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MARIJUANA: Criminalization drains resources

Letter by Robert P. Sharpe, Arlington, Va. on April 27, 2011 at 10:29 am | 25 Comments »
April 27, 2011 10:29 am

Re: “Battle over medical marijuana makes no sense” (Your Voice, 4-26).

The drug war is largely a war on marijuana smokers. In 2009, there were 858,405 marijuana arrests in the United States, almost 90 percent for simple possession. At a time when state and local governments are laying off police, firefighters and teachers, this country continues to spend enormous public resources criminalizing Americans who prefer marijuana to martinis. The end result of this ongoing culture war is not necessarily lower rates of use.

The U.S. has higher rates of marijuana use than the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available. Decriminalization is a long overdue step in the right direction. Taxing and regulating marijuana would render the drug war obsolete.

As long as organized crime controls distribution, marijuana consumers will come into contact with sellers of hard drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. This “gateway” is a direct result of marijuana prohibition.

(Sharpe is a policy analyst with Common Sense for Drug Policy.)

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