Cannabis, marijuana, pot - whatever you call it, merely having it could get you in serious trouble.
But the messages that people see of marijuana are usually comical or borderline on the over-the-top.
"When I was growing up, you were more concerned about your parents or your preacher finding out about you smoking marijuana than you would have the police," said Sharon Ravert with Georgia Moms for Marijuana.
Ravert has been outspoken for the past seven years on marijuana legalization. In addition to her position as a director for Moms for Marijuana and the Georgia Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, otherwise known as NORML.
"If prohibition worked, by all means, I'd be all for it," Ravert said. "But it hasn't worked and it won't work. We can't arrest our way out of this."
Ravert believes marijuana needs to be legalized because she believes the war on the drug has long been over. She said the stigma of a possession of marijuana arrest is more damaging than the actual use of the drug.
And Ravert said the numbers speak for themselves.
Marijuana has been illegal in the United States since 1937, but federal government studies show more than 17 million Americans were admitted regular marijuana users in 2010. That number dwarfs all other reported illegal drug use in the studies, which also showed usage rates growing among children as young as 12.
"We know that it's an addictive substance, we know that there's a harm associated with taking marijuana - it impact's an adolescent's brain in a horrible way," said Adam Brickner with the Phoenix Center, a drug addiction treatment facility in Greenville.
He believes marijuana shouldn't be legalized. His reason? Keeping it away from children.
Brickner said he sees about 100 adolescents come in for treatment every year because of chronic marijuana use.
"They're smoking a lot of marijuana by the time they're coming to us," said Brickner. "It's not like we're seeing someone smoking once a week or so."
There's evidence to back up his claims, too.
A 2011 University of Oregon study found that adolescents who were chronic marijuana users had an eight-point drop in their IQ. They also found the effects were non-reversible heading into adulthood.
The study, which is controversial and under fire for the methods used, does underline one big issue that marijuana advocates and their opposition agree on - that use among adolescents needs to stop.
"We do not advocate the use of marijuana, especially for young people," said Ravert. "That is the main reason we do this - it's to protect young people from drugs and marijuana and get it out of the classrooms and back playgrounds."
Both sides acknowledge marijuana use will likely never stop. But the solution that each side has to combating use among teens is different.
One side recommends keeping marijuana illegal.
"My concern is that if it becomes, when it becomes legalized, more adolescents will engage in the behavior, and will have lifelong problems associated with that," said Brickner.
The other side said pot should be regulated like alcohol.
"If my kid has a marijuana cigarette in their bedroom and I find it, you can be rest assured that I'm not going to be happy," Ravert said. "And I'm going to deal with it. But I don't want the police to come to my house and pull my kid out of bed and search her room to find it."
Despite efforts to legalize marijuana, it appears legislators in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia aren't taking up marijuana legalization for all anytime soon.
A state representative in North Carolina, however, has introduced a bill that would legalize medical cannabis, but similar bills have failed in the past in the General Assembly.
But both sides in the debate over legalization said this is conversation that is long overdue.
No matter what anyone thinks of marijuana, they said it's high time to talk, and the conversation is getting louder.
Copyright 2013 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Monday, December 9 2013 3:27 PM EST2013-12-09 20:27:38 GMT
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