Marijuana debate ignites local viewpoints

Story by Taylor Shuck, Editor

Now that Colorado residents are free to walk into marijuana dispensaries every day, the debate about legalization has spread to other parts of the country, including Baldwin City.

Chief of Police Greg Neis said he recognizes both sides of the issue, but he believes legalizing marijuana would cause more harm than it’s worth.


THE UNITED STATES OF MARIJUANA – A special interactive project provides a state-by-state breakdown of marijuana laws as well as a quiz and local viewpoints.


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“I see nothing but problems down the road,” Neis said. “It’s just like alcohol. How many drunk drivers do we have killed all the time? You legalize marijuana, they’ll get in their cars and they’ll drive.“

In addition to public safety, Neis and other opponents of legalization believe it will cause users to head toward new and stronger drugs.

The term “gateway drug” has been a rallying cry for years; however, researchers, including those in  American Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of Health and Social Behavior and British Journal of Addiction, have not found a connection between marijuana use and that of harder substances.

In a random survey of 100 Baker students, 60 percent said they have tried marijuana. In the same survey, only 36 percent of students said they think marijuana will be legalized in Kansas within the next five years.

Associate Professor of History Leonard Ortiz said keeping marijuana illegal reflects a similar ideology to the prohibition of alcohol. At the time, some U.S. citizens were afraid of what liquor could potentially do to the body.

“Today, I think in addition to taking it out of the hands of the drug dealers, we could also create a tax-based revenue, just like they do in Colorado, which goes toward education,” Ortiz said. “And since they haven’t really proved that marijuana is dangerous for people, I see legalizing it as a logical way of dealing with the issue of marijuana. I think legalizing it is the right thing to do.”

Senior Matt Fry agrees with Ortiz, saying that the added revenue is something for states to consider when they start making budget cuts.

“Colorado is arguing about where they should put that extra money, while other state senates are arguing about where they can cut back and find more money,” Fry said. “So it’s a bit of a change in a conversation to have, and I think it would be welcome in several cash-depleted states.“

Arcview Market Research estimates that recreational marijuana sales in Colorado will add $359 million to the economy. Colorado’s economy has already seen an impact from legalizing the drug.

At Mile High Pipe and Underground in Boulder, Colo., business has increased significantly since dispensaries opened. Employee Alex Barnes said across the board, sales have gone up 15-20 percent.

“We stay busy pretty much all the time,” Barnes said. “Old people, young people — it’s just pretty popular around here.”

Andrea, who works at a Colorado dispensary and asked that her last name be withheld, said a lack of education is one reason legalizing marijuana is such a debated topic.

“(Marijuana) helps people in a lot of ways,” she said. “I study it all the time. It’s very medicinal in addition to being recreational. There’s a lot to be done with it. The reason why a lot of people have a problem with it is that we don’t know a whole lot about it.”

While the discussion rages on, some agree that the only thing to be done now is to watch and wait.

“People are a little stuck in their ways and they are resisting change and sort of keeping it all hunkered down as us, all together in one group, you know, resisting the rest,” Andrea said. “I think it’s just a matter of time before everyone’s minds change.”

Fry also foresees other states following suit.

“I think Colorado is sort of an experiment in a way, and we will see if other states should be adopting it, if the federal government should step in,” Fry said. “I think people are handling it in the right way, and as long as there hasn’t been any sort of increase in illegal activity, I think it’s a possibility for a lot of states just for the fact of the revenue it generates.”