Pubdate: Thu, 02 Feb 2012
Source: Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT)
Copyright: 2012 Deseret News Publishing Corp.


Opponents of the movement to allow marijuana use for medical purposes 
have long warned it is the foot in the door toward what supporters 
really want - full acceptance of recreational marijuana use. Those 
warnings are gradually coming true.

Later this week, Washington state is expected to certify petition 
signatures to place a measure on November's ballot legalizing 
marijuana for recreational purposes. Colorado officials may do the 
same with an initiative petition there soon. Both states already 
allow medical marijuana, as do 14 others and the District of 
Columbia. Supporters of the initiatives say they have a responsible 
approach that restricts usage to adults. Washington would allow sales 
through only those outlets licensed by the state, which would control 
production. Drunken driving laws would be changed to include limits 
on the blood content of THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

But there really is no responsible way to expand the universe of 
harmful substances that are acceptable by law. While there are 
legitimate arguments for changing the focus of the criminal justice 
system to one of treatment, rather than imprisonment, for users, 
there would be no public benefit in making the drug legal. Marijuana 
is a mind-altering and addictive substance that is detrimental to health.

Even the arguments that legal marijuana would undercut and destroy 
the lucrative illegal drug trade should be tempered by a dose of 
reality. A tightly controlled marijuana market still would encourage 
drug traffickers to cultivate and sell a type of marijuana that is 
more potent than the official brand. Meanwhile, the idea that 
sanctioning a drug would somehow reduce the rate of usage, as some 
claim, is fuzzy thinking, at best. For several reasons, including 
history and culture, the marijuana trade is not analogous to alcohol 
during prohibition.

Fortunately, the White House has been consistent in its policy 
against the legalization of marijuana. In a statement late last year, 
the Obama administration seemed to indicate it is prepared to 
continue the long-standing policy of not granting immunity from 
federal drug prosecution because of contradictory state laws.

At the time, Obama's director of the Office of National Drug Control 
Policy said, "...legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to 
any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and 
community quality of life challenges associated with drug use." He 
also mentioned the drug's connection to respiratory disease, 
cognitive impairment and addiction.

Supporters have been buoyed by a recent Gallup poll that showed 50 
percent of Americans supporting legalization, a record level of 
support. That is the opposite of what appears to be happening in 
Europe, where support is dwindling despite some countries' experience 
with permissive laws.

California voters rejected a similar legalization measure in 2010. 
They may have been influenced by the strong opposition of the 
American Society for Addiction Medicine, as well as by common sense. 
We hope similar thinking prevails in Washington and Colorado.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom