Marijuana Legalization Will Not Cure America’s Drug Problem

The citizens of America have decided that marijuana should be legal. Finally their Legislators are starting to listen to them. Twenty states have legalized the cultivation, use and sale of medical marijuana and two states, Washington and Colorado have legalized it for medical, industrial and recreational uses. Eventually the Federal Government will come around and the long nightmare of marijuana prohibition will be over.
The ending of marijuana prohibition has been a long time coming. While America will no longer have a marijuana prohibition problem, it will still have the original policy of prohibition it uses to deal with drug use and abuse. The policy of drug prohibition started in 1914 with the Harrison Act which made opium and other drugs illegal and finally provided oversight of the drug market. This prohibition of some drugs and not others has fueled, as alcohol prohibition did in the thirties, a rise in criminal activity to supply the needs of a population of addicts who were suddenly cut off from the help of their doctors, and made criminals simply by the fact of their addiction.
Prohibition was the basis of the Harrison Act in 1914 and it is today the basis of all of America’s drug policies. America spends upwards of 51 billion dollars a year to enforce a policy that has never, in it’s almost 100 years of trying, had a year that could be called a success. One point 3 percent of the population was the addiction rate in 1914 and it is the same today.
Other countries have tried other policies, most recently in Portugal where eleven years ago they adopted a policy of harm reduction and eliminated the crime of criminal possession. The result has been a huge drop in the harms associated with drug use.
It is truly wonderful that the failed policy of marijuana prohibition is ending, but as long as prohibition is the focus of our efforts in dealing with drug use and abuse we will never come anywhere near successfully treating America’s drug problem.

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