Biden: Baked or bogus? 

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Joe Biden is under criticism following the recent pardoning of thousands of people convicted of marijuana marijuana possession under federal law. This criticism comes from both sides of the political spectrum, with calls that this decision is both too forgiving and not forgiving enough. Illustration by Anna Iorfino/The Daily Campus.

Point: Youssef 

As many may know, Joe Biden recently “pardoned thousands of people convicted of marijuana possession under federal law,” a move that, in my opinion, indicates the possibility of the federal government following many states in the decriminalization of marijuana usage. In pursuing this trend, Biden has brought this country in a dangerous direction and failed to see the consequences of marijuana legalization. For example, marijuana causes an increase in car accidents, as, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “After marijuana legalization, the rate of car crashes with injuries increased by nearly 6%, while fatal crashes rose by 4%”. Charles Farmer, vice president for research and statistical services at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says, “Marijuana… changes how you feel and how you behave… and that changes how you drive.” The main reason that marijuana should not be legal is that it has the capacity to hurt others, and the government has no reason to support such a drug through legalization. When an issue affects an individual based on personal choices, that’s one thing; but when that individual has the capacity to harm others and data validates this, then marijuana usage becomes a public safety issue. The government needs to put public safety first, and legalization does not do that. 

Counterpoint: Ben 

Joe Biden has made an embarrassment of the concept of justice. His “pardon” for marijuana offenders will release few, if any, people. This is disgusting given that Biden’s support for the 1994 Crime Bill helped lead to millions of people being arrested, many for non-violent drug offenses. Biden has consistently been on the right wing of the Democratic Party, and this is just more proof of it. It has been shown that most Americans support the federal legalization of marijuana, including for recreation. Most recognize that marijuana does not deserve its Schedule 1 status and should be legalized. In fact, it is widely believed that alcohol is the more dangerous substance. Alcohol leads to deaths from alcohol poisoning, something marijuana does not. This is not even taking into account the medical benefits of marijuana. If Biden wanted to assure a Democratic victory in the upcoming midterms, legalization would have done far more than this pseudo-reparation. 

Youssef: 

I agree that Biden’s move was very political, but I still find it dangerous and feel recreational marijuana legalization is a bad move. Just because alcohol is potentially worse than marijuana does not at all mean we should legalize it. If anything, it means we should make alcohol illegal. That’s obviously a fight that no one can win, but the fact of the matter is that the government can condone or restrict the use of a substance that can negatively impact its citizens, and despite what the masses want it should put health over hash. In Colorado, where marijuana was completely legalized, they have “seen increases in marijuana-related hospitalizations, Emergency Room visits, poison control calls, DUIs, and fatal crashes where drivers tested positive for cannabinoids.” We have no reason to legalize this substance for recreational use other than the fact that people want to get stoned while there are five reasons just in the last sentence to keep it illegal. No matter how meaningless and political Biden’s move was, it’s still dangerous. 

Ben: 

The issue here is one of justice or lack thereof. One needs to acknowledge the damage caused and attempt to make amends. One knows that no matter what the legal status of a substance is, it will continue to be used. The strict enforcement of drug use has not stopped significant amounts of people from abusing drugs in the United States. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 50% of Americans will use drugs in their lifetime. The crucial thing is to determine what has not worked and what has. The intensely carceral nature of drug policy in the United States has not prevented the ongoing opioid crisis and the massively profitable nature of drug trafficking. While you are correct that marijuana poses risks, we should not be trying to eliminate risk entirely, as this is futile. We need to gauge the level of risk and where the bigger danger to our communities is coming from. For example, more than 2,000 people were shot to death by police in the United States during the years 2020 and 2021. One could make the case that the police and the methods of trying to restrict marijuana usage are far deadlier than marijuana ever could be. In the interest of attempting to heal a deep wound and not make a mockery of justice, nothing short of a complete reversal of federal marijuana policy will suffice. 

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