Pubdate: Tue, 04 Aug 2015
Source: New York Post (NY)
Copyright: 2015 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
Author: Karol Markowicz


Why Marijuana Decriminalization Is Inevitable

IT seems appropriate that an organization called DARE would do 
something bold. Grow and behold: Marijuana plants in Arlington, 
Wash., where recreational pot is legal.

That's what seemed to happen last week, when Drug Abuse Resistance 
Education, the wellknown anti-drug group - which has schoolchildren 
sign pledges to abstain from drugs and report on their parents if 
they see them engaging in drug use - seemingly did the unthinkable. 
It posted an op-ed calling for the legalization of marijuana.

The author of the piece, a self-described former deputy sheriff named 
Carlis McDerment, noted he supports legalization because marijuana 
has become extremely difficult to control and because he wants to 
"reduce youths' drug use." This was especially surprising since these 
are the exact arguments that DARE has consistently rejected since its 
founding in 1983.

Turns out, DARE aggregates articles on its Web site that include 
certain key words; the publishing of this article was an accident. 
When Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post contacted them to 
see if they had indeed reversed course on marijuana legalization, he 
found that they had reprinted the article because the title, 
"Purchasing Marijuana Puts Kids at Risk," made it sound as if it was 

Unfortunately for DARE, the story that they support legalizing 
marijuana was much bigger than their correction.

New York magazine called DARE's "new" position a "breakthrough" while 
the UK Independent called it "a bold move." Twitter lit up with 
comments about "pigs flying," "hell freezing over" and proclamations 
that the drug war was officially lost.

But the mixup was still newsworthy for a simple reason: It was 
believable that DARE would embrace legalization.

The reason so many easily believed that DARE reversed course is that 
the country is moving toward, if not legalization of marijuana, then 
at least decriminalization. Twenty states have either decriminalized 
or have set a date to do so. Four states, Colorado, Washington, 
Alaska and Oregon, as well as the District of Columbia, have entirely 
legalized marijuana.

There's a sense that, as with gay marriage, the country is moving in 
a certain direction and it's futile to stand in the way.

It seems that no one has alerted Chuck Rosenberg of the shift in 
opinion. Rosenberg, the new acting administrator of the US Drug 
Enforcement Administration, last week said he couldn't say for 
certain whether marijuana is as dangerous as heroin because he is 
"not an expert."

Why a non-expert is running the DEA is unclear. But with heroin use 
at an all-time high, comparing marijuana to it only minimizes the 
risk of heroin. Rosenberg's answer is considered more moderate; after 
all, his predecessor once compared marijuana use to smoking crack cocaine.

Yet what Rosenberg seems to be missing, and what DARE appeared to 
have glommed onto, is the growing popular consensus that it's 
possible to take marijuana use very seriously while believing that 
using it shouldn't be a jailable offense.

The numbers are well-known at this point: Marijuana kills far fewer 
people each year than any of the hard street drugs, prescribed 
pharmaceutical drugs or legal drugs like alcohol and cigarettes. 
Death from marijuana use comes primarily from car crashes or other 
types of accidents. But even that is misleading, since marijuana in a 
person's system can mean he smoked a week ago and wasn't high at the 
time of the accident.

That doesn't mean it's harmless. But the price that we pay for 
keeping it illegal, the insane incarceration rates, the DEA and 
police power we waste on stopping it, far outweigh the danger of 
marijuana addiction.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, all drug use keeps 
increasing. In 2007 there were 14.5 million marijuana users. Five 
years later that number is 19.8 million. We've thrown enough money 
and resources at the problem of drug use while yielding the opposite 
result we had hoped for.

If we insist on fighting drug use, the rational move is to 
decriminalize marijuana and use the vast resources the marijuana 
fight currently consumes to battle more serious drugs. Our current 
system hasn't worked in a long time. Even DARE almost said so - and 
people believed it.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom