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By Alan Caruba

 

In 1919 the eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of “intoxicating liquors” in the United States and by 1933 the era of prohibition was over when the twenty-first Amendment rescinded it. Alcohol consumption was and is a social problem, but sometimes the government is not the right vehicle for dealing with them.

 

The United States is a huge market for what are deemed illegal drugs and, for many years, marijuana has been among them. That prohibition is now going the way of the earlier effort to make alcohol consumption illegal. Questions remain as to whether this is a good thing or not.

 

A study by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health whose results were released in February examined automobile deaths resulting from marijuana use while driving. The data was gathered from six states that perform toxicology tests on drivers involved in fatal accidents. It found that drugs played an increasing role in such accidents, accounting for more than 28% in 2010, 16% more than in 1999 and marijuana was the main drug involved in the increase, contributing to 12%, compared to only 4% in 1999.

 

“Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana,” said Dr. Guohua Le, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia. “If a driver is under the influence of alcohol, their risk of a fatal crash is 13 times higher than the risk of a driver who is not, but the driver under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana then increased to 24 times that of a sober person.”

 

Those numbers will rise in the years ahead because two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized recreational use of marijuana and twenty states allow medical use. Observers of the trend predict that a dozen more states are expected to legalize marijuana in some form over the next several years. One study has projected a $10 billion legal marijuana industry by 2018.

 

More than a dozen members of Congress have sponsored legislation aimed at reforming federal marijuana laws and the federal government allowed Colorado’s and Washington’s laws to take effect last year. Medical use has gained public acceptance and the Federal Drug Administration recently gave the green light to a clinical study in its efficacy in children with severe epilepsy. The Department of Health and Human Services has approved a study that will examine its effect on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

President Obama recently signed a Farm Bill that legalized “industrialized hemp production” for research purposes in the twelve states that permit it after a decades-long war on cannabis that is clearly winding down.

 

The use of marijuana took off in a big way in the 1960s, a decade famed for many liberal causes and a generation of young people that rejected opposition to it. In many ways, legalizing marijuana has been a liberal cause.

 

In early April, the Washington Times reported that “Billionaire philanthropist George Soros hopes the U.S. is going to pot, and he is using his money to drive it there. With a cadre of like-minded, wealthy donors, Mr. Soros is dominating the pro-legalization side of the marijuana debate by funding grass-roots initiatives that begin in New York City and end up affecting local politics elsewhere. Through a network of nonprofit groups, Mr. Soros has spent at least $80 million on the legalization effort since 1994.” The American Civil Liberties Union has been a leading advocate of marijuana legalization efforts.

 

The legalization can be seen as a liberal versus conservative political issue, but I think it is more an issue of public opinion regarding the use of marijuana, particularly as regards the fines and jail terms that have been imposed. We do this for those who abuse alcohol and logic suggests such laws will be applied to pot users as well, reducing the more aggressive fines and jail terms.

 

A new Time magazine polls found that 75% of Americans believe that the sale of marijuana will eventually become legal across the nation whether they supported legalization or not. The Pew Research Center conducted the polls in mid-February among 1,821 adults, finding that the number of people in favor of legalizing pot continues to grow. Four years ago 52% percent said they thought marijuana use should not be legal, but now 54% are in favor of legalization.

 

Most believe that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. While 69% believe that alcohol was more harmful to society, a large majority, 76%, believe that people convicted of possession of small amounts of pot should not have to serve jail time. I concur with that. I also support its use for medical purposes.

 

For better or worse, all societies evolve and change. The Prohibition era gave rise to organized crime to provide the booze Americans wanted to drink and the efforts to decriminalize marijuana now reflect a growing acceptance of its use for either medical or recreational use.

 

More drivers will die as a result, either from its use or from being in fatal accidents with those who do. Its use in the work environment will cause accidents that range from minor to fatal. It is extraordinarily curious that, while Americans have been subjected to a huge campaign to restrict smoking, the restrictions on marijuana use are being eliminated. I am not sure I see any difference here.

