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Marijuana Legalization: The White House Fights Back

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One by one, states are taking matters into their own hands and legalizing marijuana in one form or another. For some, it is for medicinal purposes, commonly called “medical marijuana”. For others, they simply go the route of either “decriminalizing” marijuana — which means reducing possession from a felony to a misdemeanor — or legalizing it entirely.

Just because a state decides to not arrest people in possession of marijuana, doesn’t mean the federal government is going to sit back and allow it. Marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug. To be on Schedule I, the following criteria must be met:

1. The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
2. The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision

This puts marijuana on the same list as heroin, meth, angel dust, and many other very powerful drugs. And it means that the Drug enforcement Agency has a mandate to go after anyone in possession of it.

Recently, the New York Times editorial department officially came out in favor of federal legalization of marijuana, letting the issue of its criminality be left up to individual states, without fear of reprisals or loss of funding in other areas from the federal government.

After a series of editorials calling for legalization, the White House responded with a write-up of its own.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy issued the extensive response, which mainly stated many of the usual talking points against legalization.

“The editors of The New York Times may have valid concerns about disproportionality throughout our criminal justice system. But we as policy makers cannot ignore the basic scientific fact that marijuana is addictive and marijuana use has harmful consequences. Increased consumption leads to higher public health and financial costs for society. Addictive substances like alcohol and tobacco, which are legal and taxed, already result in much higher social costs than the revenue they generate. The cost to society of alcohol alone is estimated to be more than 15 times the revenue gained by its taxation. For this reason, the Obama Administration and the Office of National Drug Control Policy remain committed to drug use prevention, treatment, support for recovery, and innovative criminal justice strategies to break the cycle of drug use and associated crime.”

The White House uses the argument that alcohol cost is higher than revenue, yet alcohol is legal. Cost/revenue comparison alone is no reason to deny individuals the freedom to make a personal choice about their bodies. We tried that once. The cost of Prohibition was far too high.

And that is the error in logic the White House makes, comparing only the benefit of revenue, that is to say taxes, from legalizing something, be it alcohol or drugs. They ignore the high cost of fighting a black market and all the violence and criminal behavior that go along with it.

The major points the Obama administration raised include:

1. Marijuana use affects the developing brain.
2. Substance use in school age children has a detrimental effect on their academic achievement.
3. Marijuana is addictive.
4. Drugged driving is a threat to our roadways.

Each of these points have been addressed and found wanting many times before. Curtailing access of young persons to marijuana, much as they are kept from buying cigarettes or alcohol, would solve three of the four issues. Marijuana growers and sellers welcome age restrictions and enforce them stridently.

As for the drugged driving issue, this has been proven to be a total error in logic. Anyone who has smoked marijuana in the past week or more, then is in a car accident, is considered to have “marijuana present” in his system, and therefore it is chalked up as a factor in the accident.

The fact is, in areas where marijuana is legalized, vehicle accidents have actually gone down.

The true reasons for the White House doubling down on faulty policy are likely more about politics and election year positioning and posing. No one wants to come out as in favor of legalizing, lest they fall on the same grenade as Ron Paul has every time. It is an unpopular position for someone who needs donors, sponsors, and lobbyists behind him. For that reason, they ignore the voices of those who they should really be listening to, the voters who are turning states green every year.

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Marijuana Legalization: The White House Fights Back
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