Source: Daily Record – Letter-to-editor by BettyLou DeCroce -
The parade of those clamoring for the legalization of pot in New Jersey includes an odd alignment of progressives, municipal prosecutors and doctors. They see legalization as harmless and inevitable. They make an interesting, if not a compelling case.
Legalizing marijuana, they argue, would eliminate from our already crowded court system cases of casual users of pot who pose little threat to the community. Why waste taxpayer money prosecuting these individuals and why burden these people with criminal records for smoking a weed? Instead, they argue, legalize pot, and tax it; filling government coffers with millions of dollars.
I have a different view: let’s not make another illicit drug legal just for expediency. I am not persuaded that legalizing marijuana for anything but medical use will prove beneficial to our society.
The experiment with legalizing marijuana in Colorado is barely five months old; before we blindly follow that state off a Rocky Mountain cliff, let’s review real world data. I’m not alone in that position. California Gov. Jerry Brown recently told The New York Times that “I think we ought to kind of watch and see how things go in Colorado,” before legalizing marijuana in the Golden State.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is no big fan of legalization of marijuana, which was approved via referendum, not legislation. He said in an eye-opening documentary by CNBC that legalization sends a “terrible message” to minors. He’s right. Pot smoking may or may not be as dangerous as alcohol, but it is not benign.
While the entertainment industry glamorizes marijuana and other drugs in movies and magazines, it sidesteps reality. Scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse warn that the effects of pot on the developing teenage brain include the potential of an 8 to 10 point drop in IQ over time. They also note that users are likely to become dependent, physically or psychologically.
Recently, fourth-graders in Colorado were caught selling an edible form of marijuana, which is popularly baked into candy and cookies. Their parents left the edible marijuana where their children could access it and take it to school —apparently ignorant of the dangers of ingesting marijuana . Eating pot can lead to life-threatening overdoses and dangerous behavior, especially in children. The catastrophic impact of drunk drivers on innocent people is already well documented. Do we really want to encourage young people under the influence of marijuana to get behind the wheel of a car and hurt more innocent people? I say no.
Marijuana smokers suffer many of the same respiratory problems as cigarette smokers. The American Lung Association says cigarette smoking-related diseases claim over 393,000 American lives each year and cost the nation over $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct health care expenditures. Encouraging the smoking of pot through legalization will only worsen those statistics.
Legalization proponents say we have to throw in the towel on the war on drugs and legalize marijuana so we can reap the benefits of taxing it. I say government’s insatiable desire for tax dollars should not rest on legalizing harmful substances to subsidize more wasteful spending. Government already taxes cigarettes and alcohol heavily to generate revenue and then spends money telling people to quit smoking and not to abuse alcohol. Following the same schizophrenic model, the government will do the same with marijuana: legalize it, tax it, and then direct people to government subsidized clinics to stop abusing marijuana. What’s next: Legalize cocaine or heroin so we can generate more government revenue?
The CNBC report on Colorado’s marijuana experiment showed tremendous entrepreneurial activity built around marijuana sales and a booming demand for the weed largely among middle age people. The sellers are raking in big money, but how long will 50- and 60-year-olds shell out good money to relive the 1960s and 70s? Or will “Big Pot’s” business model mirror that of cigarette companies — get them hooked young and keep them coming back?
Legalizing marijuana without knowing more about the social and health consequences is reckless and not something I can support.
Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce