Regarding Dr. David Bearman’s thoughtful September 5 op-ed [Voices, “What This Country Needs Is a Marijuana Summit”], if health outcomes determined drug laws instead of cultural norms, marijuana would be legal. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose death, nor does it share the addictive properties of tobacco. Marijuana can be harmful if abused, but jail cells are inappropriate as health interventions and ineffective as deterrents.
The first marijuana laws were enacted in response to Mexican immigration during the early 1900s, despite opposition from the American Medical Association. Dire warnings that marijuana inspires homicidal rages have been counterproductive at best. White Americans did not even begin to smoke pot until a soon-to-be entrenched federal bureaucracy began funding reefer madness propaganda.
Marijuana prohibition has failed miserably as a deterrent. The U.S. has higher rates of marijuana use than the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available to adults older than 18. The only clear winners in the war on marijuana are drug cartels and shameless tough-on-drugs politicians who’ve built careers confusing the drug war’s collateral damage with a relatively harmless plant. - Robert Sharpe, policy analyst with Common Sense for Drug Policy, Washington, D.C.