Pubdate: Tue, 01 Nov 2016
Source: Arizona Daily Sun (AZ)
Copyright: 2016 Arizona Daily Sun
Author: Jeffrey A. Singer, MD


When tackling today's major issues we can learn a lot from history.
For example, when Congress was debating marijuana prohibition in 1937,
Dr. William C. Woodward, President of the American Medical
Association, argued strenuously against it. Dr. Walter Musto,
Assistant Surgeon General told Congress marijuana "does not produce
dependenceĀ…it probably belongs in the same category as alcohol."
Sadly, as is often the case, Congress was more susceptible to
political rather than economic and scientific considerations, so
marijuana prohibition was enacted.

But Dr. Musto was wrong. Marijuana does not belong "in the same
category as alcohol." Marijuana doesn't cause cirrhosis. Alcohol does.
Marijuana doesn't cause cardiomyopathy, dementia, or pancreatitis.
Alcohol does. Marijuana doesn't cause cancer of the stomach or
esophagus. Alcohol does. Ingesting too much alcohol at one time can
induce a coma and cause cessation of breathing and death. There is no
known overdose level of marijuana. True, some studies show marijuana
can cause harmful effects on the young, developing brain. But the same
has been known for years about alcohol's effects on the young
developing brain.

If Dr. Musto knew in 1937 what we know today, he probably would have
said marijuana is "safer than alcohol."

History also teaches us that prohibition never, ever works.
Prohibition turns otherwise law-abiding people into criminals,
undermining respect for the law and our institutions. It turns
thuggish black market profiteers into billionaires who prey on our
young and settle intramural disputes through violence.

We saw this in spades when the United States enacted alcohol
prohibition in 1920. It led to the rise of organized crime, mob
violence, and an epidemic of underground alcohol use. Realizing the
error of its ways, our nation repealed alcohol prohibition in 1933.

Nearly 80 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in law enforcement
expenditures after Congress replaced alcohol prohibition with
marijuana prohibition, nearly half of Americans say they have used
marijuana. The Mexican drug cartel rakes in billions of dollars on the
sale of smuggled marijuana to Americans. It is the drug cartel's cash

Today it is easier for a teen or adolescent to obtain marijuana than
it is to get a 6-pack of beer. That's because licensed alcohol dealers
enforce under-21 laws. (Young people must resort to fake IDs or proxy
buyers, making it much more difficult.) Millions of young people are
being arrested and having their futures destroyed as our jails fill up
with young people found guilty of victimless crimes. This
disproportionately impacts poor people in inner cities-often people of
color-who lack the resources needed for a good legal defense.

Possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony in Arizona, and
approximately 150,000 adults have been arrested for it here since 2005.

Prop. 205, which would legalize marijuana for adults over 21 and
regulate it like alcohol, draws upon the lessons of history. If it
passes, it will deal a blow to the solar plexus of the Mexican drug
cartel. It should lead to a reduction in teen marijuana use because it
will become as hard for them to obtain pot as alcohol. And they won't
be interacting with underworld drug dealers who are all too eager to
introduce them to harder, more dangerous drugs.

But, the best thing about Prop. 205 is that it will increase personal
freedom by ending the prosecution and ruination of the lives of
thousands of Arizonans who are being arrested for committing a
victimless crime.

Dr. Peter Singer practices general surgery in Phoenix and is and
adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.
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