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Archive for Monday, November 26, 2012

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Double Take: Pros and cons of legalizing marijuana

November 26, 2012

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Dear Dr. Wes and Katie: With the recent passage of laws legalizing recreational marijuana in some states, do you think this is a good idea and do you think it’s going to spread to other states (like maybe ours!)?

Katie: Since Election Day, news columns have been doused with comparisons between current marijuana laws and 1920’s prohibition.

The similarities are too palpable to ignore: bans on alcohol and marijuana have never succeeded in this country. Just as prohibition didn’t sober up the American public, U.S. drug policies haven’t stopped teens and adults alike from getting “potted up,” as Steve Doocy from “Fox & Friends” calls it.

I’ve been overhearing stories of so-and-so’s weed weekend since seventh grade. According to a 2011 survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 22.6 percent of high school seniors reported using marijuana in the month preceding the survey, and 6.6 percent said they used it daily.

Another disturbing product of anti-marijuana policies is organized crime — which, not incidentally, also rose during Prohibition. Legalizing marijuana will likely cut down on drug-related crime, and we can only hope that regulating sellers might make it more difficult for underage users to get their hands on the drug.

The victims of legalization are, however, the current and future marijuana addicts. Legalizing any substance shifts the responsibility to the users’ self-control, and moderation isn’t generally America’s strong suit. Ideally, I’d like to see states take it upon themselves to initiate treatment programs and educate people about safe marijuana use.

For states, legalization is shaping up to be a boon: not only will they make money off of taxation, but they’ll also curb wasted resources chasing down and imprisoning users for possession of a drug that’s cited as no more dangerous than alcohol.

Whether more states follow Colorado and Washington’s lead depends on federalism now because the state referendums contradict federal law. In either case, given the traditional coalitions in our home state of Kansas, I doubt we’ll have to worry about changing drug laws anytime soon.

In the meantime, our neighbors in the Rockies might be seeing a hike in tourism in a few months.

Dr. Wes: Well, that question didn’t take long to show up in the inbox.

Katie’s pro-legalization perspective is on par with most of the teens and young adults I know, including those who don’t smoke (much). And yes, as any fan of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” or Ken Burns’ “Prohibition” knows, the Volstead Act was a disaster.

But people forget that this bad idea came about for a reason. That’s why Burns named his first episode “A Nation of Drunkards.”

But that’s not how young (and lots of not-so-young) people look at marijuana use today. Those stats Katie cites? They’re all self-reported and undoubtedly underestimate the real use among teens.

It is, in fact, a rare teen who thinks only 22 percent of the peer group smoked last month. Ask yours and see.

Yet most of the under-25 crowd don’t look around and see “A Nation of Potheads.” They see a wonderful herb, just waiting to become a normal part of our legal economy and social life. They accept that pot use has gone from a recreational drug to a fact of daily life.

In fact, they tout the virtues of marijuana over other “bad drugs” and argue that it is a wrongly oppressed source of great good. As with most social and political movements, the pro-weed fervor goes way over the top.

Last week on NPR’s Fresh Air, Newsweek journalist Tony Dokoupil offered a fairly balanced perspective — though he got a little carried away comparing a Colorado marijuana farm to “a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of pot.” But he posited what we all know — decriminalization is coming.

He also offered the position I have chosen to take today: “Sure, marijuana is less harmful than Jack Daniels, but that’s not the same thing as safe or helpful in the home or workplace, or good.”

Legalization is the right move simply because what we’re doing with this drug right now isn’t just failing; it’s absurd for all the reasons Katie cites.

Yet Dokoupil offers one truly sobering note (pun intended): Americans currently use marijuana at THREE TIMES the global average. With legalization and the accompanying marketing efforts of big corporations, that use will increase THREE FOLD again.

While all those taxes rock my world, I’d remind lawmakers to direct about half straight into substance abuse treatment programs. We already need them, and we’re going to need them even more.

Comments

kawrivercrow 1 year, 4 months ago

Who is this so-called 'Dr' Crenshaw and what is his doctorate in? Theology?

I've never seen a cogent and objective argument in favor of prohibition. This one is no exception.

1

Liberty275 1 year, 4 months ago

Sure, legalize dope and how are we going to keep our prisons full? Why do you people hate prison guards? Your going to put them out of their job humiliating or beating up the dopers, and you know they are going to go home and humiliate and beat their wives and kids instead.

