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Legalizing Marijuana Would Save Lives And Money


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WE HAVE BEEN fighting the war on marijuana for over three generations to no avail. Lives of our fellow citizens continue to be torn apart, not by the drug, but by Draconian laws that do nothing to stem supply or demand. How long must we stay the course on this social and fiscal abomination before we finally adopt a new approach?

Consider just the social cost. In 2005, the United States reached an all-time high in marijuana arrests. The FBI reports that more than 780,000 people were nabbed -- a rate of one every four seconds. Of those charged, approximately 88 percent -- just over 696,000 Americans -- were cited for possession. The others were charged with "sale or manufacture," a category that includes all cultivation offenses, including marijuana being grown for personal or medical use.

One might argue that this surge means we're making progress in the war. On the contrary, like the recent discovery of sophisticated hothouses in otherwise vacant luxury homes in New Hampshire, higher arrest rates point to a robust and growing underground economy. The only way to put a dent in this illicit marketplace is to alter the fundamental economics of the marijuana trade.

Before any real consensus on a new way forward can be reached, however, citizens would have to face the fact that marijuana has found a permanent place in the fabric of American culture, and as such, prohibition is a long-lost cause. In addition, we would need to put to rest a few age-old misconceptions about marijuana and the potential impact of more progressive policies.

* Children will use marijuana more if it is decriminalized: As with alcohol, tobacco, safe driving, safe sex and the like, parents need to lead by example, establish ground rules and expectations and explain the risks. There are tons of great reasons why our youth shouldn't be experimenting with marijuana, but current laws and just say no programs have never, and will never, keep it out of reach. Besides, it's not the state's responsibility to raise our children.

* Marijuana is a gateway drug: In the current environment, this appears to be true; marijuana often leads to the use of even more unsavory substances. However, sampling the gamut of pop drugs is not typically driven by the quest for a better or stronger high. It is largely driven by youthful curiosity and the presence of a deep and wide network of one-stop-shop drug vendors who employ a basic business strategy: to increase sales, offer a broad line of products.

* High potency increases the incidence of abuse: The vast majority of adult marijuana users aren't getting wasted and falling down on hyper-strong weed any more than social drinkers are chugging beers or throwing back shots every night after work. For the multitude of productive members of society who use marijuana, high-potency just means that a little goes a long way.

* Legalize, commercialize, and tax: This is a common solution proposed by fans of legalization, but it is absurd. High-potency marijuana is not a viable commercial product for three reasons. First, marijuana is a weed that can be easily cultivated anywhere in our state. Second, commercial ventures are in the business of promoting and selling product. Given the opportunity to vend weed, there is every reason to expect that for-profit firms would pursue similar tactics to develop and perpetuate that market. Lastly, marijuana could never be a truly viable commercial product because the average user doesn't consume enough of it. Over a year, even a casual drinker can be expected to spend quite a bit on beer, wine and spirits. On the other hand, a teacup full of potent marijuana would last a similarly responsible user for months.

There is a solution: The way to defeat illegal purveyors of anything is to make it unprofitable for them to engage in that activity. We can eliminate the economic incentive to sell marijuana in New Hampshire -- and restore our American right of self-determination and free will -- by decriminalizing personal cultivation. If adults were permitted to grow marijuana under the same laws and social, workplace and parental expectations that they are able to produce wine and beer, the market for illegal weed in New Hampshire would collapse. Allowing cultivation and private use would remove marijuana from the overall war on drugs and free up millions that could fund enhanced educational, outreach and treatment programs.

Source: UnionLeader.com
Website: UnionLeader.com
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