[OP-ED] Prohibition’s crimes or sensible regulation? Take your choice on marijuana

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 7.13.01 AM(Editor’s note: Opinion pieces are published for discussions purposes only.)

By Dr. Gina Berman and M. Ryan Hurley, president and treasurer, respectively, of Marijuana Policy Project of Arizona. Hurley also is a partner in Rose Law Group and chairman of its Medical Marijuana Department.

In Sheila Polk and Merilee Fowler’s guest column (“Why ‘Big Marijuana’ must be stopped,” Viewpoints, Jan. 10), they naively refer to “Big Marijuana” as a greedy monster that will be created if a regulated system for marijuana is put in place.

We have news for them. Big Marijuana already exists, and it’s called the cartel.

These are criminals who will rape, murder and steal to sell drugs to our children, and they were created and enriched by the very prohibition that Polk and Fowler advocate we maintain.

We tried prohibition in this country once and it didn’t work. Prohibition created gangsters and criminals and did little to stem the supply of alcohol.

Prohibition won’t work for marijuana, a substance, by the way, that is objectively far less harmful than the legal substances alcohol and tobacco.

Everyone can agree on one thing: We should do our best to keep marijuana out of the hands of our young people. Prohibition has been a spectacular failure in this regard. Ask high-school students and they will tell you unequivocally that marijuana is prevalent and being sold at their school every day.

Drug dealers don’t check ID.

As a contrast, look at the success we have had convincing young people not to smoke cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cigarette smoking by high-school students is at its lowest rate in 22 years.

Why? Not because we made cigarettes illegal. Instead, we taxed, we regulated, we demanded that sellers vigorously check ID, and we used the tax revenue to provide kids with real information about the dangers of smoking.

But for marijuana, our policies remain dangerously in the past. It is time for a more intelligent approach. Polk, Fowler and other prohibitionists must not have paid much attention on the first day of high-school history.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Related: Pot bank promoted in state of state address

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