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Guither 1 year, 4 months ago

The vast majority of those in treatment for marijuana use today are there not because they are addicted, but because they have been referred there by the criminal justice system. In other words, they're in treatment because they got caught with pot (even those who do voluntarily enter often do so because their lawyer said it would make it look better to the judge).

Legalization will cause a dramatic drop in treatment for marijuana, which will open up beds for the more difficult cases.

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Don Brennaman 1 year, 4 months ago

Senior citizens aren't asking to use recreational drugs; we are self medicating and deserve to do so. Please GOP no new taxes.

0

grammaddy 1 year, 4 months ago

Big Pharma is the big block towards legalization nation wide. The U.S. government has done many studies and has known that marijuana is capable of blocking and even stopping many kinds of cancer.Since you can't patent a plant, there is no money in it for Big Pharma and they are a very large lobbying group.

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deec 1 year, 4 months ago

I had an elderly uncle who played guitar for his Gospel church's choir. In other words, he was pretty darn conservative. When he got cancer, he started smoking marijuana because it was the only thing that stimulated his appetite. It helped him keep food down, and helped with pain management. His grandson, a high school student, kept him supplied.

In the eyes of the law, my law-abiding uncle became a criminal so he wouldn't starve to death while dying of cancer.

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geekin_topekan 1 year, 4 months ago

" With legalization and the accompanying marketing efforts of big corporations, that use will increase THREE FOLD again. "

++++

Really? Why not stick TEN FOLD in there and it would make just as much sense.

What I do believe is that the number of open-users will increase THREE FOLD. In other words the UN-closeted users will give the illusion of an increase but the truth of that matter is, they were there all along. Should open-use become legal, you'll amazed at who uses. your next door neighbor? Probably. The old lady who walkher dog past your house every morning? Since before you were born.

THREE FOLD, now that's fear-mongering at its finest!

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Briseis 1 year, 4 months ago

A stoned constituency is a compliant constituency. Legalization of marijuana is necessary to clear the way to get other real issues done that need to be done. Like banning cigarettes from people to save them from polluting their lungs.

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malcolmkyle 1 year, 4 months ago

Ending prohibition would greatly reduce, even almost eliminate, the market in illegal narcotics, cause a reduction in the number of users and addicts, greatly curtail drug related illness and deaths, reduce societal harm from problematic abusers, and bring about an enormous reduction in the presence and influence of organized crime. The people who use drugs are our own children, our brothers, our sisters, our parents, and our neighbors. By allowing all adults safe and controlled legal access to psychoactive substances, we will not only greatly reduce the dangers for both them and ourselves but also greatly minimize the possibility of 'peer-initiation' and sales to minors.

"Evidence provides no indication that decriminalization leads to a measurable increase in marijuana use."

— Boston University Department of Economics

"There is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use."

— National Academy of Sciences

"The preponderance of the evidence which we have gathered and examined points to the conclusion that decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people."

— The University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research

"The Dutch experience, together with those of a few other countries with more modest policy changes, provides a moderately good empirical case that removal of criminal prohibitions on cannabis possession (decriminalization) will not increase the prevalence of marijuana or any other illicit drug; the argument for decriminalization is thus strong."

— British Journal of Psychiatry

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Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 4 months ago

"The victims of legalization are, however, the current and future marijuana addicts."

There are two European countries that have effectively legalized marijuana and hashish, the Netherlands, and Portugal. And lo and behold, in both of those countries the use of them by teenagers is lower than in the United States. So forget that one, that argument is fantasy.

"For states, legalization is shaping up to be a boon: not only will they make money off of taxation, but they’ll also curb wasted resources chasing down and imprisoning users for possession of a drug that’s cited as no more dangerous than alcohol."

That is absolutely ridiculous. The USA has plenty of money, as proven by the incredibly high number of inmates incarcerated for marijuana and hashish at $50,000 + a year. That budget talk of a shortage of money in Washington is just a smokescreen to raise taxes, because on top of those tens of billions of dollars, is a fortune spent on enforcement.

So don't worry about it, it's all under control. Well, in the Netherlands and Portugal, anyway.

Something else to think about is that the marijuana plant has been in use for about 5,000 years, since about the time the Pyramids were being built in Giza, and has been illegal in the United States since 1937.

Which is going to outlast the other?

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