Thursday, February 11, 2016

Elkhart Police Department public information officer Lt. Ed Windbigler displays samples of K2 (left) and marijuana. K2 is legally sold as incense in local stores and is a sort of synthetic marijuana.|111225 (AP)
People's Forum: Marijuana is not the harmless drug some people make it out to be

Posted on Jan. 25, 2014 at 10:46 p.m.

I have read articles recently that appear to support or imply the inevitability of legal marijuana in Indiana. One author stated marijuana is a plant that causes humans no harm. Marijuana is far more potent (14 percent THC, up from 1 percent in 1960) and toxic (four times the tar of tobacco) than it used to be. Marijuana contains an enzyme that converts hydrocarbons into their carcinogenic form, tripling the rates of mouth, throat and lung cancers over tobacco smoke. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that 367,476 people were admitted to hospital emergency rooms in 2009 from smoking marijuana, and some of them died.

There is no evidence to support people switching from alcohol and pills to marijuana if it were legal. Amsterdam has an enormous alcohol and drug problem and marijuana is legal there. Most of the pills people abuse are legal medications sourced from doctors. Alcohol, opiates and marijuana have vastly different effects, and most people do not switch between them once they find the one that brings the desired effect. The idea that “we would all be safer” is also false. Legal marijuana has no appreciable effect on other criminal behaviors, and a study in Maryland showed that 33 to 40 percent of drivers in fatal crashes were high on marijuana at the time, negatively impacting public safety.

I support decriminalizing marijuana, because I believe it is a tremendous waste of time and resources to incarcerate people for small amounts of any drug. But I also believe that an honest discourse on the effects and dangers of marijuana, and the unintended consequences of legalization (DUI, workplace issues), must occur before any change in the law is even considered.