 

Americans love booze and love pot. What the long term effects on our society will be are unknown, but there will be effects.

 

© Alan Caruba, 2014

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Comment by Kristin Fecteau on April 18, 2014 at 12:16am
Actually, yes, Dennis, it is instructive to other members to see that we police our blogs, we don't allow copyright violations, or other posts that violate our rules here. It has nothing to do with "demonstrating powers" and everything to do with being informative about things that are unacceptable on TPN.
Comment by Kristin Fecteau on April 17, 2014 at 4:49pm

Dennis, I am a moderator of this site, and I, among other, enforce the Terms of Service of this website. Now, enough out of you. 

Comment by Kristin Fecteau on April 17, 2014 at 7:23am
Two problems, Dennis.... Cutting and pasting an entire website violates copyrights. Second, this Alan's blog, not yours. No one wants to be bombarded with an entire page, this section is for comments. Post the link, not the content.

From TPN Terms of Service:
You agree that you will not post, email or make available any content or use this Network:

In a manner that infringes, violates or misappropriates any third party's intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights or contractual rights;
Comment by Janis Eisenstark on April 16, 2014 at 12:05pm
They are either looking for an easy solution to ignore system anomalies or they believe it is medicinal. Neither will solve the problem.
Comment by Volunteer Patriot on April 16, 2014 at 8:33am

Comment by Kristin Fecteau on April 16, 2014 at 8:21am
Comment by Dennis Kolb deleted, for violation of TPN terms of service
Comment by Gail Cohen on April 16, 2014 at 12:05am

Immorality goes hand in hand with corrupt and out of control government...

Comment by Kristin Fecteau on April 16, 2014 at 12:01am
Thanks, Stephen, for telling the rest of the entire Tea Party what we should or should not support. I am sure you are out there in a daily fashion doing something to promote YOUR causes, right? Oh ... No? You just sit behind your keyboard and tell the rest of us to shut up because we happen to think that stable families and not cutting children to shreds before they are born promotes a good society that CONTRIBUTES to the stability of a Nation, while you do nothing but complain at those of us who actually WORK to save America by running this blog, meeting with lawmakers, fighting in court..... Why don't YOU shut up, Stephen and find your own "banner" and quit dictating to those of us who carry the Tea Party banner?
Comment by Brenda Choate on April 15, 2014 at 10:24pm

But don't you dare light up a cigarette.

Comment by Stephen Grande on April 15, 2014 at 9:32pm

The day the Tea Party become synonymous with the Religious Right or Conservatives is the day the Tea Party dies. I'm 100% behind Fiscal Responsibility and Limited Government. Those are issues that any Conservative, Libertarian, or even sane Democrat can support. But many of us in the Tea Party movement are not social conservatives. If you are pro-life, anti-gay marriage, anti-drug, that is fine with me. But please go do it under some banner other than the Tea Party banner. We've found a common cause that a huge number of Americans can find common ground, that the government has grown too big, taxes too much, and tramples on the rights of individuals. Let's stick with that and not add in issues that are going to fragment the movement. I have a lot of friends who support Fiscal Responsibility and Limited Government, but want nothing to do with the Tea Party as they think the Tea Party also stands for racism and suppression of the individual. I have a heck of a time convincing them that is not part of the Tea Party Movement. But sometimes I wonder if I'm wrong and maybe I need to drop my support of the Tea Party Movement. I still provide a lot of financial support and attend a lot of gatherings. But if it takes on any official positions beyond the reason it was formed, I'm ready to head in another direction. As far as banning Marijuana because someone might drive while under the influence, then we might as well go back to prohibition and all the horrors that brought onto our nation. I'm much more afraid of being killed by another driver that is texting. I'd rather ban cell phones than ban these other dangers. I think I'm more likely to be killed by someone totally sober who doesn't understand the danger of texting while driving.

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