Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
The Washington Post: On pot, just say ‘slow’

The Washington Post

The Washington Post

First Published Jan 14 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jan 14 2014 01:01 am

Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he’s "not much in favor" of following Colorado and Washington state down the path of legalizing marijuana sales. His opposition probably seals the fate of the major pro-pot bills introduced in the state legislature this year.

Still, momentum for legalization is building, and the term-limited Mr. O’Malley will be gone in a year. So here’s a question for cannabis-loving lawmakers in Annapolis, led by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert: What’s the rush?

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The arguments for and against legalizing, regulating and taxing retail marijuana have been around for years, but a few things have changed. One is public opinion, which has tilted clearly toward more lenient treatment of people who possess small amounts of pot and, more gradually, outright legalization.

That, and the supposed lure of tens of millions of dollars in sales-tax revenue for state treasuries, led to new laws in Colorado, where legal retail sales of marijuana began Jan. 1, and Washington, where they will begin later this year. Over time, those two states should provide answers, or at least significant new data, that shed light on the real costs and benefits of allowing adults to buy pot openly and legally.

Right now, the cost-benefit equation is mainly a matter of conjecture. Studies to date, in the 20 or so states where legal medical marijuana is available, are of limited use.

Will the new laws in Colorado and Washington lead to increased use? More marijuana in schools? Spiking rates of addiction and treatment? Widespread "smurfing" by people who go from store to store buying 1-ounce bags (the per-purchase limit) and selling them on the black market?

Perhaps most important, will the wide availability of marijuana in those two states prompt people to drink more alcohol — especially when they drive — or less? And will there be more stoned driving, which itself is dangerous? Given the stakes — the already-staggering carnage on the nation’s roadways caused by drunken (and stoned) drivers, and the risk of more of the same — that’s a powerful argument in favor of gathering more information before rushing headlong toward legalization.

A couple of generations of Americans have come of age amid relatively widespread use of pot; many are inured to its effects. It is true that THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, is generally less harmful and debilitating than alcohol. Still, it’s foolish to overlook the effects of long-term use, and the Drug Enforcement Administration reports that potency levels are higher than ever.

It makes sense to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by imposing modest fines rather than jail terms. Overly harsh sanctions have filled prisons with users who are left with criminal records; that’s irrational. The wise course for states considering legalization is to regard Colorado and Washington as data-generating laboratories.




Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.