Las Vegas Sun

April 23, 2014

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Where I Stand: Sun Youth Forum:

Examining pot, same-sex marriages

About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 57th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 13. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. Michael McCullough of Coronado High School writes about issues covered by his group, Law and Crime.

A common sentiment is that young adults are oblivious to the world’s affairs or that they just don’t care. Well, at the 57th Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum, students discussed controversial topics.

Ranging from welfare to drug legalization, 24 students from the Las Vegas area discussed Nevada issues. We were given the opportunity to voice the opinions of our generation as well as propose our own solutions to complex problems of today’s society.

Marijuana has become a touchy subject in America, whether it is being discussed for recreational use or medicinal purposes. A clear divide has become apparent — 16 of 24 students agreed that the current law outlawing recreational marijuana use is not beneficial to anyone. One of the highly beneficial pros that were discussed was taxation. Colorado, one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, has implemented a 25 percent tax rate on the substance.

From that tax, $1 billion was raised for educational funds alone, and in a state like Nevada, which has one of the largest school districts in the country, increased funding could be very useful.

However, eight students thought that the risks posed by marijuana cannot be outweighed by a potential increase in public funds. Evidence presented against legalization often cited possible public safety issues. All eight students showed concern about situations where attention is needed, such as driving, because of impairment caused by marijuana. There is no doubt, that when a substance impairs judgment or cognition, it puts everyone at risk for harm.

We then began to look for solutions to these problems, and we agreed that anything that causes impairment would need preventive laws, such as the legal drinking limit to ensure public safety. In the end, the discussion transformed from an argument on whether legalization is justified to how we could legalize recreational marijuana and prevent hurting anyone as well as providing benefits for all.

We then moved on to a topic that has erupted into a full-blown debate in today’s politics: same-sex marriages. The discussion continually ended in the same place, that the issue has no legal basis but rather was philosophical. We deliberated about how the arguments against same-sex marriage are religious or personally motivated with no legal basis for support.

Those in favor of legalization commonly cited the clause in the First Amendment that says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Most arguments presented in opposition to same-sex marriage were motivated by the use of the word “marriage” and its religious connotation.

Those in support agreed that when the word marriage became a part of the legal system, its meaning was no longer biblical because of the separation of church and state.

The illegality of same-sex marriage is unjust, preventing two people who share a relationship from certain benefits that those of “traditional” marriages receive, such as tax breaks or even visiting a loved one in the hospital in the event of an emergency. Despite our disagreements, the majority agreed that it is pointless and unfair to have same-sex marriages remain illegal.

The Las Vegas students, who attended the discussion about law and crime, were faced with the task of debating issues of Nevada’s legal system. The Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum was a constructive opportunity for those students to meet and discuss issues that they found to be important to Nevadans.

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