Looks Like Pot Will be Legalized
Bill Keller, former executive editor of The New York Times and now a writer there, wrote about this subject when he was substituting for an editorial columnist, and that spurred me to write this blog post.
Keller recalls talking to a drug policy expert who said marijuana is less injurious than alcohol or tobacco. (Or perhaps that is Keller’s opinion – hard to tell.) Less injurious in what way, I wanted to ask. Because it doesn’t hit the same major organs that alcohol can? How can anyone conclude that it’s less injurious than tobacco? Because people generally don’t smoke the equivalent of a pack of regular cigarettes a day? (I’m posing medical questions that weren’t answered in the article.)
Keller does say that the expert worried that people would smoke more pot if it were legalized, and that pot can mess with adolescents’ and heavy users’ brains.
The issue this editorial poses is not “whether pot will be legalized, but how.” It also points out that people shouldn’t face such stiff criminal penalties for possession of small amounts as they do now, and perhaps a well-regulated market will “minimize its harm.”
He postulate that one problem with legalizing pot for recreational use is that we could end up with an industry where the power is in the hands of a few, like Big Tobacco. A better model would be our wine industry, with many producers, and to allow people to grow it at home.
It’s a complex undertaking when you talk about labeling, pricing, and enforcement, to name a few issues. And, the article noted that there is no breathalyzer for pot, and we could have more drivers stoned on pot on the road.
The column ends with comments about pot in California:
“On the opposite coast, California demonstrates a different kind of unintended consequences. The state’s medical marijuana law is such a free-for-all that in Los Angeles there are now said to be more pot dispensaries than Starbucks outlets. Even advocates of full legalization say things have gotten out of hand.
“It’s a bit of a farce when you can watch people come out of a dispensary, go around the corner and resell their drugs,” said Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor and former San Francisco mayor, who favors legalization. “If we can’t get our medical marijuana house in order, how do we expect voters to deal with legalization?” He is now part of a group discussing how to impose more order on California’s medical marijuana market, with an eye to offering broader legalization in 2016.”
In case you’re not aware of how widespread acceptance of medical marijuana is, there are 18 states that allow the drug for medical use and 12 others are considering it.
It didn’t take long for readers to respond to Keller’s column. Earl Blumenaur, an Oregon Congressman wrote to mention his bill, H.R. 501, the Marijuana Tax Equity Act of 2013, designed to tax and regulate pot.
Addiction specialists from Phoenix House and Odyssey House in New York wrote about the problems with legalization—first, the effect on the undeveloped teen brain and the fact that teens are more likely to become addicted than adults, and second, the idea that there will not be enough money devoted to treatment programs to handle the results of legalization.
There’s a lot of food for thought here, and it’s a complex issue. While reading this article, I recalled another in which the writer compared the evolution regarding the legalization of pot to the acceptance of the right of gays to marry. Both show people’s changing attitudes, but I would argue that the two are apples and oranges.