Legalizing Marijuana: Pros and Cons

To the Editor, New York Times:

Much of the country — with The New York Times regrettably in the vanguard — is advocating the reckless addition of a third drug, marijuana, to two drugs currently legal for adults: alcohol and tobacco. These two legal drugs are the leading causes of preventable illness.

The legal status of a drug has dramatic impact on its use. In the last 30 days, 52 percent of Americans 12 and older used alcohol, 27 percent used tobacco and only 7 percent used marijuana. The dramatically lower level of marijuana use reflects its illegal status, not its appeal. Why is it in our nation’s interest to see marijuana use climb? Since when is smoking a program that we promote?

The best policy to protect public health is one that reduces, not increases, marijuana use. There are plenty of ways to achieve this goal, including a strong public education effort focused on the negative health effects of marijuana.

There are reasons why employers, including the United States government, prohibit marijuana use in the workplace. There are reasons why marijuana emergency room admissions are reported at the rate of 1,250 a day and 455,000 a year, and why highway crashes double for marijuana users.

We cannot ignore the negative effects that legalization would have on under-age use and addiction, highway safety, treatment costs, mental health problems, emergency room admissions, workplace accidents and productivity, and personal health.

Chicago, July 30, 2014

 Mr. Bensinger was administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration from 1976 to 1981. Mr. DuPont, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, was director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse from 1973 to 1978. They are co-founders of Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, which provides employee assistance program, gambling helpline and drug-testing services.

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