Pubdate: Sun, 13 Jan 2008
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2008 Burlington Free Press
Author: John Quinn
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Before the "Let's decriminalize marijuana" train leaves the station 
here in Vermont, I think that legislators and others should think 
about the potential impact on Vermont should we declare marijuana to 
be legal or decriminalized.

Advocates for the decriminalization of marijuana have argued that we 
are losing the war on drugs. They argue that the jails are being 
filled with these minor offenders and that our resources are not 
being used wisely. As a prosecutor of 30 years I can unequivocally 
state that such claims are extreme exaggerations or outright lies. 
These advocates cannot show me a case in Vermont where a person went 
to jail solely for the possession of a small amount of pot. I have 
sent hundreds of people to diversion for such an offense. In 
diversion they are asked to do some counseling and community service 
in exchange for their case being dismissed.

How many of Vermont's youths would take up pot smoking if it were no 
longer against the law? A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? Do we 
really want to permit the young people of this state to engage in the 
use of a substance that robs them of motivation, puts them in an 
altered state of mind, and potentially has them driving on the 
highways of Vermont while under the influence of marijuana?

One of the great television ads regarding marijuana shows a 
20-something male playing video games with his friends in his 
smoke-filled bedroom. A voice in the other room calls out to him 
asking if he's found a job yet. The young man replies, "No, not yet, 
Mom!" The viewer then realizes that these young men are wasting their 
lives away playing video games in their parents' homes. The ad 
concludes with the words, "Who says that marijuana is not harmful?"

Those advocating for the decriminalization of marijuana know that pot 
smoking puts the user in a dreamlike state of mind. They get the 
"munchies" and have no ambition to accomplish anything. Is that what 
we want for our children?

We are now part of a global society and global economy. Our young 
people will be entering a workplace where we compete with highly 
productive workers in other countries. Instead of decriminalizing 
drug use, we should be setting an example that people get ahead by 
getting a good education, working hard, and being productive. If we 
want to compete in a global society we need to be motivated to 
produce materials and ideas for the world. Pot smoking will not 
assist our society in becoming more productive.

While I don't subscribe to the scare tactics of others that marijuana 
use automatically leads to harder drugs, it is often the case that I 
see a person charged with heroin, cocaine, or some other "hard drug" 
has a prior conviction for possession of marijuana. Those with 
"addictive" personalities, and who might not have ever tried 
marijuana for fear of getting caught by the authorities, may find 
themselves tempted by the high of marijuana and want to try something 
a little stronger. If keeping marijuana use illegal keeps one kid 
from becoming a drug addict, then we've saved a life.

While we're considering the impact on the youth of this state, we had 
also better consider the impact on the rest of us when the other 49 
states discover that Vermont allows pot smoking. Will every "pot 
head" in the country decide to move to Vermont? Shouldn't we be 
advocating for healthy lifestyles? I thought we were trying to get 
people to stop smoking. Decriminalizing marijuana in Vermont will 
lead to more smoking by our youth and an increased risk of lung 
cancer. Decriminalizing marijuana in Vermont will lead to more 
substance abuse and unhealthy lifestyles. It's a bad idea.

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John T. Quinn of Weybridge is Addison County state's attorney.
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