Legalize marijuana? Not so fast.
Backers serve up a timely batch of arguments, but their latest reasons are half-baked.
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A government could attempt to eliminate the black market altogether by making marijuana incredibly cheap (Dr. Pacula at the RAND Organization says today's black market price is about four times what it would be if pot were completely legalized). But then use would skyrocket and teens (though barred) could buy it with their lunch money.Skip to next paragraph
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Indeed, legalizing marijuana is bound to increase use simply because of availability. Legalization advocates say "not so" and point to the Netherlands and its legal marijuana "coffee shops." Indeed, after the Dutch de facto legalized the drug in 1976, use stayed about the same for adults and youth. But it took off after 1984, growing by 300 percent over the next decade or so. Experts attribute this to commercialization (sound like alcohol?), and also society's view of the drug as normal – which took a while to set in.
Now the Dutch are finding that normalization has its costs – increased dependence, more dealers of harder drugs, and a flood of rowdy "drug tourists" from other countries. The Dutch "example" should be renamed the Dutch "warning."
As America has learned with alcohol, taxes don't begin to cover the costs to society of destroyed families, lost productivity, and ruined lives – and regulators still have not succeeded in keeping alcohol from underage drinkers.
No one has figured out what the exact social costs of legalizing marijuana would be. But ephemeral taxes won't cover them – nor should society want to encourage easier access to a drug that can lead to dependency, has health risks, and reduces alertness, to name just a few of its negative outcomes.
Why legalize a third substance that produces ill effects, when the US has such a poor record in dealing with the two big "licits" – alcohol and tobacco?
Parents need to resist peer pressure, too.
Legalization backers say the country is at a tipping point, ready to make the final big leap. They hope that a new generation of politicians that has had experience with marijuana will be friendly to their cause.
But this new generation is also made up of parents. Do parents really want marijuana to become a normal part of society – and an expectation for their children?
Maybe parents thought they left peer pressure behind when they graduated from high school. But the push to legalize marijuana is like the peer pressure of the schoolyard. The arguments are perhaps timely, but they don't stand up, and parents must now stand up to them.
They must let lawmakers know that legalization is not OK, and they must carry this message to their children, too. Disapproval, along with information on risk, are the most important factors in discouraging marijuana and cocaine use among high school seniors, according to the University of Michigan's "Monitoring the Future" project on substance abuse.
Parents must make clear that marijuana is not a harmless drug – even if they personally may have emerged unscathed.
And they need to teach the life lesson that marijuana does not really solve personal challenges, be they stress, relationships, or discouragement.
In the same way, a search for joy and satisfaction in a drug is misplaced.
The far greater and lasting attraction is in a life rooted in moral and spiritual values – not in a haze, a daze, or a munchie-craze.
Today's youth are tomorrow's world problem solvers – and the ones most likely to be affected if marijuana is legalized. Future generations need to be clear thinkers. For their sakes, those who oppose legalizing marijuana must become vocal, well-funded, and mainstream – before it's too late.