By Isabella Ainsworth
With support hovering around 60 percent, Proposition 64, which would legalize recreational marijuana use in California for citizens aged 21 and over, is likely to pass this November– leading to a revolutionary change in California drug policy. Adults would be allowed to possess and use marijuana in California without fear of prosecution by the state.
Davis High’s policies towards marijuana, however, would remain the same.
“Legalization of marijuana would not change how we are responding to the situation and students would still be subject to suspension,” said Laura Juanitas, director of Student Services at the Davis Joint Unified School District.
Because the law only applies to adults over the age of 21, possession of marijuana would still be illegal for all of DHS students. Right now, marijuana is considered a controlled substance, which according to school rules is a level 6 offense and results in a mandatory five-day suspension, as well as notification of law enforcement.
Punishment for possession of marijuana at DHS would not change if Proposition 64 were passed. This is because the district bases its disciplinary actions off of the California Health and Safety Code, which in turn bases its scheduling of drugs off of the United States Controlled Substances Act. Proposition 64 would not change the federal law and marijuana would still be considered a Schedule I drug.
However, possession of alcohol, which some consider to have health effects similar to marijuana, is a Level 5 offense and results only a mandatory one day suspension. Meanwhile, possession of tobacco is a Level 3 offense and has no mandatory suspension attached to it.
It would still be illegal for everyone, including adults who can purchase the drug legally, to bring marijuana on to school grounds.
There are worries, however, that legalization of marijuana would increase usage of marijuana among adolescents as well as make marijuana more accessible for minors. Although Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, did not see a statistically significant spike in adolescents reporting marijuana use, with 19.7 percent of teens in Colorado reporting in a Colorado health department study that they had used marijuana in the past month in 2013 versus 21.2 percent in 2015, it is not certain that California would follow the same pattern.
Claire Drown, DHS class of 2016, currently goes to Whitman College in Washington state, which, like Colorado, Alaska and Oregon, has already legalized recreational marijuana use. Even though some students at Whitman College can legally purchase marijuana, Drown says that she is not more likely to use marijuana just because it is legalized. Whitman College bans the possession of marijuana on campus and use of the drug is not prevalent at the liberal arts school.
“It’s not as common here as even it was in Davis,” Drown said.
According to Drown, alcohol, rather than marijuana, is the substance of choice at Whitman College.
Another issue those opposed to Proposition 64 raise is the moral weight of legalizing a potentially dangerous substance and the perception of the drug that legalization creates for teens. A 2013 poll by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that only 45 percent of high school seniors thought that marijuana was harmful and with legalization, that percentage could become even smaller.
Senior Kairi Sageshima, however, doesn’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing for teens to see marijuana as relatively harmless.
“As long as alcohol is socially okay then weed can be deemed socially okay,” Sageshima said. “Both are bad for you.”
Sageshima does not just think that marijuana should be legalized because its effects are comparable to alcohol. He also believes that because marijuana use is “always going to happen” legalization would make it safer for the people already using the drug, as the government would be able to regulate the marijuana.
While marijuana might have only mild physical health effects, a study led by Magdalena Cerda found that people who used marijuana persistently over a long period of time often ended up in a lower social class and also faced relationship and financial difficulties. Cerda is an Associate Professor at the UC Davis Department of Emergency Medicine and the Vice Chancellor’s Chair in Violence Prevention.
These negative effects were found to be just as bad as, or worse, than the economic effects of alcohol, showing that legalization of marijuana might not just be a health issue, but an economic one as well.
“We need to be aware of the social downstream consequences [of marijuana],” Cerda said.
The study, published in the spring of 2016 in the journal “Clinical Psychological Science,” traced a group of people in New Zealand from age 18 to 38, ranked the socioeconomic status of parents on a scale from 1-6 and found that persistent marijuana users would often end with a lower socioeconomic status than their parents, even with other variables controlled.
However, not all users experienced the same results.
“People who start using during adolescence seem to be particularly affected,” Cerda said.
It is still unclear how legalization of marijuana would change, if at all, the results of Cerda’s study.