black market for marijuana has yet to disappear. 

A larger concern over marijuana legalization is over the possible health concerns related to marijuana use.

According to an NPR article, people who start using marijuana when they are young are more likely to develop an addiction and “about 11 percent of marijuana users fit the definition of dependence.”

The NPR article also said some worry that marijuana can lead to schizophrenia and that there is evidence that individuals with past psychotic episodes or family histories of the disease should not use marijuana.

A University of California public policy professor cited in the NPR article said there is some evidence that marijuana may impair driving even hours after the high seems to ware off.

As for the stereotype of marijuana users being lazy, Warden said “I would agree with that regarding most of the people who I know smoke marijuana.”

There are also other possible health risks associated with marijuana use which require further research.

With the marijuana holiday “4/20” fast approaching, remember what the marijuana laws are in Mississippi and around the country and stay up to date with research on marijuana.