Washington and Colorado recently approved the legal use of recreational marijuana.
However, before citizens break out their bongs and pipes, the United States federal government still considers marijuana use illegal, overruling state laws.
“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in a statement released to the public. “This is a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or goldfish too quickly.”
The legislation of recreational use of marijuana does not mean people can just go crazy and start growing, selling or publicly smoke marijuana. USA Today reports that under the Colorado and Washington laws, it is only legal for someone 21 and older to purchase and possess marijuana. Personal possession cannot exceed one ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana. Washington and Colorado (and any state in the future that passes the law) will have state-licensed stores set up to dispense marijuana.
While Colorado and Washington begin to sort out the complication with the approval of legalizing marijuana, it seems that people all over the United States are speaking out about their hopes that marijuana will become legal for recreational use in all states.
“I think legalizing of marijuana for recreational use could only benefit our states and country,” said Nathan Woodruff, a student at UNA. “The government can put a tax on marijuana and use that tax money to better schools, neighborhoods, and all that stuff. If Alabama legalized recreational use of pot, Alabama could greatly improve.”
Improving states’ welfare seems to be an element of legalizing marijuana. In Washington, marijuana will be taxed three times. According to CNN, marijuana will be taxed when the grower sells it to the processor, again when the processor sells it to the retailer, and lastly when the retailer the processor sells it to the customer.
“The legal systems in Washington and Colorado can now focus on criminal acts that really matter,” said Tyree Busbee, a recent UNA graduate. “Marijuana is not a dangerous drug like some of the others out there. Smoking weed doesn’t hurt anyone. Now the police will be able to deal with real problems instead of chasing pot heads.”
However, not everyone is so optimistic about the legalizing of recreational marijuana.
“I don’t want a bunch of potheads out driving around just because weed is legal,” said Dana Roper, a concerned parent of a UNA student. “If marijuana even becomes an issue in the state of Alabama, I will definitely protest against it.”
In light of recent events, personal safety on campus has become a top concern of UNA students.
After a string of Lion Alerts alerting students of an alleged sexual assault, a strong-armed robbery, and a few other incidents, students have began to take action to protect themselves against crime.
When asked on Twitter what UNA students were doing to make themselves feel safe, one UNA student responded she was transferring schools. However, not everyone is going to that extreme.
“I am buying a taser,” said Deandra Elliot, a social work major at UNA. “I have also become more aware of my surroundings. I do whatever it takes to not be alone on campus after dark, and if I have to be on campus after dark, I use the buddy system.”
The official policy of UNA prohibits weapons such as tasers, knives over a certain length, and obviously firearms. Guns are still not permitted on campus, but Bob Pastula, UNA’s Chief of Police, has said otherwise about other weapons for self-protection.
“I don’t have a problem with students carrying tasers for personal safety,” said Pastula. “Knives cannot be over eleven inches long when spread out. Students should follow the guidelines set by the handbook about knives.”
Besides carrying protection, students are being encouraged to sign up for RAD, which is Rape Aggression Defense Training. This class is open only to females, but Pastula hopes that UNA will offer self-defense classes to everyone in the near future.
“Another way students can feel safe is to use SNAP,” Pastula said. SNAP, Students Nighttime Auxillary Patrol, is a nightly escort service staffed by students that will take a person anywhere on campus. Escorts are available by calling 256-765-HELP during the hours of 8:30 PM to 2:00 AM.
“It’s not just campus I don’t feel safe on,” said Whitney Cooper, a senior at UNA. “The city of Florence has had quite a few incidents that has just made me not feel safe to be alone in my home. For my personal protection at home, I do have a gun.”
As the university police work to improve safety situations, by adding cameras to the parking deck and increasing patrol in certain areas, students should still use their best judgement when being on campus.
“You never know what day someone will decide to lose their minds,” Elliot said. “I want to feel safe where I pay to go to school, so if that means carrying around a taser or a can of pepper spray, I will do what I have to do protect myself.”
Fall was definitely in the air this past Friday night as the city of Florence held its monthly First Friday celebration.
Downtown Florence was bustling with activity on Friday night as the town celebrated its month First Friday. The streets were filled with artists, vendors, and entertainment while restaurants and shops offered deals to attract event goers. This month’s theme was inspired by fall. Pumpkins were scattered about shop entrances, and there was a pumpkin carving contest.
Before the event took place, the city of Florence offered fun pumpkin facts on the Facebook page for First Fridays.
“The vendors, as always, keep people entertained,” said Katie Gambles, a local resident. “The weather was perfect. You couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to hold a First Friday on.”
“I enjoyed walking around downtown, getting to look at all the cool stuff that people had to offer,” Gambles said.
People had the opportunity to set up a table and sell their items such as art or handmade crafts. A variety of unique items were offered at First Friday. Artists had a chance to display paintings, while others sold handmade purses, knickknacks, and other crafts.
“I enjoyed walking around and looking at what people had made to sell,” said Jake McCormack, a student at UNA. “I like to buy stuff that is handmade rather than made in a store because I believe handmade stuff is created with love.”
McCormack also pointed out how all the businesses of Downtown Florence come together to welcome the public to downtown.
“I love the sense of community I get when I attend a First Friday event,” said McCormack. “This month’s celebration was just as fun as the past ones.”
McCormack said kids enjoyed First Friday as well.
“There was a face painting booth set up for kids,” McCormack said. “There is no way that they could not love that.”
Restaurants and shops of downtown were open for business. Some even offered deals to entice visitors.
“My clientele doubled this past Friday night,” said Brian Mann, a server at FloBama in Downtown Florence. “People were coming in to get a drink or food after walking around the street. I was happy with the money I made that night.”
“The band offered people a chance to come in and relax, maybe drink a beer,” Mann said. “Businesses of downtown had to of been happy with the turn out because I sure was!”