3 views on whether states should legalize marijuana
This November, voters in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington will consider ballot measures to legalize and regulate marijuana, much as alcohol and tobacco are taxed and regulated. In this first in a series of "one minute debates" for election 2012, three writers give their brief take on the issue.
2. No: Legalization will increase use – and health, social, and economic costs.
Marijuana advocates seek to demoralize the public by claiming "the war on drugs has failed." Now they've put measures to legalize and tax the drug on several state ballots.
But evidence shows that marijuana use has decreased in America by almost 50 percent since its peak in the 1970s. This is thanks to a three-pronged approach of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement.
If marijuana were to be legalized, businesses might attractively package it to increase sales by including marijuana candy, soft drinks, and ice cream (sold now in some "medical" marijuana states). Based on experience in Europe and Alaska, the number of young users will double or triple. Drug treatment facilities are already full of young people dependent on marijuana.
Marijuana use, especially regular use, can impair problem solving, concentration, motivation, and memory, and can cause birth defects. Teen users are more likely to become delinquent, schizophrenic, depressed, and suicidal.
Marijuana is the most prevalent drug found in drivers killed in crashes. Thirteen percent of high school seniors admit to driving after using marijuana, while only 10 percent admit driving after having five or more alcoholic drinks.
Employees who tested positive for marijuana use had 55 percent more accidents, 85 percent more injuries, and 75 percent higher absenteeism rates.
Prisons are not overflowing with people convicted of marijuana possession. In 1997, for example, less than 1 percent of all state prisoners were incarcerated for marijuana-only possession.
The potential benefits of legalizing and taxing this drug are far outweighed by the costs of expanded use. Alcohol and tobacco, while legal, are still deadly and still abused, and the tax revenue on them is far outweighed by the costly damage they cause.
Legalization of marijuana will have a substantial and irreversible adverse impact on our social and economic well-being.
David G. Evans, Esq. is a special adviser to the Drug Free America Foundation.