The editorial “Reefer madness: End prohibition” (July 12 and TribLIVE.com) advocating “flat-out federal legalization, taxation and regulation” of marijuana needed to take into account more facts before jumping to this conclusion.
Statistics prove the rate of past-30-days use of marijuana by Americans age 12 or older in 1979 was 13.2 percent. In 2008, that figure stood at 6.1 percent. This 54-percent reduction in marijuana use over that 29-year period is not a failure. Activists fail to recognize that the greatest costs of marijuana are not related to its prohibition, but result from marijuana use itself.
Alcohol-related costs total over $185 billion, while only $14.5 billion is generated in tax revenue; similarly, tobacco use costs over $200 billion, but only $25 billion is collected in taxes. Why have we not already learned our lesson from these other two substances?
People argue whether marijuana is a “gateway” drug. Investigating hundreds of drug overdose deaths in my career, the majority of those individuals began their drug use by way of marijuana before moving on to other illicit drugs. We saw a record 78 drug overdose deaths in Westmoreland County in 2012. Legalizing another psychoactive substance is not the right idea for public health or to prevent more drug-related deaths in our community.
Joshua C. Zappone
The writer is a Westmoreland County deputy coroner.
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