Last week, Michigan officially became the first Midwest state and the tenth U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana About 55 percent of Michigan voters approved Proposal 1 on Tuesday, making it legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess and consume marijuana, and for licensed retailers to the cultivate, process, distribute, and sell industrial hemp.
For many, this was a celebration, especially for those who use marijuana for medicinal reasons and now have easier access to medicinal marijuana. However, the proposal will not be enacted for about another three weeks, meaning that it will be another three weeks until marijuana possession, growing and usage will be legal and about another 12 months until marijuana can be sold by retailers due to processing of licenses and regulation of sales.
On a state level, the taxes taken from marijuana sales will be put toward road and bridge maintenance, K-12 public schools and local governments. For states like Colorado, who have legalized marijuana before Michigan, there has been a lot of economic growth and has given thousands of citizens jobs. Similar growth could also occur in Michigan with marijuana’s legalization.
What Legalization Means for Albion
For the City of Albion, there have been speculations from citizens and city officials that the legalization of marijuana will encourage people to use marijuana as a painkiller rather than opiates, reducing the staggeringly high opiate addictions/overdoses that occur in Albion and Calhoun county.
According to Albion College psychology professor, Dr. Mareike Wieth, “There is some research out there that states marijuana can influence pain, so there are some individuals that are saying that if you can control pain with marijuana then you are actually much better off than with opiates. However, it’s unlikely to swap out opiates because the effects are much different.”
On a collegiate level, students still have restricted freedoms with marijuana use. Albion College is not a dry campus, so students over the age of 21 may possess and privately consume alcohol if they live with other students 21 and older, but since the college is funded by the federal government, they are still under federal jurisdiction (refer to official letter sent to students by Ken Snyder, head of Campus Safety). Marijuana use of any kind, including those who have a green card, is still illegal on campus and students caught with marijuana will go through the college’s judicial process and may be fined a minimum of $1,000, per the Albion Student Handbook.
On a psychological level, Albion College policy argues, excessive marijuana use is not technically allowed for college students. Marijuana is still a drug, just like alcohol, and can negatively affect the development of an immature brain. The frontal lobe of the brain, or the part that controls decision-making and personality, doesn’t stop developing until the age of 26. Many students in undergraduate school are under the age of 26, and their brains are still developing.
“As far as student’s emotional wellbeing, like use of any kind of drug, if you have memory problems, you won’t do so well in class, which then means you’ll start to doubt what you’re doing here and that whole cycle starts, and that’s how people who are prone to depression get started,” said Wieth.
“Even though marijuana is legal now, all students must keep in mind that there is still damage being done to brain while using it before the brain is done maturing,” said Wieth. Marijuana is now legal and will have similar laws surrounding use and sales to alcohol, and therefore should be treated like alcohol in terms of usage.
“Anybody that’s drinking or smoking too much will have problems, but if you’re doing it in moderation, you’ll be fine,” she said.