.. g kids has increased 78 percent in the last four years alone”. With drug use by young people increasing, we must not send a mixed message to our youth about the dangers of marijuana. The recent proposals for legalization and the medical usage laws are sending messages to the American children that it is “ok” to smoke pot. And it simply is not.
Our nations goals must be to reduce, not promote the use of illicit drugs by our children. Marijuana is the first step that children take into the dark world of drug abuse. It acts as a gateway to more serious problems. The idea is that cocaine and heroin users don’t just start out with cocaine and heroin. They start with drugs like marijuana that are easier to get, to try, and are less legally offensive. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (1998), “teens 12-17 who use marijuana are 85 times more likely to use cocaine than non-marijuana users”.
The CASA president, Joseph A. Califano, says, “that the gateway effect means that recent increases in marijuana use among teens will translate into 820,000 more children who will try cocaine in their lifetime, of whom 58,000 will become (narcotics) addicts”(“The Marijuana Debate Goes on,” 1998). The number of children that will use cocaine will increase should marijuana be legalized. No-one debates the issue of legalizing cocaine. And no one should.
Cocaine, heroin, crack, and every other illicit drug out there should all remain illegal too. There is no debate about the dangers of these drugs. When local drug dealers know that your younger brother, sister, or child has tried smoking pot they see a new customer for some of their more dangerous drugs. “If marijuana is a gateway to hard drugs, it is likely due to its illicit status that the purveyors of pot can put your adolescent in touch with the local crack connection” (Clark, 1997). These drugs can kill the first time that they are used. There is no dispute about the dangers of addiction and withdrawal that accompany the use of such drugs. Do you want these dealers hassling the children of America? Legalizing marijuana would set us on a slippery slope toward accepting any and all drugs.
Many pro-legalization organizations try to compare prohibition of alcohol to the illegal status of marijuana. They try to make claims that marijuana isn’t as dangerous as alcohol and should then be legal as well. This argument could be debated for years, supported by scientists with physical studies backing up both sides of the issue. Alcohol is definitely a dangerous and addictive drug. It leads to thousands of deaths a year, be it drunk driving or other crimes executed while intoxicated.
It truthfully doesn’t matter which drug would eventually be deemed the most dangerous. The fact of the matter is that this pro-legalization argument is not a valid reason to legalize marijuana. The alcohol situation that transpired during the early part of this century was totally different from the current situation with marijuana. Prohibition of alcohol was repealed after just 13 years while prohibition against marijuana has lasted for more than seventy five years. Alcohol prohibition struck directly at tens of millions of Americans of all ages, including many of societies most powerful members.
Marijuana prohibition threatens far fewer Americans. Most of which are young and relatively subordinate Americans. Alcohol prohibition was repealed and marijuana prohibition was retained, not because scientists had proved that alcohol was the less dangerous of the various psychoactive drugs, but because of the prejudices and preferences of the majority of Americans. Marijuana has no place in American society. The cost to society of the two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, has been and still is enormous.
As De Leon (1994) puts it, we certainly don’t need to add any more problems by increasing the availability of marijuana. “Even if it is relatively ineffective, we have developed social control over the use of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. Among most drinkers, solitary drinking, drinking and driving, and being intoxicated are socially sanctioned, while drinking moderately with family and friends and taking precautions about driving are encouraged. No such controls prevail over marijuana or any other drugs.” (Avis, 1996). Marijuana should remain illegal because of the enormous number of side effects and the addictions that result from use. The illegality of drugs helps to discourage at least some people from trying them.
Making marijuana widely available would undoubtedly increase at least experimental use, and given the stronger potency of modern marijuana, most users would go on to develop abuse-related problems (MacCaoun, 1992). Marijuana is still a drug! That fact can not be changed no matter how many people vote on it. Drugs lead to Crime. And Crime breaks down society. Average citizens, fed up with crime and drugs, are being told that legalization is a reasonable alternative.
As Thomas A. Constantine, administrator for the DEA, puts it (“Speaking Out”, 1999), legalization is not an alternative, but rather a surrender which will reduce our quality of life. Health and social costs associated with the increased availability of marijuana would break our economy. Crime would not decrease. The moral fiber of our country would be ripped apart.
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