Pubdate: Wed, 27 May 2009
Source: Christian Science Monitor (US)
Copyright: 2009 The Christian Science Publishing Society
Author: Paul Armentano


Regarding the May 22 editorial, "Legalize marijuana? Not so fast":
Marijuana is not a "harmless" substance. Very few things humans put
into their body are. However, cannabis's potential health risks to the
user are low compared with those of other intoxicants - alcohol and
tobacco in particular - and the drug's relative impact on society is

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, alcohol consumption
is the third leading cause of death in America, trailing only tobacco
smoking and poor diet. By contrast, marijuana use - as admitted by the
Monitor - cannot cause fatal overdose and is relatively nontoxic to
healthy human cells and organs.

In fact, a 2007 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study
reported that cannabis use was responsible for zero deaths and only
0.2 percent of the estimated total burden of disease and injury in
that country. (Marijuana use rates in Australia are comparable to
those in the United States.)

Further, it is disingenuous to highlight pot's potential risks, of
which there are relatively few, while simultaneously ignoring the
costs associated with enforcing marijuana prohibition, of which there
are many.

The continued criminalization of cannabis has led to the arrest of
over 20 million Americans since 1965, empowered and enriched criminal
entrepreneurs, and alienated millions of otherwise law-abiding
citizens while creating widespread disrespect for the rule of law
among minorities and young people. At the same time, this expensive
and arbitrary policy has done virtually nothing to address the very
concerns voiced by the Monitor.

Clearly it is time to try a different approach.

Paul Armentano

Deputy director, NORML | NORML Foundation

Vallejo, Calif.
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