Pubdate: Tue, 06 Apr 2010
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2010 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Peter B. Bensinger


Tribune columnist Steve Chapman's "An unconventional cure for 
Mexico's drug violence; Legalization of marijuana is the cartels' 
worst nightmare" (Commentary, March 28) proposes legalization of 
marijuana in California.

This would make matters worse.

It would not stop crime but would increase health problems and costs, 
highway deaths, workplace accidents, absenteeism at work and school, 
and lower academic achievement, and it would open up a bigger market 
for the drug cartels.

Here's why:

At what age and what quantity limit for possession? The cartels would 
fight over the territory, not just in Mexico but in California. They 
would go after the youth, ages 10 to 21; they would offer 
high-powered "pot" and larger amounts so dealers could resell to 
minors and out-of-state buyers.

Health consequences would be enormous.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves all medicines in the 
U.S., as it should, but has never approved smoked marijuana nor any 
medicine that is smoked.

Marijuana has cancer-causing elements and tar content.

Chronic use would flood California emergency rooms.

Health costs will skyrocket with accidents and when the negative 
impact on immune and respiratory systems occur.

Violence in Mexico has escalated because traffickers feel the heat 
from the Mexican military.

It is no longer business as usual.

The traffickers' drugs, money and leaders are being seized; the 
cartels are fighting back, fighting each other and the police. They 
are hurting and can no longer bribe their way with impunity. The 
Mexican government's determined efforts have brought this about. 
Violence has also been caused by our appetite for drugs and easy 
availability of guns from the U.S. Highway accidents from drugged 
drivers are already a problem.

With marijuana legal, California highways would become death traps.

We need to reduce marijuana use, not increase it.

We need to help Mexico deal with cartel violence with reduced demand, 
restrictions on guns and money crossing the border, and with better 
prevention, education and intervention.

Giving up on the health and safety of residents in California is no answer.

Peter B. Bensinger, former administrator, U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Administration (1976-1981), former U.S. representative to Interpol 
(Department of Justice, 1978), member, Educating Voices Inc., Chicago
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart