Legalize it!

Ryan Michel
Contributing Writer

As if the issue over the legalization of marijuana has not been debated enough already, another area of contention has been brought to the public’s attention regarding companies’ drug testing policies for workers with disabilities. Recently, this topic has come up regarding Brandon Coats, a telephone representative for Dish Network from Denver, Colorado. After falling victim to paralysis at the age of 16, he has been using medical marijuana since 2009 as a way of coping with the painful spasms that he experiences on a regular basis.

When Dish Network told him that the company would now be conducting random drug tests on employees, Coats was not at all surprised when his test came back positive for marijuana. Despite the fact that he carried a card proving his need for medical marijuana, Dish Network’s drug free policy caused Coats to be fired from his job. Even though it is now available in varying degrees in 23 states, employers still advocate a drug free environment, despite the circumstances. Although he is now in the process of filing a lawsuit against his former employer, Coats is left with the uncertainty of when his case will be resolved, or where he will land his next job despite his disability.

The legalization of marijuana is a very complex subject. In order to make a sound decision, one must fully understand its impact. On the surface, I, myself, felt as though marijuana was used first and foremost as a recreational drug and that the people who wanted it legalized intended its use for very specific areas, such as clothing, soaps and oils and even paper, just to name a few. Upon further research however, I could see that the cannabis plant was much more versatile, and that the industries mentioned above are major areas in which the plant is used.

Aside from all of the material goods that can be produced from this plant, I have not yet mentioned what is potentially the most important of them all: Medicinal use. Unlike other pain medications on the market today that are habit-forming and can potentially be detrimental to one’s health over time, marijuana, when used in moderation to help deal with medical problems, is actually a great solution. It is much less harmful than other pain medications and could be used for people with debilitating illnesses like Brandon Coats, to help deal with pain and still be able to act as a functioning member of society.

I will admit that before I had any knowledge of the subject, I was against legalization. But in cases such as these, I think that legalization is very important. States such as Colorado and California, among others, who have already legalized the plant must now accept the legislation put into place, and businesses such as Dish Network must realize that there are very special exceptions to the term “drug free environment.” In a state that has already legalized marijuana, this now becomes a human rights issue. As we progress with advances in medical knowledge, it’s important to embrace this as a viable solution, one that is not to cause the condemnation of its users.

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