Posted Online: Dec. 04, 2012, 10:11 am

3-year-old son helps mom settle vexing pot legalization question

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By Jessica Ramos-Rodriguez

As a society, we are faced with a monumental decision that will inevitably affect future generations for many years to come.

This issue has been debated fervently amongst supporters as well as opponents. It has certainly gotten a lot of attention in recent months and proves to be a very hot topic.

The question is, should marijuana be legalized? Whether you are pro- or anti-legalization, you probably have a very strong opinion about that question.

This debate is nothing new. Legalization has been discussed for decades, but this generation is the first to see lawmakers approve legalization for recreational use in two states: Colorado and Washington.

It is still unclear what the federal government is going to do with the newly passed state law, but as of now, it is still a federal offense to use marijuana recreationally. Experts hint at opposition coming from some of the warriors of the fight against drugs but nothing has been confirmed. Don't get me wrong, I think there are both pros and cons to this debate. But, I guess the bigger question is, do the pros outweigh the cons?

One major pro from supporters of legalizing the drug is that regulating and taxing marijuana will create much needed revenue for the states/government. I agree. Any financial help to a struggling economy is appealing especially for Illinois.

Our state has taken an incredible turn for the worse financially as the after-effects of scandals and corruption from past governors still linger. It is also mentioned that sales from marijuana can be used for the already under-funded recovery programs for drug and alcohol addicts. Again, the plan sounds good.

Another pro supporters bring up is that decriminalizing the drug allows offenders of selling the drug illegally to be fined instead of imprisoned.
This in turn would free up a burdened prison system. This is a good point, and yes, I agree.

Although supporters have other reasons to support legalization, which I cannot completely list in this column, including the fact that marijuana is not as dangerous as alcohol or other illegal drugs, my position stands that I oppose the legalization of marijuana.

The main is because like alcohol and cigarettes, regulating and taxing it doesn't account for the people it is going to hurt. We can downplay the negative effects this drug has on our society but the fact remains that just because its legal doesn't mean that its good.

Yes, we already have several ills in our society, but does that mean we should add another?

Marijuana addiction is a real thing and even if marijuana addiction is not considered as serious as other addictions it is still unhealthy and can lead to serious impairments in judgment.

I discussed this topic with Jason McEntee, a volunteer at Riverside Treatment Center in Rock Island. A former addict himself, he agrees that legalizing the drug could lead to serious implications. "Marijuana is a gateway drug," he explains, "people feel like if they can use it and get away with it then maybe they can use something else without consequences."
Unfortunately this kind of thinking leads people down roads that they are not prepared for and sets them up for serious life problems.

There is no easy answer when it comes to questioning the rights of individuals while weighing the good of the community. This debate will continue as legislation moves forward with the legalization process.

But as for me, I have one thing in mind; my 3-year-old son. As he becomes older and starts to figure out the person he wants to be, I would like to think that there are more choices in place for him to succeed rather than fail.

Marijuana has its place in our society helping those with terminal illness, and I believe there is something to say about decriminalizing the drug. However, legalizing it for recreational use encourages an already troubled generation to depend on something outside of themselves to function in our society.

Let's think about the message we want to send to our kids. I know for me, I'd like to assure him that a substance-free life is not only attainable, but desired.
Jessica Ramos-Rodriguez, Rock Island, is a graduate of Western Illinois University.