Pubdate: Sun, 21 Jul 2013
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2013 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Joshua C. Zappone


The editorial "Reefer madness: End prohibition" (July 12 and advocating "flat-out federal legalization, taxation and
regulation" of marijuana needed to take into account more facts before
jumping to this conclusion.

Statistics prove the rate of past-30-days use of marijuana by
Americans age 12 or older in 1979 was 13.2 percent. In 2008, that
figure stood at 6.1 percent. This 54-percent reduction in marijuana
use over that 29-year period is not a failure. Activists fail to
recognize that the greatest costs of marijuana are not related to its
prohibition, but result from marijuana use itself.

Alcohol-related costs total over $185 billion, while only $14.5
billion is generated in tax revenue; similarly, tobacco use costs over
$200 billion, but only $25 billion is collected in taxes. Why have we
not already learned our lesson from these other two substances?

People argue whether marijuana is a "gateway" drug. Investigating
hundreds of drug overdose deaths in my career, the majority of those
individuals began their drug use by way of marijuana before moving on
to other illicit drugs. We saw a record 78 drug overdose deaths in
Westmoreland County in 2012. Legalizing another psychoactive substance
is not the right idea for public health or to prevent more
drug-related deaths in our community.

Joshua C. Zappone


The writer is a Westmoreland County deputy coroner.
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