In the last 30 years, public attitudes toward marijuana and the war on drugs have softened. Yet there are plenty of drug warriors out there who are determined to fight to the end and spend every tax dollar they can get on a struggle that has cost billions and destroyed lives.
Peter Bensinger, the former DEA chief in the Carter Administration, is upset that Illinois had adopted a medical marijuana program. His response proves that marijuana does impair rational thinking or, at least, the opposition to marijuana does.
“The citizens of Illinois lost. They’ve compromised their safety and the exposure of kids to marijuana. Eighteen-year-olds can take this without a parent’s permission. And you have to only look at other states to see what’s happened.
“In Colorado, the grades have gone down in the high schools, the drug violations have gone up and the highway traffic fatalities from people smoking pot and driving have tripled. One person is dying every week because someone is driving a vehicle and has smoked marijuana.”
These types of distortions are straight out of Reefer Madness.
First of all, pot was just legalized one year ago in Colorado. It took months for the state to put together its regulations. It would be amazing if marijuana suddenly sent grades plummeting within just a few months of its legalization, particularly since pot smoking is still as illegal as it was prior to legalization for those who are under the age of 18.
Bensinger is arguing that since people 18 and older can smoke pot, then 14, 15, 16 and 17 year olds are getting dumber. Yeh, someone is getting dumber, and Bensinger doesn’t need to go too far to find out whom.
Besides, standardized tests are usually conducted to measure how well students are performing, not an analysis of their grades – if one has even occurred since pot was legalized.
According to Bensinger’s own words, automobile fatalities from pot smoking have tripled since marijuana was legalized. It is now happening once a week instead of once every three weeks. Assuming that drivers started puffing a joint before driving immediately after the legalization vote, then fatalities from driving while stoned would have increased from roughly 17 or 18 a year to 52.
The facts are that Colorado experienced a four-year drop in fatalities from 2008 to 2011 before rising in 2012. That was before marijuana was legalized and while it’s uses for medical purposes was expanding. If anything, the evidence shows that auto fatalities have declined in recent years as marijuana smoking became more accepted. That shouldn’t be a surprise since people feel more comfortable smoking in their homes. In fact, a study by the University of Colorado – Denver with 17 states that liberalized marijuana laws had fatalities drop 8-11% the first year.
When asked if he believes that marijuana reduces chronic pain, Bensinger replied, “So will heroin. So will other drugs.”
Sure, heroin works at reducing pain, and better than marijuana. Of course, the side effects are far worse.
That is the way the anti-drug warriors have framed their argument for the last century. They distort the facts. No, they make up their own “facts.” When that doesn’t work, they lump all drugs together as if smoking a joint is the same as shooting heroin or taking PCP. That’s because in their minds marijuana is a gateway drug to all the real bad stuff, but not cigarettes or alcohol.
Fortunately, the side of distortion and fear is losing. Hopefully, the time will come when the entire nation can save some tax dollars by disposing of the drug war and prisons can be used for real criminals.