A Thoughtful Look at the Marijuana Legalization Trend

Even if one comes down on the side of legalizing marijuana for philosophical reasons, the costs it will bring to society cannot be ignored.

Society is gradually becoming more liberal – or libertine – in many ways, and one of the latest trends is the gradual legalization of marijuana in one state after another. This past election, voters approved marijuana for legal (recreational) use in Colorado and Washington. Marijuana has been legalized for recreational or medicinal use in 13 states, with more states to consider it soon. 15 million Americans are regular users of marijuana, a little over 5% of of the population. It seems problematic to criticize its legalization from a logical perspective considering alcohol, another psychoactive substance, is legal. If it is acceptable to legalize alcohol, why not marijuana? Libertarians particularly have a problem with the distinction, which seems inconsistent and arguably a restraint upon freedom.

Legalizing marijuana is not so black and white of a decision as its supporters claim. Marijuana legalization proponents claim that marijuana is not dangerous like alcohol. The facts reveal otherwise. 15 percent of shock-trauma patients who were injured in car accidents had marijuana in their blood, and another 17 percent had both marijuana and alcohol in their blood. 33% of fatally injured drivers who were tested for drug use had drugs in their system; 3,952 drivers total in 2009. Marijuana is the second most commonly found psychoactive substance among drivers after alcohol. In 2009, 376,000 emergency room visits nationwide involved marijuana.

There is a strong correlation between marijuana use and crime. 60% of those arrested across the U.S. test positive for marijuana. This isn’t just crime related to drug use, there is a positive correlation between chronic marijuana use and increased risk of violent behavior. In fact, there is a stronger correlation between property crimes and frequent marijuana use than there is with alcohol use or other illegal drug use, particularly among teenagers. A study of postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana had 55% more accidents, 85% more injuries and a 75% increase in being absent from work. And let’s not forget that hard drugs are responsible for the vast majority of admissions to detox clinics and rehab programs.

Read the rest of the article at Townhall

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7 comments to A Thoughtful Look at the Marijuana Legalization Trend

  • Patrick Mulligan

    Those costs will exist whether or not marijuana is legal or not since it is, as the cited statistics quite readily reveal, available in the black market. The relative danger of marijuana use compared to alcohol is a talking point marijuana legalization advocates trot out for the MADD crowd, but it’s really of very little value. The legality of one drug shouldn’t be based upon its comparative utility to another. God forbid if we started evaluating all drugs that way. The arguments for legalization really come down to one primary deonotological and one primary utilitarian argument; the former that you should be free to decide what to do with your body and mind as long as you do not infringe on the rights of others, the latter that prohibition has been a failure at every level similar to alcohol prohibition such that its costs outweigh its benefits. Neither argument’s merit should be judged on these consequences of marijuana use that exist independently of its legal status.

  • Anonymous

    Ms. Alexander obviously never studied the research on this topic, so let’s start with some basics.

    First, why is marijuana illegal in the first place? Oddly enough, the reasons don’t have anything to do with anything she mentioned.

    Marijuana was originally outlawed for two major reasons. The first was because “All Mexicans are crazy and marijuana is what makes them crazy.” The second was the fear that heroin addiction would lead to the use of marijuana — exactly the opposite of the modern “gateway” nonsense.

    Only one medical doctor testified at the hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The representative of the American Medical Association said there was no evidence that mj was a dangerous drug and no reason for the law. He pointed out that it was used in hundreds of common medicines at the time, with no significant problems. In response, the committee told him that, if he wasn’t going to cooperate, he should shut up and leave.

    The only other “expert” to testify was James C. Munch, a psychologist. His sole claim to fame was that he had injected mj directly into the brains of 300 dogs and two of them died. When they asked him what he concluded from this, he said he didn’t know what to conclude because he wasn’t a dog psychologist.

    He also testified in court, under oath, that mj would make your fangs grow six inches long and drip with blood. He also said that, when he tried it, it turned him into a bat. He then described how he flew around the room for two hours and then found himself at the bottom of a 200-foot-high inkwell.

    That isn’t the punch line, though. The punch line is that he was the only “expert” in the US who thought that marijuana should be illegal, so they appointed him US Official Expert on marijuana, where he served for 25 years.

    Anyone who wants to read the story can find the short history of the marijuana laws at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/History/whiteb1.htm The full transcripts of the testimony for the Marihuana Tax Act can be found at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/taxact.htm

  • Anonymous

    Then there is that stupid gateway idea. You would think that enough people would have flunked basic logic classes with that idea by now that they would have learned their lesson. Apparently not.

    Marijuana was originally outlawed in some states because of the belief that heroin would lead to marijuana — exactly the opposite of the modern argument that Rachel uses to flunk basic logic.

    During the hearings for the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, Harry Anslinger – then head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics – was asked specifically if there was any connection between marijuana and heroin. He replied emphatically that there was no connection at all – mj users did not become heroin users. See his complete testimony at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/taxact.htm

    In 1944, the La Guardia Committee Report confirmed Anslinger’s testimony – no connection at all. See the full text of the report at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/lag/lagmenu.htm

    In 1951, the story changed. Anslinger was up before Congress asking for more money to enforce the marijuana laws. Unfortunately for him, just before he testified, the head of the Federal addiction research program testified that they knew for certain that marijuana didn’t do any of the things that had been alleged in 1937. It didn’t have a terrible effect on the degenerate races, it didn’t incite violence, it didn’t make young lovers elope and get married — or any of the other stupid things they said.

    Anslinger was left with no justification for his request for more money. Indeed, he was left with no justification for the marijuana laws at all. In response, he made up the idea that marijuana is the certain steppingstone to heroin. In doing so, he contradicted all the research, and even directly contradicted his own testimony from 1937.

    Regardless, it has been the primary excuse for the marijuana laws ever since, and uneducated people who failed basic logic class still fall for it.

    For a more complete story, with links to original references, see http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/gateway_myth.htm

  • Anonymous

    “If it is acceptable to legalize alcohol, why not marijuana? ”

    Basic error in logic here. The error pervades this whole article.

    Alcohol was not legalized because it was “acceptable.” Alcohol was legalized because prohibition was a disaster. It created new problems and didn’t solve any of the old ones.

    Among other things, it triggered the biggest teen drinking epidemic the US has ever seen. Prohibition was passed with a campaign of “Save the Children from Alcohol.” Within five years there were record numbers of kids in hospitals and courts for alcohol problems. Schools had to cancel dances because so many kids showed up drunk. The average age at which people started drinking dropped dramatically. Teen girls started frequenting bars for the first time. Sales of booze on school campuses were common and many kids were involved in the bootlegging trade. Early supporters of prohibition turned against it, because prohibition made it easier than ever for their kids to get booze.

    Prohibition was repealed with a campaign of “Save the Children from Prohibition.” see http://druglibrary.org/prohibitionresults.htm for further info and links to references.

    Historically speaking, the biggest single cause of drug epidemics among US children is hysterical anti-drug campaigns. see Licit and Illicit Drugs at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/cu/cumenu.htm for descriptions of more examples where anti-drug campaigns have triggered drug epidemics among US kids.

  • Anonymous

    As for Robert DuPont, Rachel is probably too young to remember that DuPont used to be a champion for marijuana legalization. He even wrote a major article for Playboy explaining why mj should be legalized.

    So what happened to his opinion? He discovered it didn’t do much for his career.

    In the first place, Federal law forbids any Federal employee from saying anything in support of legalization. So his article in Playboy meant that he might wind up unable to work for his favorite employer.

    In the second place, he formed DuPont-Bensinger Associates with Peter Bensinger, former head of the DEA. They went into the (new in the 1970s) drug-testing business. Then they lobbied their friends in Congress to make drug-testing mandatory in various places. That was a ticket to instant riches.

    The only problem with drug-testing was that nearly all the dangerous drugs — alcohol, meth, heroin, etc. — are gone from the body within a few hours. You can spend the weekend wiped out on all of them and still test clean for work — even though you may be in no shape to work.

    That was a problem because it meant that drug-testing wouldn’t find a lot of drug users. If that happened, then employers would begin to question the value of drug–testing.

    Marijuana was their savior. Marijuana stays in the system for a long time. Lots of people could be found with marijuana in their system and — because the employers haven’t read any more about the subject than Rachel — they would believe that drug-testing was worthwhile.

    So, given the choice between good sense (legalization) and money — DuPont chose the money. To this day, he will not engage in any one-on-one debates on the subject because he know he wouldn’t last five minutes.

  • Anonymous

    “Just like those who oppose marijuana legalization are accused of being hypocritical, what about those who would legalize marijuana but not methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin?”

    Rachel, start your reading with the excellent history of the early drug laws you will find in Licit and Illicit Drugs at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/cu/cumenu.htm

    What you will find is that these drugs were not considered to be a major problem before they were outlawed. Drug-related crime (except for alcohol) was all but unknown. We know exactly when the major drug problems started, and we know exactly why.

    The year was 1914. You can read the story yourself. It is obvious that you haven’t read it already. You really don’t know the subject.

  • Anonymous

    Rachel, do you suppose anyone has ever done any extensive analysis of drug policy?

    Think about it. This issue has been around since you were in diapers, and even before. There have been lots of arguments about it — dating back to things you didn’t know about DuPont and even before that. So surely someone must have studied this issue in depth – don’t you think?

    You are in luck. It has been studied a number of times by major government commissions around the world. You can find the full text of all of those commissions at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer under Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.

    If you care to read them (I really doubt that you will — prohibitionists really don’t like to read) you will find that not one of them agreed with you. In fact, they said that a lot of your arguments are just plain nonsense.

    They all said that the marijuana laws do more harm than good, no matter what you think of the dangers of marijuana. (You know, kinda like alcohol prohibition caused more problems than it solved, even though alcohol is really dangerous.)

    Can you name any significant study of the drug laws in the last 100 years that agreed with you?

    If you can, you will be a special person. You see, I have asked this same question of every US Drug Czar since William Bennett. He was Drug Czar when you were apparently still quite young, so you may not remember him.

    I got a personal reply from each of them. Not one of them could name any comparable study that supported US drug policy. In fact, it was quite apparent that none of them had ever even laid eyes on any of this research. (That’s pretty appalling, don’t you think? People mouthing off about what the policy ought to be when they can’t even name the most prominent research ever done.)

    Rachel, it is quite obvious that you have never read any of this research. Counselor, you came to court totally unprepared to argue your own case. You didn’t do any homework at all.

    Also, if you would have cared to research this a little on the Internet, you would have found that no one from your side of the fence has been able to win a debate on this topic for the last twenty years. The major prohibitionist organizations already admitted that they have completely lost the argument on the internet. That was more than five years ago. They don’t even try anymore because they just wind up looking like fools.

    Now it is your turn to learn. Go do some reading and get back to us when you are fit to argue with some of the high school kids we have trained.

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