Earlier this week, heavyweight columnists David Brooks and Ruth Marcus weighed in on the debate over the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado. Armed with reason and findings from several studies, Time's Maia Szalavitz has served up a refreshing piece of debunkery that tackles their misinformed contentions head-on.


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Writes Szalavitz, on the subject of pot's inherent immorality:

Brooks focuses his opposition to legalization on the idea that marijuana smoking is "not a particularly uplifting form of pleasure and should be discouraged more than encouraged," based, it appears, largely on the fact that he embarrassed himself during high school by smoking before a class presentation.

But why does this mean that marijuana should be illegal? Would arresting the teenaged Brooks have been a better way of ending his use than his own realization that it made him appear foolish? To ask the question is to answer it.

It's hard to argue with a straight face that arresting Brooks would have helped. In fact, research shows that kids who are arrested and put into the juvenile justice system for any type of crime, including marijuana possession, are almost seven times more likely to have criminal records as adults than kids with similar levels of youthful misbehavior who are not arrested.

Our current laws already fail to deter around half of the population from trying marijuana by the time they reach adolescence. And black people are at least four times more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis, despite the fact that they use and sell the drug at around the same rate as whites. If heavy arrest rates were a deterrent, blacks might logically have much lower use rates— and yet, they do not.

Is subjecting black people to potentially harmful arrests that do not reduce marijuana use a higher moral path for society than legalizing marijuana and applying more effective strategies, such as the successful methods that have reduced cigarette smoking? And to take this line of thinking to its natural conclusion, where is the morality in selling alcohol and cigarettes, both of which have been linked to known health and societal harms?


Read the rest over at Time.

ht Maggie Koerth-Baker.


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