making pot legal Letter

Jan 25 2016 | 12:16 PM

To the Editor:

Kudos to Brian Kelly for his strong support for legalizing medical marijuana (Letter, Jan. 14). However, he does not go far enough.

According to the most recent national poll (October 2015), 58% of Americans favor decriminalizing marijuana entirely, including for personal use. This is up from 51% just a year earlier. Five states have already decriminalized and/or legalized marijuana, including Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. The trend here is similar to, though slightly slower than, the trend toward gay marriage, which is now legal under federal law in all 50 states.

While it may have been true at one time, marijuana is no longer widely considered a “gateway” drug. (In fact, the #1 gateway “drug” is cigarettes.) Two remarkable facts. First, the country of Jamaica, with one of the highest marijuana consumption rates in the world, has one of the lowest lung cancer rates in the world. Yet China, with one of the lowest marijuana consumption rates, has among the highest lung cancer rates.

Second, tobacco causes over 400,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone; and if we include drunk driving, alcohol is responsible for another 200,000 deaths per year in the U.S. alone. Yet marijuana (and its active ingredient, THC) has never been listed as the cause of death in a single case in all of recorded history (unless the marijuana was “tainted” with another drug).

Medical marijuana should absolutely be available in all 50 states, in any and all forms requested. But it is time to go further and decriminalize/legalize marijuana for personal use. People are going to use it recreationally in any case. So taking the “black market” aspect out of it would not only save money (spent on the “drug war”) – and even increase revenues, via taxes – but eliminate some of the violence involved as well.

Ian Alterman