Pubdate: Tue, 11 Dec 2012
Source: Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA)
Copyright: 2012 The Virginian-Pilot


Battle lines in this nation's war on drugs became slightly more 
complicated last month, when voters in Colorado and Washington became 
the first in the country to legalize use of marijuana. That newfound 
freedom isn't permitted under federal law, and it is unclear how the 
federal and state governments will reconcile their differences.

Legalization of marijuana may not be the most prudent solution for 
regulating America's most popular illicit drug. Other states, 
including Maryland, have passed laws that permit medicinal use. 
Virginia has not.

But by nearly every measure, the federal government's hard-line 
approach - and the one shared by most other states - has been a failure.

An Associated Press investigation found that over the past 40 years, 
the U.S. has thrown more than $1 trillion toward efforts to ban 
marijuana and other drugs. And for that investment, the nation has 
reaped a terrible return, manifest in the deaths of police officers 
enforcing those laws, the proliferation of cartel-affiliated gangs 
and a surge in the number of nonviolent drug offenders locked up.

Those points likely will be among the many discussed Wednesday 
evening at the Naro Expanded Cinema in Norfolk, where Law Enforcement 
Against Prohibition and other advocates of legalizing marijuana will 
converge for a public showing of the documentary, "The House I Live 
In." The film, as The Pilot's Bill Sizemore reported Monday, 
"portrays the drug war as a vast, costly, destructive machine that 
feeds largely on America's poor, especially minority communities."

But another point is equally salient, and it is worth pondering 
regardless of whether you attend the event.

The public awareness campaigns highlighting the perils of tobacco 
use, a highly regulated and taxed substance, have helped drive down 
public use in recent years. Fewer than 20 percent of American adults 
use tobacco, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Marijuana, meanwhile, remains illegal; possession is a jailable 
offense. Yet public use actually has increased in recent years, with 
about 7 percent of U.S. adults using the drug within the past month.

Those findings alone suggest a broader, and more reflective, 
examination of this country's approach toward substance abuse and 
public health is in order.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom