Pot Goes to the Polls: UC Irvine Professors Share Their Opinions

To be anticipated in this November’s California ballot, a measure known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 will be addressing the issue of legalizing marijuana.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the measure would allow individuals 21 years and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use and to  grow up to 25 square feet of marijuana per residence or parcel. Additionally, it will allow cities and counties to adopt ordinances that would authorize the cultivation, transportation and sale of marijuana, which in turn could be taxed to raise revenues.

It was quoted in the LA Times that  Richard Lee, a major advocate of the measure, believes the legalization of marijuana will allow police to focus on serious crime, undercut Mexican drug cartels and make it harder for teenagers to buy marijuana.

A few UC Irvine professors in the School of Medicine  concur with  Lee’s arguments.

Professor of Community and Environmental Medicine and Pharmacology, Stephen Bondy, believes that marijuana is useful for certain diseases and the legalization of marijuana would probably cut down crime in Mexico.

Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Rainer Reinscheid, states that decriminalizing young people for obtaining the substance is an advantage of the measure. The legalization of the drug would remove the stigma that marijuana is a “gateway drug” and separate strict marijuana users from  diverse drug users.

Bondy and Reinscheid both believe alcohol is more harmful than marijuana in terms of toxicity.

Bondy points out that nicotine is the most harmful legally obtained substance. Since alcohol and nictone, which are both more harmful than marijuana, is legal, the issue of legalizing marijuana becomes an issue of “culture more than health.”

Likewise, Reinscheid points out that cannabis is the oldest cultured non-food plant that was used for fiber to make cloth in countries such as China and India.  Countries with a history of cannabis do not have this controversy like the U.S. does.

Reinscheid relates this cultural difference to that of  alcohol consumption across the globe: both are completely banned in Muslim countries, restrictions are loosened in Europe, and it’s permitted with restrictions in post-prohibition U.S.

However, Dean of Graduate Division and Professor of Pharmacology, Frances Leslie, who studies the “gateway theory,” points out that the harm of marijuana is greatest in the maturing brain but can be regulated by implementing restrictions similar to those for alcohol usage.

Leslie argues that although marijuana has medicinal properties such as pain relief and regulating anxiety levels, there is growing evidence that it changes the maturing brain, which does not  stops maturing until around the age of 25.

Regardless of the differences in possible health risks of the drug, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, Erwin Chemerinsky, notes that while  it’s unlikely, this measure is only a state law and not a federal law. This means the Federal court can continue to prosecute those found in possession of marijuana in California even if the measure passes.

How will you be voting in November?