Pubdate: Tue, 29 Oct 2013
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2013 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Debra J. Saunders


When opinion shifts in modern America, the change can be like a flash 
flood. Three years ago, 54 percent of California voters rejected 
Proposition 19, which would have legalized the recreational use of 
marijuana. Last year, Colorado and Washington voters approved 
measures to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Last week, 
Gallup released a poll that found 58 percent of Americans support 
legalizing the recreational use of marijuana - a 10-point jump from 
one year ago. Sunday's New York Times reports that a template for how 
the two states will regulate marijuana may be found in California.

Since voters approved Proposition 215 to legalize medical marijuana 
in 1996, Adam Nagourney and Rick Lyman report, the requirements for 
getting a medical marijuana card "have been notoriously lax."

It turns out Prop. 215 opponents were right and wrong.

The official ballot argument against Prop. 215 argued that the 
measure was designed to "exploit public compassion for the sick in 
order to legalize and legitimatize the widespread use of marijuana in 
California." Clearly some recreational users have gamed the system.

But they were wrong about the outcome. Despite dire warnings about 
Prop. 215 shielding drug dealers and allowing unlimited quantities of 
marijuana to grow near schoolyards, medical marijuana doesn't seem to 
have increased teenage use.

A 2012 study found "little evidence of a relationship between 
legalizing medical marijuana and the use of marijuana among high 
school students. Researchers D. Mark Anderson of Montana State 
University and Daniel I. Rees of the University of Colorado examined 
the data in Los Angeles, where the number of dispensaries surged to 
more than 600 by 2010, and found teen usage to be no greater than in 
cities without medical-marijuana dispensaries.

In a piece published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and 
Management, Anderson and Rees found studies that linked legal medical 
marijuana to a reduction in heavy drinking among 18- to 29-year-olds 
and a 5 percent decrease in beer sales.

The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management also published a 
counterpoint piece that found the evidence on marijuana use leading 
to less alcohol use was mixed and uncertain.

There are three things we know:

1. Alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta 
found no documented case of death from a marijuana overdose. 
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 
some 80,000 Americans die from excessive alcohol use each year.

2. Marijuana does have medical uses. That's why the California 
Medical Association recommends the legalization and regulation of cannabis.

3. The war on marijuana is a waste of money. When federal prosecutors 
go after medical marijuana dispensers, they are using a nuclear 
weapon to incarcerate people for using or distributing a nonlethal drug.

As Amanda Reiman of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance put it, 
"Prohibiting marijuana, prohibiting dispensaries, doesn't make 
marijuana go away."
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