In his column in the Ventura County Star for August 13 (and other papers), Tom Elias usefully reminds us of the risks involved in marijuana use and, (therefore, marijuana legalization. Still, we need to put such arguments into larger contexts.
Anything worth doing is worth taking some risks to do, and human beings have found getting zonked one way or another worth doing for as long as we've been civilized, and possibly going back to the First Agricultural Revolution some 12,000 years ago: we may've grown grain as much for beer as for bread. The issue with psychoactive drugs from beer and wine to heroin and amphetamines is how to regulate them to minimize harm.
Our current system includes aggressive pushing of privileged drugs such as pharmaceuticals and ethyl alcohol — there are TV ads for medicines and beer — and criminal punishment for selling and possessing DRUGS!!! not favored by people in power. This system does more harm than good, and there will be a net increase in the public good in changing it to one that deals with all drugs in our culture sensibly and handles addiction and other drug abuse as public health issues.
Yes, there will be problems in legalizing marijuana and, I hope, other drugs. For Americans generally and currently targeted minorities particularly, the lost and ruined lives will be far fewer with legalization.
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