Madhuranthakam: How is this Legal?

Student Indu Mithra Madhuranthakam shares their thoughts on the recent legalization of cannabis use in New Jersey. - Photo via

How is it okay? How can a psychoactive drug that has the potential to push people off the edge and make them dependent on it be legalized for recreational use?

While there is an ongoing debate about how marijuana legalization can help curb the opioid epidemic, it
seems to me that we are trying to deal with a bigger problem by creating another problem as a mere
distraction, which could snowball into being a much bigger issue someday. Although emerging cannabis research shows promising results for its use in the treatment of various diseases and disorders, legalizing a drug that can potentially intoxicate a person and that has tolerance dependence and withdrawal effects seems a bit too extreme to me.

Not to mention, it makes me wonder if we have to deal with the oxycodone situation that shook the country between 1997 and 2017 all over again. With oxycodone, addiction wasn’t a choice. People were prescribed this drug by their doctors for even mild pain, which often lead to them becoming severely addicted and, ultimately, it claimed several lives.

While I understand that marijuana may not kill people like opioids do, I am still afraid and wary of the fact that it could potentially put the whole nation in a state of euphoric slumber. Marijuana has already been legalized in several other states, I know, but it didn’t quite hit me until I heard the news about it becoming newly legal to sell and purchase in New Jersey.

I am a research student, and my lab is located in Cooper Medical School in Camden, New Jersey. I
commute to Camden almost every day by the New Jersey Transit bus, and believe me when I say there hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t smelled weed or seen people consumed by the effects of drugs, often unable to walk and fully function on the streets. Homelessness has been a crisis in Camden for a while, and with the opioid epidemic, it is disheartening to see so many people living their lives under the influence of drugs.

I have personally always believed that we have this gift (and of course burden at the same time) of consciousness for a reason. Of all the species on earth, we are the only species that can consciously think and live. And what is more beautiful than experiencing life with our fullest attention to the present moment and full mindfulness? Why do people always choose intense and extreme emotions over calm and pleasant emotions?

Now, I do understand that drugs like heroin and marijuana can change the way neurons communicate with each other, unfortunately leading to addiction and dependence, but what I don’t understand is why we make choices to legalize and incorporate these substances into daily life by choice, almost making it feel far more accessible and likely that more people will become addicted.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the meaning of recreation and relaxation, but when someone tells me that they smoke pot for recreational purposes or for fun, I don’t personally see how recreationally altering one’s consciousness and passing days and months in a falsely built, dose-dependent, ecstatic world is a fun activity.

In my opinion, walking, reading, playing, swimming and meditating are the kind of recreational activities that are fun. Call me old-school, but when I say that I have found that buses, Uber and Lyft cars, bus stops, streets and convenience stores, all seem to smell of weed more than usual, I am not exaggerating.

My wish is simply that everyone would think responsibly about what good could truly come out of making a mind-altering drug legal. Meanwhile, I will still try and force myself into believing that people will use this drug in moderation and for its intended purposes, but I can’t stop feeling apprehensive.

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