Opinion and Forefront

HEAD: If legalization sounds too good to be true, you're right

April 19, 2014

DEBATE QBills introduced in the Indiana Senate three years in a row would have decriminalized possession and distribution of marijuana. Should lawmakers pass a similar bill in a future General Assembly?

 

Head
AHave you ever seen a commercial for what looks like a fantastic product? Despite some convincing advertisements, after five easy payments and much anticipation these products often fail to deliver what they promise.

The same could be said for legalizing marijuana. Proponents claim it won’t hurt anyone, is working elsewhere, and that taxing the drug makes more money for the government. Just like the latest infomercial gizmo, legalization would have fewer benefits and more costs than advocates promise.

Marijuana is harmful. Despite certain medical applications, it can harm a person’s ability to fight infections, curtail short-term memory, complicate completion of complex tasks, diminish motor skills, increase the chance of heart attack, damage the lungs and brain, and cause strokes.

Furthermore, experts estimate that 9 percent of all marijuana users end up dependent on the drug, including 16.7 percent of those who begin using in their teenage years. The figure for those who use marijuana daily soars to between 25 percent and 50 percent.

Legalization increases children’s access to the substance and promotes the impression that it isn’t dangerous.

Colorado has seen marijuana added to products including cookies, chocolate bars and sodas. Emergency rooms now treat children for overconsuming pot-laced foods, a nonexistent issue before legalization allowed producers to package it in products attractive to kids.

Unlike possession or dealing, drugged-driving laws are difficult to enforce.

While police use machines to determine the amount of alcohol on a driver’s breath within minutes of bringing a suspect to the station, detecting marijuana requires a blood draw and sending samples to a lab where a trained technician must analyze them and generate a report—a process that might take weeks and requires a financial investment.

Recall also that marijuana possession continues to be against federal law, regardless of states’ policies.

The Obama administration stated that it will not enforce these laws, but there are no guarantees that future administrations—as early as January 2017—will be so lenient. Particularly when this “choice” takes such controversial steps as permitting financial institutions to establish relationships with drug cartels.

Does the financial benefit of legalizing marijuana counterbalance all these detrimental effects and challenges? No.

One Colorado study found that the state’s tax on marijuana would not cover the projects the state wanted legal marijuana to fund. The production price for a pound would need to increase 40 percent just to cover the modest goal of rebuilding some of Colorado’s schools.

Also, legalization does not destroy the black market for marijuana. In Colorado, consumers could legally buy an ounce of pot for about $400 in January or pay $236.47 without state taxes on the black market. That state must now spend more money on regulation, health care and law enforcement.

The constituents I represent overwhelmingly disapprove of making marijuana legal, and that is how I will continue to vote in the General Assembly.•

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Head, a Republican and a former prosecutor living in Logansport, represents Senate District 18. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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