Pubdate: Thu, 17 Jan 2013
Source: New York Post (NY)
Copyright: 2013 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
Author: Naomi Schaefer Riley
Page: 31


It's Not the Well-Off Who'll Pay

LAST week, the board of The Fontaine, a luxury Upper East Side co-op, 
sued a resident over what it alleges is a constant, overwhelming 
smell of marijuana wafting from his apartment. This may just be a 
glimpse of our future.

After all, Colorado and Washington state voters just passed ballot 
initiatives to allow state-regulated marijuana sales. And Gov. Cuomo 
in his State of the State Address just suggested that pot possession 
shouldn't be illegal.

But legalization raises a host of neglected issues. As one Fontaine 
resident complains in the lawsuit, "It is 10:45 p.m. and my apartment 
smells like a party was going on while I was out for the evening . . 
. The stench of musty pot that is lingering in my closet is unbearable."

Lots of high-end New York buildings go (tobacco) smoke-free now - 
surely plenty will want the same if marijuana's legal.

What else changes in this brave new world of pot legalization?

Christopher Wildeman, a sociologist at Yale, estimates that pot 
consumption would rise 10 percent the first year after legalization, 
then edge back down to a net gain of 3 percent or 4 percent. But just 
who would be smoking more?

In photos of the celebrations after those ballot measures passed, we 
see a lot of college students having a good time, along with a few 
shabbily dressed grown-ups. But businessmen, doctors, lawyers, 
teachers and stay-at-home moms didn't rush out into the street to light up.

Cuomo cited racial disparities in arrests as the main reason to 
legalize, saying, "It's not fair, it's not right. It must end, and it 
must end now." But what about the disparate impact of legalization?

Anthony Daniels, a retired British prison doctor and psychiatrist, 
says that, if legalization increases consumption, "My suspicion is 
that it will mainly increase among people with comparatively little 
responsibility" - that is, the young and the poor.

He compares it with heroin. In the 1920s and 30s, it was mostly an 
occasional habit of the middle classes, he says, "But as it permeated 
into lower classes, it became a way of life in and of itself." And 
the effects were devastating.

Brad Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, worries 
that legalizing pot opens up a "Pandora's box that will only create 
one more potential problem" for the lower classes. He explains, "The 
new world we live in is about freedom and choice in any number of 
domains. People who are well-educated and affluent can successfully 
navigate those choices. But Americans with fewer advantages fall into 
self-destructive patterns."

Says Daniels: "For the most part, drug use is not going to rise among 
people who have important jobs and will not want to lose their 
important jobs because they are stoned."

Nor will it affect what middleclass parents teach their children. As 
Wildeman notes, "Smoking [cigarettes] is legal, but if you look at 
the average middle-class parent, the stigma they attach to smoking is 
so strong that whether it's legal or illegal has a tiny effect on 
that population."

But among the lower classes, it's a different story. In a 2006 study, 
a Harvard economist found that more than a third of Americans with a 
ninth-to 11th-grade education smoked, compared to only 7 percent of 
people with a graduate degree. The lower life expectancy of poor 
people has been tied to higher smoking rates.

Yes, tobacco smoke is far more toxic than pot fumes. But marijuana 
still has detrimental effects. As Wilcox notes, "If pot is indeed a 
kind of drug that makes people more likely to become kind of docile, 
if it saps the will to go out and make your mark on the world, then 
it's the last thing we need to give to working-class and poor men." 
They are already "dropping out of the labor market" at alarming 
rates. Pot may only "accentuate the problem."

As for the rest of us, we can just head to the Upper East Side.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom