Marijuana legalization is a battle that has gone on for decades. Proponents of legal marijuana, whether it be for medical purposes or for recreational, have pointed out one of the greatest arguments against prohibition ever: prohibition of something that this many people want and will find a way to get creates a black market. That black market creates violence.
Other effective points include the loss of tax base money by ignoring pot as a revenue source, the usefulness of marijuana as medicine, the overcrowding of prisons with people charged with victimless crimes, and the misappropriation of law enforcement to play budget games pursuing these victimless crimes.
These arguments are making inroads into the American perception of pot. Everyone knows someone who smokes pot. And chances are, if we knew which of our friends did, we’d be surprised at how normal they are.
One of the tactics of the legalization forces is to take each item in the criminalization argument and dismantle it with research and facts. Nonetheless, anti-legalization forces still fall back on the same batch of arguments. Here are three that you will hear almost every time a news channel puts a pair of faces side-by-side to debate the issue.
Opponents often argue that, if marijuana is legalized in any fashion, medical or recreational …
This particular argument can best be understood by taking a step back and looking at a bit of “causality” logic. Anti-pot folks say things like, “Marijuana [is] the most popular drug used by men who [have] been arrested.”
Pro-pot folks reply, “Sure it is. That’s because you arrest thousands of them for possessing marijuana!”
Another way of looking at this “causality” argument is demonstrated by Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project.
“We could release a study tomorrow showing that 98 percent of arrestees in the United States drank water in the 48 hours before they engaged in criminal behavior. Does that mean that water causes crime? Fortunately, the American people are smarter than the drug czar thinks they are.”
The danger that anti-pot folks promote is the notion that, if more people are using marijuana, these people will commit more crimes, including rapes, murders, assaults, etc.
One doomsayer said, “Thugs put on masks, they come to your house, they kick in your door. They point guns at you and say, ‘Give me your marijuana, give me your money,’”
Anyone who has ever been high knows that there is something inherently wrong with this line of logic. But let’s let the numbers do the talking. As MSNBC reported after Denver legalized pot:
“According to data from the Denver Police Department, violent crime (including homicide, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault) fell by 6.9% in the first quarter of 2014, compared with the same period in 2013. Property crime (including burglary, larceny, auto theft, theft from motor vehicle and arson) dropped by 11.1%.”
Other states have seen similar drops or flatlines in crime.
DUI Incidents Will Go Up
Crime in general is one thing, but some worry that DUI incidents will rise. Some point out that, in cities like Denver, the presence of marijuana in the system of a person killed in an accident has tripled. But pro-pot folks have a simple answer to that.
Marijuana is detectable in the blood for one week after consumption. Just because someone is found to have smoked within the last week, or even that day, does not mean that they are impaired at the time of an accident.
In fact, pro-pot folks point out that marijuana legalization actually leads to a decrease in traffic fatalities because some people choose to use pot rather than alcohol, which has much worse impairment effects, as well as a general tendency toward activity that pot-smoking does not induce in most people.
The general wisdom is, people go to bars and parties, get drunk, and drive home. People stay home and smoke pot, which keeps them off the road.
What about the stats on that?
According to the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatal car wrecks dropped by 9% in states that legalized medical use. And “the rate of fatal crashes in which a driver had consumed any alcohol dropped 12% after medical marijuana was legalized, and crashes involving high levels of alcohol consumption fell 14%.”
“Kids are going to be bombarded with this – they’re already getting the message that it’s acceptable,” said Kevin Sabet, Director of the University of Florida Drug Policy Institute.
But legalization proponents point out that logic says otherwise.
“Forcing marijuana sales into the underground market is the worst possible policy when it comes to protecting our young people,” said a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group. “It is odd that those who wish to keep marijuana out of the hands of kids are fighting to keep it as uncontrolled as possible.”
When voters of a state decide to legalize marijuana, that move brings with it heavy regulation, including stiff penalties for any business that sells to underage buyers. The fact is, legal marijuana shops don’t want kids anywhere near their doors.
Colorado goes even further, barring any advertising of marijuana that aims at children, much as was done for cigarettes.
As long as marijuana is unregulated, criminal salespeople make no differentiation about who they sell to.
But forget theorizing about the possible effects in this area. What about states that have already gone the legalization route? Are they noticing any difference?
According to a Youth Risk Behavior Survey done by the CDC in states that have legalized pot, “The effect of passing a medical marijuana law on youth consumption appears to be zero across the board.”
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