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... state is itself an underestimate. The extent is difficult to determine because of the illegal nature of the trade; however, it is substantial. Emergency room mentions of marijuana and hashish have also increased dramatically, from 3, 818 in 1985 to an estimated 8, 200 in 1988 (NNICC, 1989).
Note that there is a very high degree of concomitance associated with these figures. More than 80 % of the mentions are in combination with other drugs (NIDA, 1988). Without a reliable count of the number of marijuana users, the full extent of the prohibition policy's failure is difficult to determine. The fact that 33 % of the U.
S. population 12 years of age or older, 65, 748, 000 people, admit to using marijuana at some time in their lives (NIDA, 1988), indicates that the policy has failed at its primary goal of stopping use. How badly the policy has failed must remain a matter for conjecture until prohibition is repealed. The question thus must be, where do we go from here? The federal government has pushed since 1981 for increases in fines, penalties, and other criminal justice sanctions for marijuana use.
Combined federal, state, and local expenditures were estimated at more than $ 10 billion in 1987 (Nadelmann, 1989), and the costs continue to escalate. The federal antidrug budget alone for 1990 totals $ 9. 4 billion (Washington Post, 1989). In addition, countless lives and reputations are ruined by giving otherwise law abiding citizens an arrest record, For example, 28 % of the 1, 115, 200 total estimated drug arrests performed in 1987 were for simple possession of marijuana (FBI, 1989). Calls by Drug Policy Director William Bennett, President George Bush, Senator Joseph Biden, and others from both ends of the political spectrum for increased efforts by law enforcement indicate that the number of arrests will be likely to increase in the future. The other two alternatives, decriminalization and legalization / regulation , must be explored.
Decriminalization of possession of marijuana is a good idea, yet without ensuring a noncriminal method of acquiring the drug, the policy falls short of the promise implied in the very term "decriminalization. " Alaska is the only state that has truly decriminalized marijuana use by allowing cultivation for private personal use. The other 10 states that decriminalized marijuana laws simply reduced the penalty classification and punishment for possession. Under the "decriminalized" system, the user is forced to choose between either committing a major felony by cultivating plants for personal use, or purchasing marijuana from a criminal drug dealer, which perpetuates the black market and exposes the marijuana user to other drugs being peddled by the same dealer. Decriminalization does not necessarily remove the marijuana consumer from the criminal market, since the user must rely on that market to avoid committing a major felony. Two of the alternatives for control of the marijuana market, continued prohibition and decriminalization, are inadequate.
If only to reserve precious court time and jail space, decriminalization is preferable. The remaining option, marijuana legalization, regulation, and control, must be explored as the only remaining viable option. LIKELY EFFECTS OF LEGALIZATION Prohibitionists frequently argue that marijuana legalization would not be a panacea for the United States's drug problems. In addition, problems arising from illicit trafficking in cocaine, heroin, PCP, methamphetamine, and other drugs might still occur, as would problems arising from simple use of marijuana. The prohibitionists also argue that legalization would send the message that marijuana is good for young people to use and abuse.
These may be legitimate concerns and should be addressed. The question, however, remains: what would be the real effect, on the individual and on society, of legalizing marijuana? There are four areas of concern that must be addressed in assessing any proposal to legalize marijuana: what might a model legalization scheme look like; the effect on the criminal justice system; the financial impact; and the impact on society from legal availability of marijuana, especially as regards the use of drugs. A MODEL SYSTEM One of the most frequent arguments heard against legalization is the speculation over what Madison Avenue would do with drugs like marijuana or cocaine. The most important point to stress is that the system of legal marijuana need not resemble the system for either tobacco or alcohol. Those models of legalization are examples of how not to regulate and discourage use and abuse.
The American experience with these drugs and their legalization is largely responsible for the bitter taste left by discussion of drug legalization. The spectre of a marijuana "Marlboro Man" or "Buds McKenzie" attracting young people, minorities, and other populations at highest risk for drug abuse into using marijuana is frightening for most citizens. Of course, the actual blame legitimately belonging to these advertising icons is debatable. Yet, the imagery forms a frightening picture for many average citizens.
A comparison of the effects of the repeal of alcohol prohibition in the United States and in England may shed some light on how best to avoid an explosion in marijuana use. It is true that, in the United States, when alcohol prohibition was repealed, the death rate from liver cirrhosis rose dramatically. This leading indicator of alcohol abuse, by contrast, remained steady in the United Kingdom for several years following repeal of their wartime prohibition. An analysis by Milton Terri's, M. D. , contends that a combination of strict limits on hours of availability, increasingly high taxes, anti-alcohol education, and treatment of alcoholics, was responsible for the success of the British system. In the United Kingdom, the death rate from cirrhosis actually declined for several years after prohibition's repeal (Terri's, 1967).
In contrast, the American system of laissez-faire legalization, combined with the alcohol industry's largely successful opposition to antialcohol education efforts, seemed to create an immediate, continuing increase in the number of cirrhosis deaths in the United States. This is not an absolute gauge of the success or failure of either the British or the American system, yet it does give an indication that more effective approaches exist. Applying the lessons of history to the marijuana laws, we can observe that any attempt to repeal marijuana prohibition must be approached carefully. For instance, granting the existence of problems with alcohol and tobacco legalization, it may be appropriate to first reform those systems of regulation and control in order to facilitate the effort to discourage use of those two drugs.
Then, after making these changes, a similar system should be put in place that would regulate and control the use, production, and distribution of marijuana, while at the same time discouraging abuse and first use of marijuana. Such discouraging mechanisms include, yet are not limited to, the following: age limits; restrictions against some forms of marketing and merchandising that may be seen as glamorizing the drug; a complete ban on advertising; prominent display of medically legitimate health warnings; and pricing structures that discourage consumption while denying criminal drug dealers market supremacy. The system for legal marijuana would need to be flexible, since the effects of marijuana legalization, pro and con, can only be guessed at. Yet, it is vital to get past initial objections and begin coming to grips with the practical necessities of dealing with drugs. It is easy to dismiss the notion of marijuana legalization as long as no plan has been officially formulated...
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