Consider consequences of legalizing marijuana

By Anthony Evans,

To what end?

When it comes to radical shifts in public policy, this is the single most important question that must be asked, because actions don’t take place in a vacuum.  Instead, they take place in a society that consists of all of us, from the very young to the very old.  We’re all inextricably linked in a gigantic causal chain, and as Americans our fates are interconnected.

So when contemplating radical shifts to American drug laws – specifically, the legalization of marijuana: To what end?

The unfortunate truth of the human condition is that most of the time, we can’t foresee all the consequences of our actions.  Not everything can be anticipated.  This lack of foreseeability is why people, businesses and yes, even governments often make decisions that aren’t in their own best interest.  Businesses fail, governments collapse and societies disintegrate because hindsight alone is 20-20.

Sometimes, it’s the unintended consequences that carry the most weight.

What we do know is large, far-reaching decisions have more unknown variables than smaller ones.  Large decisions are the most unpredictable.

It doesn’t get much larger than radicalizing our drug laws.

To be fair, a number of Americans would personally benefit if marijuana was legalized.  First and foremost for drug users, it would allow them to continue to enjoy drugs without the threat of arrest.  Clearly, this is a key incentive; in countless interviews, the pro-legalization demonstrators have been very candid about being motivated by personal self-interest. Various economic benefits have also been touted by marijuana proponents, although it should be noted that the annual state and federal tax revenue for alcohol is $15.3 billion – yet alcohol costs $237.8 billion in health care, treatments, lost productivity and criminal justice.

But what are the other consequences?

Nicotine and Alcohol: The two most heavily abused recreational drugs in America are nicotine and alcohol – and what nicotine and alcohol have in common is that they’re both legal.  That’s probably not coincidental: Shortly after Los Angeles legalized marijuana under the guise of “medical marijuana,” there were suddenly more licensed marijuana dispensaries in the city than Starbucks!  The Obama Administration has stated: “It is therefore fair to suggest that decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana might not reduce the drug’s burden to our justice and public health system with respect to arrests, but might increase these costs by making the drug more readily available, leading to increase use, and ultimately to more arrests for violations of laws controlling its manufacture, sale and use.”

Genetically-Strengthened THC:We know that marijuana plants have been genetically engineered to produce higher levels of THC, the plant’s inebriating agent.  By some estimates, today’s marijuana has between 600 percent and 1,300 percent higher levels of THC than plants from the mid-1970s.  What this ultimately means is unclear, but it

does suggest that Baby Boomers who are basing the legalization argument on their past experiences might be underestimating today’s societal impact.

Violent Crimes and Hospital Visits: Roughly 500,000 people are arrested for violent crimes each year in America – and 98,000 people are arrested for marijuana-related crimes not including simple, nonviolent possession.  Furthermore, a study of shock-trauma patients reported 15 percent of those injured while driving a car or a motorcycle had been smoking marijuana; another 17 percent tested positive for both THC and alcohol in their blood.  And if this wasn’t enough, 450,000 annual visits to the hospital emergency room involve marijuana.  If marijuana is legalized and its availability increases, it seems reasonable to assume that these numbers will rise. – as will the respective costs to society

There is an undeniable statistical link between marijuana usage and violent crimes, although we don’t fully understand the causal relationship.  But it’s worth noting that there was more gun violence at Denver’s recent “4/20” pro-marijuana rally than at any Tea Party rally – ever.  In fact, there’s actually been more gun violence at pro-marijuana rallies than at pro-Second Amendment rallies!

So again we ask: To what end?

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