In November 2014, Alaskan voters will be asked whether to legalize marijuana use for people over 21. It is 2014 Ballot Measure 2 and I will be voting yes. I am telling you this despite my reluctance to comment on State of Alaska issues because I think this is a matter of justice.
I am voting yes because: Alcohol is more harmful than marijuana.
If alcohol is legal, so should marijuana. According to the CDC:
Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death. This dangerous behavior accounted for approximately 88,000 deaths per year from 2006–2010, and accounted for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20–64 years.
88,000 deaths from over drinking. Per year. That’s nearly 30 9/11s each and every year. But we accept these deaths as the price of liberty. Or we don’t accept them but realize that Prohibition has been tried and failed in this country. By contrast, there are zero documented deaths from marijuana. It’s hard prove a negative, but:
- Drug Facts from the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s otherwise scary fact sheet on Marijuana documents no deaths. A few scares about likelihood of heart attacks under certain conditions, but not a single statistic on the number of deaths caused.
- A search on MedlinePlus failed to bring up death statistics for marijuana
- A 2006 article in New Scientist noted a literature search failed to bring up any deaths from using marijuana
If you can find a reliable (sourced from a peer-reviewed journal or government publication) that can attribute more than 88,000 deaths per year to marijuana products, leave a comment with full citation.
Aside from being deadly to people who drink, alcohol is associated with higher likelihood of domestic violence, while marijuana is not.
I have personal and painful experience to the power of alcohol to produce violence and misery. My father beat my mom and my siblings, usually while drunk. I do not recall being beaten, but I lived in perpetual fear of being next. I was drunkenly cussed out many times and Christmas time was usually more pleasant if he was out on a drunk. I actually had nightmares involving my drunk father for several years after I moved away from home. So again, if we can allow something as poisonous to family life as alcohol in our society, I’d be grateful to legalize something that wasn’t quite as violence stimulating.
In addition to being less harmful than alcohol, it appears that legalizing marijuana, at least for medical use actually decreases deaths from painkiller overdoses by about 25%.
Marijuana use does have its risks. Check out any of the fact sheets I’ve linked to. I’m just saying they pale in comparison to the chaos and death rained down upon us all by alcohol. We manage to keep society mostly intact despite alcohol’s assault. Marijuana will be a cinch to handle in comparison.
I am voting yes because: Too many lives have been ruined by possession arrests and convictions.
Once you get caught up in the justice system, it’s easy to get into a downward spiral. You get a drug conviction and people find excuses not to hire you. You may no longer be eligible to go to college. You might go to prison for a simple possession offense and learn new ways of crime while behind bars.
According to the Alaska State Troopers 2012 Drug Report, over 3,000 marijuana related arrests were made between 2010 and 2012. For a drug with no known overdose deaths and which isn’t associated with domestic violence. I think that it is a tragedy that thousands of lives were fed into our justice system for this.
Nationally, marijuana arrests disproportionately fall on people of color. According to the ACLU, “Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.” In some states, Blacks are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. We need to ditch something that has so much racial bias in its application.
I am voting yes because: I lean libertarian.
As a matter of principle, I don’t think the State has any business regulating consensual conduct that does not harm others. Your freedom to swing your fist may end at my nose, but you’re free to go up to that limit. For example, marijuana should be included in DUI laws. I don’t care if you smoke a few joints in your home. But if you then hop in your car and start driving, that’s a risk to others that can and should be regulated.
Those are the reasons that I will vote to legalize marijuana in this state. I believe people of good will can come to a different conclusion. So if you’re a friend of mine who is a “no” voter, I’m ok with that, though I expect you to be willing to agree to disagree.
Summary of 2014 Ballot Measure 2 – http://www.elections.alaska.gov/doc/bml/BM2-13PSUM-ballot-language.pdf
Official Election Pamphlet General Election 2014, Book I – http://www.elections.alaska.gov/doc/oep/2014/AK-Region-I-book.pdf – Ballot Measure 2 begins on page 63 of the booklet. While the State provided a cost estimate for regulating marijuana, it did not include any information from the Department of Corrections. A recently Fairbanks News-Miner article estimated it cost $50,000 a year to house a prisoner, so any costs from legalizing marijuana would be partially offset from the savings realized by not putting marijuana users and small dealers away.
CDC Alcohol Deaths – http://www.cdc.gov/features/alcohol-deaths/
DrugFacts: Marijuana – http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana
The Toxicity of Recreational Drugs – Alcohol is more lethal than many other commonly abused substances. By Robert Gable. New Scientist. May-June 2006, Volume 94, Number 3, Page: 206, DOI: 10.1511/2006.3.206 – http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/the-toxicity-of-recreational-drugs/1
Fewer Painkiller Deaths in States With Medical Marijuana: Study People with chronic pain may use pot instead of narcotics, researchers suggest
Monday, August 25, 2014, Health Day News
Cost of housing state’s prison population has senators seeking sentencing reform
Posted: Fairbanks Daily News Miner. Sunday, October 6, 2013 12:02 am | Updated: 5:42 am, Mon Oct 7, 2013.
By Matt Buxtonfirstname.lastname@example.org
URL: Not listed because too long. Click on title for story.
2012 Drug Report. Alaska State Troopers. – http://www.dps.alaska.gov/AST/ABI/docs/SDEUreports/2012%20Annual%20Drug%20Report.pdf
Marijuana Arrests by the Numbers. ACLU – https://www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/marijuana-arrests-numbers