Pubdate: Sun, 14 Dec 2014
Source: Columbia Daily Tribune (MO)
Copyright: 2014 Columbia Daily Tribune
Note: Prints the street address of LTE writers.
Author: Bob Roper
Note: Bob Roper is a retired banking executive.


On Nov. 4, voters in Oregon and Alaska passed initiatives legalizing 
recreational marijuana. This, of course, follows Colorado and 
Washington state, whose voters did the same not long ago. The trend 
is obvious - and hardly surprising considering in a recent poll 
Americans said, by 56 percent to 44 percent, that marijuana should be 
legalized provided it is appropriately regulated, as with alcohol.

There is a great irony here. Just as the legalization trend 
accelerates, maybe to the point of being unstoppable, the accumulated 
medical and scientific evidence proving marijuana is in fact a 
dangerous drug is overwhelming. Here are some of the studies and useful facts:

This year an American Psychological Association study found young 
people who become addicted to marijuana lose an average of 6 IQ 
points by adulthood. A similar, 2012 New Zealand study found the loss 
to be 8 IQ points.

According to The Lancet Psychiatry, a British health research 
journal, teenagers who smoke marijuana daily are 60 percent less 
likely than others to graduate from high school. They are also 60 
percent less likely to graduate from college and seven times as 
likely as nonusers to attempt suicide.

A 20-year study in Britain by Wayne Hall, a professor of addiction 
policy at King's College and adviser to the World Health 
Organization, found regular use of marijuana, especially among teens, 
is harmful. It leads to long-term mental health problems and is more 
addictive than heroin.

Mitchell Rosenthal, a child psychiatrist and founder of Phoenix 
House, is particularly concerned about regular use of the drug by 
teenagers, whose brains are not fully developed. Not only are they 
twice as likely as adults to become addicted, but marijuana 
permanently damages the brains of regular users, especially working 
memory. This is consistent with recent findings by a Northwestern 
School of Medicine study.

In Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2009, fatalities involving 
marijuana-positive drivers have risen 100 percent. In 2012, the 
percentage of youths ages 12 to 17 who were current users was 39 
percent higher than the national average. Drug-related student 
suspensions/expulsions - the majority for marijuana - have increased 
32 percent since the law passed. From 2011 to 2013, there has been a 
57 percent increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits. 
Hospitalizations related to marijuana are up 82 percent since 2008. 
The marijuana sold today is much more powerful than 30 to 50 years 
ago - often five times stronger. The damage it can do is much worse.

Mark Klieman, a professor of public policy at the University of 
California, has researched the likely effect of legalization on 
marijuana consumption and addiction. His prediction is that today's 
2.7 million marijuana addicts will balloon to as many as 16.2 million 
with national legalization. Based on the foregoing, legalization of 
marijuana should never occur, correct? Well, in truth it is not that 
simple - not by a long shot. Are we winning the "war on drugs"? Most 
people, including myself, do not think so. It reminds me of what 
occurred after the passage of the 18th Amendment. The fight for 
Prohibition was in part led by oil baron John Rockefeller. He later 
advocated for its repeal, saying, "Drinking generally has increased; 
that the speakeasy has replaced the saloon, not only unit for unit 
but two-fold if not three-fold; that a vast army of lawbreakers has 
been recruited and financed on a colossal scale; that many of our 
best citizens, piqued at what they regarded as an infringement on 
their private rights, have openly and unabashedly disregarded the 
Eighteenth Amendment; that as an inevitable result respect for all 
law has greatly lessened; that crime has increased to an 
unprecedented degree - I have slowly reluctantly come to believe." 
Prohibition did not work for alcohol, and it does not seem to be 
working for drugs. What has the war on drugs wrought?

Those of us with a strong libertarian strain are repelled by an 
ever-growing, ever-intrusive state that is gradually eroding our 
liberties. We thus ask: If you want to smoke a joint and are hurting 
no one, what is wrong with that? Does individual freedom matter?

The war on drugs has, in fact, led to a worrisome expansion of state 
and federal police power. Period.

It has led to the rise of the phenomenon of militarized cops. This 
has occurred in response to increased firepower employed by drug 
gangs, an understandable reaction. Still, the spectacle of policemen 
looking and acting more and more like soldiers is troubling.

Because there is big money to be made in the illegal drug business, a 
black market has been created. Criminal drug gangs are ruthless and 
violent, both here and south of the border. Drug-related murders, 
robberies and other violent crimes are a terrible presence in our 
cities and in Mexico. Virtually all of this is surely the result of 
making the possession and sale of marijuana and other drugs illegal.

It means the police spend a lot of time on marijuana-based policing 
rather than pursuing more serious crimes. A waste of resources, as 
most cops will say privately.

It contributes to the unnecessary and expensive overcrowding of our 
prisons for these "status offenses."

Finally, it isn't working.

Author Daniel Okrent recently wrote a book about the failure of 
Prohibition. He supports legalization of marijuana. His reasoning is 
encapsulated in this quote: "People are going to consume this stuff. 
It's just that simple. That's why the law doesn't work."

Should we legalize marijuana? One can argue both ways. My view is we 
legalize it, with one huge condition. The reasons are the 
unassailable logic behind the Rockefeller and Okrent quotes and the 
bad consequences created by the war on drugs. Down the road, we 
should probably legalize all drugs, based on the same logic.

And what is that key condition?

Legalization should not occur without a massive education program 
that clearly and factually describes marijuana's dangers. The last 
thing we need is for Mark Klieman's prediction to come true. That 
campaign should be targeted at young people.

To prevent a true scourge descending upon our society because of this 
drug, we owe them no less.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom