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The March 24th broadcast of NPR’s Morning Edition reported the story of an Army Veteran and college student suffering from anxiety, a joint disorder, and frequent severe migraines, whose last resort for relief was medical marijuana. Although not against any state regulations, this student is getting resistance from his university who fears losing federal funding by allowing the use of cannabis on campus, thus violating the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and the Drug Free Workplace Act. By allowing Smith and other student patients to use pot, universities are breaking federal law and therefore in danger of losing funding and accreditations.

This can be quite a conundrum for students in pain who receive little to no relief or have adverse side effects to other treatments. The student interviewed by NPR claimed that he would resort to online classes until his campus revised their policy. If his decision is any representation of a common mindset many patients could face the same tough decision between their own healthcare and education.

The solution is simple.

Legalize marijuana consumption, something California has been attempting to do for years.

In 2010 California Proposition 19 failed to do so by a margin less than 5%.  If passed the bill would have legalized and allowed local law enforcement to regulate various marijuana-related activities. The plan also permitted local governments to impose and collect marijuana-related fees and taxes, and revise existing and impose new criminal and civil penalties. It is estimated that state could cash in on billions of dollars in revenue from the passage of the bill, helping their over-indebted state economy.

After this failure in 2010, the debate raged on and supports vowed to regroup and continue the fight hoping to have a new proposition to submit for the 2012 ballot. As the deadly quickly approached, coverage of the great pot debate re-emerged in the pres.

April 20th 2012, the Huffing to Post reported on an economic projection by a Harvard economist that claimed the federal government would save $7.7 billion a year by not having to enforce the standing prohibition and in fact gain some $6 billion in revenue from its taxation.

Despite the preponderance of evidence to support legalization, SF Weekly reported on April 24th 2012 that no measure will be on the California ballot this year. According to the article all four separate committees failed to submit their initiatives by the deadline, ironically 4/20, due to lack of funding and unity.

Federal pressure to subdue the measure was partially accredited to the failure of Prop 19, as well as adding to the current disarray of the movement. However with less than 5%disapproval in a popular vote, the Federal opinion seems only vaguely important to voters. The margin suggests that many voters approve of marijuana legalization, if for no other reason than tapping into a profitable market and ensuring responsible consumption.

Federal resistance to legalizing cannabis is responsible for the issues the Morning Edition report discusses. Universities would not have to turn legal users away and prevent access to schooling for patients who are open about their authorized usage of something many students partake in illegally. Funding would not be cut. No one gets hurt, and everyone has access to the college education of their choice.

Reality check, people smoke pot legal or not.

The current regulations are not going to change that fact. With clear financial benefits both federally and locally, the question has become why continue to ban marijuana while the prohibition of alcohol has been lifted for years.

Most people agree that, cigarettes have been proven to cause major health threats, yet they are a sanctioned and regulated multi-billion dollar industry. Alcohol poses dangers to the individual and society, yet once again consumption is legal. The effects of pot vary like anything else; however there is no solid evidence to suggest that it is in any way more harmful or more dangerous than either of these two substances. In fact, the medicinal uses present a far more beneficial purpose than pure recreation.

So why is marijuana usage so demonized, and why on a federal level?

According to Grass, a documentary film about the history of the herb, the roots of the issue date back to the jazz age and sadly, racism. The cultural attitude toward pot has changed over the years however there have always been proponents. In the last twenty years sentiments have once again shifted towards accepting recreational usage.

This is in large part due to media coverage, which has always helped shape the public mindset. A multitude of documentary films have been made on the subject, exploring the legislation, consumption, distribution and history of marijuana. Technology has also helped to gain support for the legalization cause, as more people have access to information regarding the effects of pot.

A simple answer is that the federal mindset just hasn’t caught up to the changing mentality of the public. After years of Nixon, Reagan and Bush campaigning against “drugs” it’s no secret that conservative values still have deep foot holds in federal regulation.

But wait.

The Republican Party’s historic fiscal conservatism should favor saving a buck, let alone $7.7 billion a year and making $6 billion. Perhaps it is the regulation they take issue with; they would rather cheat the system and not have to pay taxes on their Mary-J.

Economically it doesn’t make sense to continue shunning such profit potential, therefore Federal hesitation must be an issue of morality.

But this is America; we keep morality out of our government.

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