Pubdate: Tue, 30 Oct 2012
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2012 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: John McKay
Note: John McKay, a professor at the Seattle University School of
Law, served as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of
Washington from 2001 to 2007.


As a former chief federal prosecutor in Washington state, I observed
firsthand our nation's dangerous marijuana policy. Decades of
experience demonstrates marijuana prohibition has failed to reduce use
by tens of millions of Americans.

Instead, international drug cartels, violent gangs and street pushers
control the trade and reap the profits. Our sworn officers and agents
put themselves at risk every day to defend this flawed policy.

Public safety suffers under marijuana prohibition and so does public
health. Marijuana use is not without risk, but these risks are nothing
like those of heroin, cocaine or meth. Leaving marijuana in the hands
of black-market profiteers prevents us from regulating potency or
purity, testing for adulterants or requiring accurate labeling.

Opponents of reform argue that legal access for adults will increase
use by kids. Youth already have easy access to marijuana. Street
dealers don't check ID, and they don't have to worry about losing
their business license if they offer more dangerous drugs like heroin,
cocaine and meth.

We don't need to arrest adults for using marijuana to discourage
children from doing the same. Academic and scientific studies have
shown that removing criminal penalties for marijuana use does not
increase use among teenagers. In fact, peer-reviewed studies published
in the Annals of Epidemiology have shown a decline in marijuana use
after laws have been reformed.

We also have a proven track record of influencing youth
decision-making about substance use through information campaigns,
bans on advertising directed at our youth, and reshaping cultural and
social norms.

We should legalize marijuana for adults, while tightly regulating and
taxing its manufacture and sale. Some argue we should wait for federal
law to change before changing state laws. Our experience with alcohol
Prohibition suggests otherwise, and on Election Day, Washington state
voters will lead the way toward much-needed change in federal law and
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