Pot Legal?

It goes by many names. As Pot, Mary Jane, Grass, Herb, and Weed, marijuana moves with
stealth through our society. Although once considered a symbol of the counterculture, the drug
is now widely accepted by the population and is endorsed by political groups whose main objective
is to legalize it for common use. The fallacies and inaccuracies in the arguments by these
vociferous people are often overlooked by the public, who blindly embrace the destructive
narcotic.

Proponents of legalization contend that if drugs were legalized, crime and violence
would decrease. They believe that it is the illegal nature of drug production, trafficking and
use that fuels crime and violence. Yet it is the experience of many police officers that crime
is committed not only because people want to buy drugs, but more often because people use drugs.
There is no denying the fact that drug use changes behavior and provokes criminal activity.
This activity would not be reduced as a result of drug legalization any more than gangster
activity disappeared after the repeal of Prohibition. There is always room for a black market.
If drugs were legal for persons over 18, for example, drugs traffickers would till target those
17 and younger, and if only marijuana were legalized, traffickers would continue to work in
heroin and cocaine.

Statistics prove that drug use and criminal activity go hand in hand. A May 1993 Bureau
of Justice Statistic report indicated that among 18-49 year old males, those who had used
alcohol, cannabis and cocaine at some point during the past year were ten time more likely to
commit a violent act than those who used none of the above (Donovan). Furthermore, Department
of Justice statistics show that a growing number of young arrestees are marijuana smokers (DEA).
Data from 12 major urban areas showed a sharp jump, from 16.5% in 1992, to 26% in 1993, in
teenage arrestees who tested positive for marijuana.

The apparent rise in drug use is discouraging, and some advocates claim that the fight
against drugs is a lost cause and that the only alternative is legalization. The truth is that
there have been many positive developments over the past fifteen years in reducing drug use.
According to the Monitoring the Future Study, 19% of the members of the Class of 1994 had
consumed marijuana in the month before they were surveyed (Donovan). When the first Monitoring
the Future Study was published, 27.1% of the members of the Class of 1975 (eighth and 10th
graders were not surveyed then) reported having used marijuana or hashish in the previous month.
The figure for the Class of 1980 was 33.7%, which puts that 19% figure 14 years later into
perspective.

A cornerstone of the legalization proponents\' position is the claim that making illegal
drugs legal would not cause more of these substances to be consumed, nor would addiction
increase. They claim that many people can use drugs in moderation and that many would choose
not to use drugs, just as many forego alcohol and tobacco now. Yet they fail to realize that
legalization would decrease the perception of risk currently associated with drug use, sending
a message that drugs use (like tobacco and alcohol) is acceptable, and encouraging drug use
among people who currently do not use drugs.

A favorite argument in support of legalization is that education, health care, road
building and a wide array of other worthwhile causes would benefit from the money that could be
raised by legalizing drugs and then taxing them. Yet the argument does not take into account
the erosion of the tax base as more and more citizens are unable to work because of drug
addiction as well as the cost of the loss of health and welfare benefits for the unemployed.
Proponents also fail to mention that unless drugs are made available to little children, law
enforcement will still be needed to deal with the sale of drugs to minors. Furthermore taxing
the drugs would make them more expensive at the checkout counter. The drug cartels do not
provide a share of their receipts to their respective governments. Anyone going into competition
with them, including the US Government, would have to be prepared to cut prices, if necessary,
to stay in the business.

It is