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Marijuana prohibition has been a huge failure

I am writing in regard to Donn Esmonde’s Nov. 10 column, “It’s high time we started legalizing pot.”

If the goal of marijuana prohibition is to subsidize Mexican drug cartels, prohibition is a success. The drug war distorts supply-and-demand dynamics so that big money grows on little trees. There is a reason you don’t see drug cartels sneaking into national forests to cultivate tomatoes and cucumbers. They cannot compete with legitimate farmers.

If the goal of marijuana prohibition is to deter use, prohibition is a failure. The United States has double the rate of use as the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available. Spain legalized personal use cultivation and has lower rates of use. Portugal decriminalized all drugs and still has lower rates of use than the United States. If anything, marijuana prohibition increases use by creating forbidden fruit appeal.

Thanks to public education, tobacco use has declined, without any need to criminalize smokers or imprison farmers. This drop in the use of one of the most addictive drugs available occurred despite widespread tobacco availability. The only clear winners in the war on marijuana are drug cartels and shameless tough-on-drugs politicians who have built careers confusing the drug war’s tremendous collateral damage with a plant.

Robert Sharpe

Policy Analyst

Common Sense for Drug Policy