Pubdate: Mon, 24 Oct 2016
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2016 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Paul Armentano


America's real-world experiment with regulating marijuana has been a 

Twenty-six states now regulate the plant's therapeutic use, and four 
states and Washington, D.C., authorize its use and sale to all adults.

Contrary to the fears of some, these policy changes are not associated 
with increased marijuana use or access by adolescents, or with adverse 
effects on traffic safety or in the workplace. Marijuana regulations are 
also associated with less opioid abuse and mortality. In jurisdictions 
where this retail market is taxed, sales revenue has greatly exceeded 
initial expectations.

The enforcement of marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, 
encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and 
disproportionately impacts young people and communities of color. It 
makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, 
or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization 
of adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer 
than either alcohol or tobacco.

A majority supports this policy change. Voters have grown tired of 
seeing their fellow citizens arrested nearly 600,000 times annually in 
marijuana possession cases. According to Gallup this month, 60% of 
adults endorse legalizing the marijuana market for adults - the highest 
percentage ever recorded in polls.

But legalization does not mean replacing criminalization with a 
marijuana free-for-all. Rather, it means the enactment of a pragmatic 
regulatory framework that allows for the licensed commercial production 
and retail sale of marijuana to adults, but also restricts and 
discourages its use among young people. Such a regulated environment 
best reduces the risks associated with the plant's use or abuse.

By contrast, advocating marijuana's continued criminalization does 
nothing to offset the plant's potential risks to the individual user and 
to society; it only compounds them.

Despite nearly a century of criminal prohibition, marijuana is here to 
stay. America's laws should reflect this reality, and they should 
regulate the marijuana market accordingly.

Paul Armentano is deputy director of the National Organization for the 
Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
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