President Ronald Reagan once called Marijuana “probably the most dangerous drug” in the United States. But throughout the past decade, the drug has undergone a rehabilitation to its image. It features in music, TV shows and entertainment programs and has even been smoked on live television.
The Yemeni American News
Marijuana is now legal in some form in 33 states, including Michigan, where it has been legalized for recreational purposes. Our neighbor to the north – Canada – has also lifted the ban on the drug, federally.
The US government still considers it illegal, but it has allowed states to pass their own policies on it.
While many would argue that Reagan’s comments were exaggerated and used to further a political agenda, critics say marijuana has been made to appear as a harmless, if not beneficial drugs, ignoring its negative health effects and social impact, especially on young people.
Moreover, like most things that can be bought and sold, marijuana is now a big business – an industry with lobbies and PR machines that push to make it more accessible and desirable in order to increase profits.
Parents in the Arab American community are worried.
Escaping the stigma
Abdullah Ahmad, a Hamtramck resident and small business owner, called on parents to spend more time with their children to fill any voids that may lead the kids to drug abuse.
“Consuming marijuana is now legal in Michigan, but the health, safety and future of our children is more important than the legality or illegality of the drug,” Ahmad said. “Marijuana is destructive for the new American generation in general, let alone the future of our community that is built on social and religious bonds. We have to address these issues and find solutions without trying to run away from the ‘scandal’ and the stigma.”
Ahmad, who is a father of eight added that it is not difficult for teenagers to slip away into the drug culture, especially because of the availability of weed now.
“We must reserve some time to our children. We cannot let work take us far away from our family, without knowing their concerns.”
Fouad Mohammad, who works at a gas station in Detroit, said young people now smoke marijuana like it is a normal phenomenon, without any reservations or even attempt to hide the activity.
“There isn’t even any shame when buying the wrapping paper for weed,” he said.
Recent studies have proven that weed can have certain health benefits: It can help with chronic pain and neurological diseases; it can treat cancer-related side effects; and one of its active ingredients is said to reduce anxiety.
However, critics say these benefits are narrow and specific. Popularizing the drug has made people view it as a harmless herb, but it remains a strong mind-altering substance that has proven harms to the brain and body, especially when consumed by young people.
Pharmacist Baligh al-Kini says marijuana’s long-term effects are dangerous. The drug can cause developmental and psychological issues in young people.
Marijuana critics point to the fact that weed causes psychosis that is linked to violence.
Other harmful effects of marijuana, according to al-Kini, include high blood pressure, dehydration and unmanageable appetite.
Although voters in Michigan delivered a decisive victory for weed legalization in November. Dozens of cities across the state have moved almost immediately to ban marijuana establishments from their communities.
Dearborn and neighboring Dearborn Heights both banned weed shops from their cities. Local politicians argue that such establishment may bring unwanted activity that would bring down property prices in the long run.
Given the freshness of the issue, they say city councils should study such effects before allowing weed shops to open.
“We have done a lot of research and had a lot of discussion on this… Since this law is new, there could be some unforeseen consequences of its implementation,” Dearborn City Council President Susan Dabaja said last month.
The ordinance outlaws weed businesses and growers, but the possession of marijuana is still legal across the state.
Dearborn passed the decision in a 6-1 vote, with only Councilwoman Erin Byrnes voting against it, calling for more time to study the issue.