The debate concerning the legalization of drugs is gaining prominence as the violence associated with drug trafficking in Mexico rises and threatens to spill into the United States. While I am not in favor of the use of marijuana, as I oppose the use of tobacco as well, I would like to see at least a rational, factual discussion of the case for its legalization.
The tremendous appetite in the United States for marijuana and other drugs is, by any measure, the primary fuel for the drug cartels. One step toward curtailing this vicious cycle would be to make at least marijuana legal, regulated and readily accessible. The argument that legalization of marijuana would lead to increased drug use is simply unfounded. I have a doctorate in pharmacology and taught for years in medical school before spending nearly 30 years in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Here are the facts about marijuana use:
First, marijuana is infinitely less addictive than alcohol or nicotine. Furthermore, alcohol and nicotine are far more dangerous drugs than marijuana. Alcohol has a lethal dose, that is, the acute intake of too much alcohol leads to respiratory depression and death. There is no lethal dose for marijuana.
Second, smoking marijuana does not lead to the use of harder, more addictive drugs. What does lead to the use of more addictive drugs is the purchase of marijuana, which currently puts the user into contact with dealers who also offer these more expensive and more addictive drugs.
Third, the argument that legalization of marijuana will increase drug use is simply unfounded. We have no experience in the United States on which to base such a claim since marijuana has never been legalized or regulated as is alcohol. We can only look to places like the Netherlands, where all drugs are legal. Marijuana and other drug use there is: a) lower than in the United States on a per capita basis, and b) far below the use of alcohol and nicotine.
J. MARK BRAUGHLER