Pubdate: Wed, 17 Jun 2015
Source: Citizens' Voice, The (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
Copyright: 2015 The Citizens' Voice
Authors: William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn Los Angeles Times, TNS


Twenty years ago, drug dealers were seen for what they were - 
criminal and dangerous elements in our society. They were shunned by 
the mainstream. People who sold marijuana were considered losers, in 
the business of harming our children. Parents warned their kids to 
stay away from those known to use drugs.

But thanks to the marijuana lobby, what was once scorned is hyped and 
celebrated - even as the drug has become more potent, with THC, the 
intoxicating chemical, present at much higher levels than in the 
1990s. Dealers run state-sanctioned dispensaries, lobby to further 
legalize their product and receive positive media coverage when doing so.

The dangers have gone up and the stigma has gone down. And many in 
the Republican Party are aiding and abetting in this social collapse. 
Recently, two prominent California Republicans, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher 
and Rep. Tom McClintock, have taken the lead in helping reverse the 
long-standing consensus between both parties that marijuana, and 
other drugs, should remain illegal. A few of the potential 2016 
Republican candidates for president are forcefully against 
legalization, but most have been all over the map on this issue.

Yet it is no more a Republican Party or conservative value than it is 
a Democratic Party or liberal value to help legalize, and thus expand 
the use of, a dangerous product.

Mario Cuomo, the late Democratic governor of New York, spoke out 
forcefully against legalization. Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy follows 
in his footsteps today. Over the years, others who have opposed 
legalization include Republicans Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, 
George W. Bush, Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer and Jack Kemp, and 
think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute and 
the Claremont Institute. As Reagan said in 1986, "Drug abuse is not a 
so-called victimless crime." Indeed, it is not. We wish more of our 
current elected officials understood that fact.

Legalization is aimed at adult use, but how have age restrictions 
worked out in preventing teen and adolescent use of alcohol? 
According to the 2013 Household Survey issued by the Department of 
Health and Human Services, more than 22 percent of 16- and 
17-year-olds and more than 43 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds 
regularly drink alcohol. As for marijuana, in Colorado, where it 
became legal in 2012, teen use is 56 percent higher than the national average.

Furthermore, the science is overwhelmingly clear that marijuana use 
is harmful to human health, particularly among children and young 
adults. As the American Medical Association stated in 2013 when it 
came out against legalization, "Current evidence supports, at 
minimum, a strong association of cannabis use with the onset of 
psychiatric disorders. Adolescents are par ticularly vulnerable to harm."

A 2014 study in the journal Current Addiction Reports found that 
regular pot use (defined as once a week), especially among teenagers 
and young adults, can lead to cognitive decline, decreased IQ, and 
poor attention and memory. This backs up a growing number of studies 
with similar findings, including a lengthy 2014 report in the New 
England Journal of Medicine, and another report from the same year by 
Northwestern Medicine and Massachusetts General/Harvard Medical 
School, showing a link between the recreational use of marijuana and 
significant brain abnormalities in young adults.

If conservatives believe the efforts to contain marijuana use have 
been too expensive or burdensome on our l aw enforcement and 
corrections systems (as is often claimed), we ask them to simply look 
at the numbers and costs associated with enforcement of the legal 
product they analogize it to so often, alcohol.

According to the FBI, arrests and imprisonments for alcohol and 
liquor violations (DUIs, drunkenness and liquor law violations) 
exceed arrests and imprisonments for all drug violations combined - 
by nearly 500,000. Marijuana possession accounts for 40 percent of 
the drug violations. Why? One is legal and available, and one is 
still - mostly - illegal and less available.

As for any claim of unconstitutionality, there is no argument against 
the legal barring of marijuana that does not also apply to heroin, 
cocaine and meth. That is why some of the more honest proponents in 
the legalization movement will admit that marijuana legalization is 
but a first step toward the legalization of all drugs.

Abraham Lincoln said government's "leading object is to elevate the 
condition of men to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all." 
Overseeing or encouraging more marijuana use is just about the last 
thing a government trying to elevate the condition of men and clear 
the path of laudable pursuits would do. At stake is the safety of our 
youth, and that should be one thing both major parties can agree is precious.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom