Pubdate: Mon, 31 Oct 2011
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2011 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Peter Bensinger


In Steve Chapman's commentary ("On weed: Dazed and confused no more" 
Oct. 27), he argues for legalization of marijuana and says that drug 
enforcement has not worked, but he disregards the facts. He mentions 
Jimmy Carter's comments about reducing penalties.

I served as the Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Administration during the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations and 
penalties for marijuana sales under Carter were increased, and the 
Asset Forfeiture Law passed, allowing seizure of assets derived from 
illegal drug deals. More importantly, in 1978, 25.4 million Americans 
used illegal drugs, 11 percent of our population (225 million); in 
2009, there were 22 million, 7 percent (of 305 million). So don't 
tell us drug laws have not worked.

Yes, millions use marijuana; our highway accidents tell that story. A 
report in Epidemiolgic Reviews titled, "Marijuana and Motor Vehicle 
Crashes," documents that using marijuana puts an individual at a 
significantly higher risk of causing motor vehicle crashes, twice as 
many as non-marijuana users. Legalize marijuana? Highways become far 
more dangerous and so will workplaces.

Alcohol leaves the body at the rate of one drink an hour; marijuana 
stays in the body/brain for days, even weeks if used regularly. 
Employers use drug tests to screen employees. Now what would they do? 
Hire employees high on pot that will have higher accidents, 
absenteeism and disciplinary problems. Research proves that would happen.

The Gallup Poll says one out of two people favor legalization. The 
public doesn't know the facts. They do not know that marijuana, with 
468 different chemicals, has much higher cancer causing agents and 
tar than tobacco cigarettes. The FDA, the World Health Organization 
and The American Cancer Society have concluded that smoking marijuana 
is neither safe nor effective.

Science provides persuasive evidence that legalization would be a 
terrible mistake for our children, families, industry, 
transportation, health care and society. The science on marijuana 
needs to reach the public so it can be truly informed.

- -- Peter Bensinger, former Administrator of U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Administration, Chicago
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