[h1]It may be tempting - but look at the reality[/h1]
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
SF Chronicle P: A-13
It's a tempting idea: Legalize and tax a commodity that a lot of people like, collect the revenues, and reap the budgetary benefits. In economic times like these, that might be just the formula we need to pull us out of the red. In this case, the truth does not live up to the hype.
Legalizing marijuana will not solve our budget woes, nor will it be good for public health. Introducing marijuana into the open market is very likely to do some other things, however: increase the drug's consumption, and with it, the enormous social costs associated with marijuana-related accidents, illness and productivity loss.
The example of legal alcohol and tobacco reveal an unsettling pattern. Legal drugs are by definition easy to obtain, and commercialization glamorizes their use and furthers their social acceptance. Their price is low, and high profits make promotion worthwhile for sellers. Addiction is simply the price of doing business. Any revenue gained from taxing these drugs is quickly offset by the heavy costs associated with their increased prevalence. Because today's high-potency marijuana is much more harmful than once thought, a spike in use from legalization would result in a financial burden California cannot afford to bear.
It is almost universally accepted in the medical community that marijuana use is linked with mental illness. Since the appearance of the British Medical Journal's famous 2002 headline, "Marijuana and psychiatric illness: the link grows stronger," the research showing marijuana's link with illnesses like psychosis and schizophrenia has become frighteningly commonplace. In fact, researchers from Kings College in London have shown that eliminating marijuana use would decrease the incidence of schizophrenia in the American population by more than 8 percent. That means that marijuana use is responsible for the schizophrenia suffered by more than 19,000 Americans. Other research has shown the drug's connection to lung damage, as well as to head, neck and testicular cancers.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's justification for AB390 relies on the myth that marijuana laws are costing taxpayers millions of dollars and wrecking the lives of otherwise law-abiding citizens. But a closer examination of the facts reveals a very different reality. Although there are thousands of arrests for marijuana possession every year in our state, most of these arrests result in little or no consequences. Most of those who are charged with possession plead down from more serious charges, such as trafficking. Researchers from Rand report that many marijuana arrests result from drinking and driving violations at alcohol checkpoints. "The police also find joints, and then (the offender) is in jail for both offenses. People's images of the casual (marijuana) user getting hauled off to jail are not true," a Rand researcher recently commented.
Rand-sponsored research reveals that in the Netherlands, where the drug is sold openly at "coffee shops," marijuana use among young adults increased almost 300 percent after a wave of commercialization. The country has also become a haven for producers of high-potency marijuana, and other drugs like ecstasy and methamphetamine. These unintended consequences have led many Dutch officials to advocate for rolling back the status quo.
To be sure, restricting marijuana use by law - especially because some people find it extremely pleasurable - is not without its costs. But legalizing this addictive substance would only exacerbate our problems by increasing the harm that greater levels of use will cause. Given the heavy costs associated with our two legal substances, and the relatively minor costs associated with our current restrictive marijuana policy, the case for a commercial market for marijuana remains weak and unconvincing - even in this uncomfortable economic environment.
Kevin Sabet, a senior drug policy adviser in the Clinton and Bush administrations, is a native of Anaheim.
"I disagree with pretty much everything in this article, and would like to point out that there's really no way to do a human study that determines -causation-. Correlation is possible, causation is not, therefore whatever studies have been done their results have been twisted.
However, this article appeared in the SF Chronicle, even though it was on a back page. I saw it, and I barely ever skim the papers. I actually just remembered it, and figured I should put it up here.
Also: This is my first article post. There wasn't a pic to put so I know I missed that one, but if there's anything else I missed let me know. Also: I can't post a link so can I PM it to somebody to post for me?"