Pubdate: Tue, 12 May 2009
Source: Star-News (NC)
Copyright: 2009 Wilmington Morning Star
Author: Daniel Y. Patterson


For the past 20 years, The Economist, a conservative magazine, has 
proposed legalizing all drugs. Drug prohibition is "intended to 
reassure the parents of teenagers across the world," but overall has 
been a policy failure. According to The Economist the US spends $40 
billion each year on its war against drugs yet the "production of 
cocaine and opium is probably the same as a decade ago; that of 
cannabis (Marijuana) is higher".

It goes on to say "legalization would not only drive away the 
gangsters, it would transform drugs from a law and order problem into 
a public health problem, which is how it should be treated." Our 
harsh laws have not prevented increasing use and criminal justice 
consequences. According to Sen. Jim Webb, 47.5% of all drug arrests 
in our country in 2007 were from marijuana offenses

Setting aside for now the issue of legalizing hard drugs, I would 
propose legalization of marijuana as a first step. Money saved from 
the criminal justice system and money gained from taxation could be 
used for alcohol and drug treatment programs, including marijuana 
abuse. Although the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm Administration has 
not done a perfect job in preventing teenage use of alcohol and 
tobacco, it could at least do a better job at control than our 
criminal justice system.

I can honestly say from my 30 years in psychiatric practice, alcohol 
has done more physical, family and emotional damage than has 
marijuana and clearly tobacco is more addictive.

Daniel Y. Patterson MD MPH

Wilmington, NC
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