While those calling for legalization of marijuana are looking out for their own interests, those who oppose it are looking out for the well being of our country.
Some who support its use claim that marijuana is neither addictive nor worse than alcohol or tobacco use. First, when alcohol and tobacco use began, we did not have the science to show they are detrimental. Should we legalize marijuana just because we had poor science years ago? Furthermore, there are legitimate uses for alcohol and tobacco. How many people smoke marijuana without intending to get high?
Some call for marijuana legalization for medical purposes. While tests show you would have to smoke more marijuana than would be practical to get any type of medical benefit, THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can be produced synthetically.
And while we may or may not be able to establish a chemical link between marijuana use and addiction, we can look at statistics. According to Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, among the nation’s youths ages 12 to 17, an estimated 13.2 million turn to drinking, smoking and drug use each year. By the time many reach their senior year in high school, 76 percent go on to use marijuana. Despite programs devoted to substance abuse prevention, about 60 percent of high school students and 30 percent of middle schoolers attend shcools where drug use is common.
And why is addiction so bad? Analyzing data collected from 1994 to 1996, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found a direct relationship between marijuana use and “delinquent-depressive behavior.” Of those who used marijuana one to 11 times in the previous year, 7 percent were on probation, compared to 20 percent who used it at least weekly. The behavior tracked included “physically attacked people” and “thought about suicide.” In each instance, pathological behavior went up as frequency of marijuana use increased.
Some argue that legalization of marijuana will allow the drug trade to be controlled. They often point to the Netherlands, claiming that country is better off after legalization. That is simply not true. The Wall Street Journal reported the nation saw a 250 percent increase in adolescent pot use following legalization. Between 1991 and 1996, the Dutch Ministry of Justice reported a 25 percent rise in violent crime while crime rates fell in the United States. In a poll by Erasmus University in Rotterdam, 61 percent said all drugs should be illegal and 75 percent disagreed with only arresting addicts causing a nuisance.
And what do Americans think? A Gallup poll taken last year found that 64 percent of Americans believe marijuana should remain illegal.
Legalizing marijuana would cause more harm than good. Are there not more important issues to which we should designate national attention today?
-The writer is public affairs director for the GW College Republicans.
This article appeared in the September 13, 2001 issue of the Hatchet.