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It’s high time to end marijuana prohibition

Only by enacting state and local legislation on the use, production and
distribution of marijuana, can state and local governments effectively
impose controls regarding:

• Which citizens can legally produce marijuana;

• Which citizens can legally distribute marijuana;

• Which citizens can legally consume marijuana; and

• Where, and under what circumstances, is such use legally permitted.

By contrast, the prohibition of marijuana provides law enforcement and state regulators with no legitimate market controls.

This absence of state and local government controls jeopardizes, rather than promotes, public safety.

For example: Prohibition abdicates the control of marijuana production
and distribution to criminal entrepreneurs (e.g., drug cartels, street
gangs, drug dealers who push additional illegal substances).

Prohibition provides young people with unfettered access to marijuana
(e.g., according to a 2009 Columbia University report, adolescents now
have easier access to marijuana than they do alcohol).

Prohibition promotes the use of marijuana in inappropriate and
potentially dangerous settings (e.g., in automobiles, in public parks,
in public restrooms, etc.).

Prohibition promotes disrespect for the law and reinforces ethnic and
generation divides between the public and law enforcement (e.g.,
according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, 75 percent of all marijuana
arrestees are under age 30; African Americans account for only 12
percent of marijuana users, but make up 23 percent of all possession
arrests).

Legalizing and regulating adult marijuana use would raise revenue,
promote public safety and limit the access that young people have to
marijuana. These are goals that lawmakers and the public ought to
support.

It’s time to end 70-plus years of marijuana prohibition with a policy of legalization, taxation, regulation and education.


Paul Armentano is the deputy director of the National Organization for
the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and is the co-author of the book
Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?

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