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Legalizing marijuana incrementally

WASHINGTON (BP)–The decision by the Obama administration to surrender to bad state policies on so-called medicinal marijuana will have disastrous effects. (See accompanying BP story .)

Medicinal marijuana is the Trojan horse of the marijuana decriminalization movement. The movement sees it as the means to appeal to people’s compassion in order to change public opinion about marijuana and ease the way toward decriminalization of marijuana. The Obama administration’s decision to cave on enforcement of federal drug laws against marijuana distribution represents the dropping of the first shoe on decriminalization of marijuana and signals the next one is coming.

With the federal government out of the way, we can expect to see a rapid rise in marijuana distributors and marijuana demand in states that have fallen victim to the medical marijuana scam. None of this escalation will prove especially helpful to the sick or to society. Those who use medicinal marijuana will pay the price first, and then everyone else will. Marijuana is not a necessary or particularly effective pain-relieving aid.

For years, the pain-relieving ingredient in marijuana has been available by prescription. So, one cannot make the argument that medicinal marijuana is a new addition to the pain-relief arsenal. In fact, it isn’t even that useful for pain relief. Most people who use marijuana to help them cope with severe pain take other stronger pain relief drugs in combination with marijuana because the pain relieving properties of marijuana are not that potent.

On the other hand, smoking marijuana threatens to make bad situations worse for many users. Marijuana introduces multiple toxic chemicals into the systems of people whose bodies are already weakened from their ailments. Not only might these toxic chemicals hinder people’s ability to fend off the cause of their pain by weakening their defenses, but users risk developing additional problems related to their use of marijuana, including respiratory ailments and addiction.

In addition, the public’s acceptance of marijuana as a medicinal aid will weaken resistance to its recreational use. As it becomes more entrenched in our society, it will be perceived as less dangerous. This will likely lead to more experimentation with marijuana by our nation’s young people. Since marijuana is undoubtedly a gateway drug, we can expect to see even more of our nation’s youth lose their lives and their futures to drug addiction.

The last shoe to drop will be the legalization of marijuana distribution for recreational purposes. As marijuana use becomes part of the culture, we can expect to see a movement toward decriminalization of all marijuana use and distribution. If marijuana is decriminalized, we will see the rise of every kind of drug related problem, from performance impairment to family disruption to addiction to crime to premature death. This is not the kind of change America needs. What we need is the enforcement of laws that protect the vulnerable and that help all Americans achieve their greatest potential. What we don’t need are more threats to that goal.

Medicinal marijuana is a threat to our nation’s wellbeing and health, not a prescription for a better life. The Obama administration has just made life more difficult for many of our fellow citizens and threatened the future of many millions more.
Barrett Duke is vice president for public policy and research for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

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  • Barrett Duke