Why should Governor Pete Ricketts get to tell you or I that we can’t get high? Short answer, he shouldn’t.

Many states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and a handful have adopted it recreationally, but Nebraska is one of only 12 states that has not legalized cannabis in one form or another.

Last year, I wrote my first article for The Daily Nebraskan about the state Supreme Court striking down a ballot initiative that would have asked Nebraskans to vote for or against medical marijuana. Recently the Nebraska Cannabis Association launched as the state’s first lobbying group to support the drug’s legalization and regulation. Let’s consider the effects of the state’s current cannabis policy, why it’s wrong and why legalized recreational use is preferable to the adoption of strictly medical marijuana.

It is a fairly well documented and well understood fact that the criminalization of marijuana unduly affects Black Americans, and Black Nebraskans in particular, despite the drug being used at comparable rates by both Black and white people. This alone should be reason enough to cause decent people to think long and hard about their positions on pot. While you’re thinking, allow me to expand your mind with further information on the topic.

Marijuana may be less of a risk to one’s health than alcohol, however a lack of data makes it hard to draw concrete conclusions. While both can cause addiction, the risk of marijuana addiction seems to be lower than that of alcohol. With this in mind, the current state and federal prohibition on cannabis can be seen as broadly comparable to the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s. Like Prohibition, the war on weed has turned countless normal citizens into criminals simply because of their substance of choice.

While marijuana does have proven medical applications, the legalization of strictly medical marijuana can, and in other places has, led to the growth of an industry full of sham doctors dedicated to simply handing out medical weed cards. Medical marijuana often acts as a form of soft legalization because it's not feasible to legislate every possible medical use for the drug. As a result, what qualifies as “weed card” worthy must invariably be left up to doctors. I believe that the bogus weed card industry actually hurts our ability to better understand the medical applications of cannabis. 

The recreational marijuana industry also provides a lucrative source of tax revenue for many states in the country. Nebraska is missing out on a potential $36 million payout. Of Nebraska’s six neighboring states, Colorado has fully legalized recreational cannabis — the first state to do so — and South Dakota and Missouri have legalized medical marijuana, though recreational marijuana is working its way through the courts in South Dakota. This revenue could be a massive boon to the state’s finances but is instead simply being forfeited to other states. 

Gov. Ricketts claims that “if you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids.” When pressed for a source, a spokesperson for the governor pointed to two studies that indicated there may be an increased risk of suicide, however the findings hardly seem conclusive. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency themselves, there have been no reported marijuana overdoses

Cannabis is, in much of the country, a largely settled issue. Federal legalization is all but inevitable; it would be better for Nebraska to get with the program and not be behind the times on this issue.

Nick Finan is a junior political science major. Reach him at nickfinan@dailynebraskan.com.