Maybe legalization isn’t the best plan

For the longest time I convinced myself that legalizing marijuana was somehow beneficial to society. Pot smokers being the peaceful people they are, I was confident legalization would have benign effects on society at large. Having just returned from a drug and alcohol workshop that treats addiction as a disease, and the legalization of marijuana as a potential social quagmire, I can’t say I completely agree with the pro-pot camp any longer.
It is important to note right away that there is plenty of scientific data to support the argument against the legalization of marijuana. It seems legalization proponents base their case solely on the physical and emotional benefits of the drug, such as we see in self-diagnosed pain management cases. 
Even more important to me is the social cost of legalization, especially when our children are exposed to the legislative drama. There is no denying legalization would only encourage our youth to explore their options. Much like turning 21 is a rite of passage in the drinking world, smoking your first legally obtained joint would only initiate a downward spiral. And as it turns out, marijuana is not as safe as we once thought. According to the National Institute on Drug Addiction, “in 2004, more than 298,317 people entering drug treatment programs reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse, showing they needed help to stop using.” Also, “about 6,000 people a day in 2007 used marijuana for the first time — 2.1 million Americans. Of these, 62.2 percent were under age 18.” The numbers certainly do not lie.
Perhaps the most problematic notion is that pain begets the use of medicinal marijuana. A pain patient can obtain proper medicinal marijuana documentation with very little proof they are actually in pain. Anybody who works in medicine understands the difficulty in attempting to diagnose pain correctly, for how is a physician to know how much pain a patient is experiencing? We would be culturally naïve to think nobody will abuse this concept. Habitual weed smokers can simply create or exacerbate a pain issue to obtain their legal justification.
And just how effective will regulations on medicinal marijuana be? The recent law enforcement sweep of 14 San Diego County pot dispensaries produced 31 arrests, leading the public to rightfully believe these operations are far from legit. 
Plenty of nonsensical arguments exist in favor of legalization. For starters, the tax argument contains no logical rationale. How will taxing marijuana be any more effective than taxing cigarettes or alcohol? There is really no hard data to support the notion that taxing legal marijuana would dump gross sums of money into California state coffers.
Another legalization argument I hear often is that ever since the Dutch normalized marijuana, there have been fewer public heath issues since the drug is so widely available. According to a report released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, marijuana “consumption nearly tripled among 18- to 20-year-old Dutch youth” after marijuana became normalized. Evidently, there is an issue.
This isn’t to suggest marijuana smokers should spend the rest of their adult lives tangled in the criminal justice system. Based on my experience, I prefer someone stoned out of their mind over someone drunk beyond recognition. The penalties are perhaps too stiff for the “criminal” caught with a joint or a small bag. Couple this with the fact our prisons and county jails are brimming with repeated small-time users, and it’s clear we should redefine our marijuana penalties. 
The Obama administration recently initiated more relaxed medical marijuana guidelines. Under the new policy, the federal government will not pursue medical marijuana patients and their suppliers as long as they abide by state laws. In short, the convoluted legalization battle wages on. Whatever becomes of this, we need to consider our children first and foremost. Let’s set a good example.


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