EDITORIAL

Stirring the pot: legalize or not?

Posted May 09, 2011, at 10:31 p.m.
Last modified May 10, 2011, at 9:37 a.m.

The Maine Debate this week centers on a drug that has been demonized and celebrated: marijuana. Join our online discussion on the Opinion page of bangordailynews.com. Editorial Page Editor Susan Young and Assistant Editorial Page Editor Tom Groening will be moderating the discussion and chiming in with comments and questions between 10 a.m. and noon Tuesday, May 10, though readers are encouraged to engage on the question before and after that time.  Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, who has proposed legalization of marijuana, also will participate in the discussion Tuesday morning.

The argument by those who maintain that marijuana should remain on the list of illegal substances hasn’t changed much over the decades. Smoking (or eating) the substance produces a “high,” a state that is similar to intoxication. It also produces a state described as mildly hallucinogenic. It leaves people impaired, critics say, and so should be classified with other drugs such as cocaine, heroin and LSD.

Using the drug, opponents of legalization say, leads to the use of other, more dangerous drugs. And legalizing it, they say, will make it more widely available to children and teens.

Proponents of legalization assert that recreational use is relatively harmless. It does not create physical dependency, there are few long-term health risks associated with regular use, and its affects, while they do fall under the category of impairment, do not cause users to act violently or to have blackouts, proponents of legalization say. Proponents of legalization also argue that if marijuana were legalized, it would move a portion of the black market economy into light, where it could generate significant tax revenue.

And perhaps one of the most compelling arguments in favor of legalization, proponents say, is that it would put pot dealers out of business. The so-called war on drugs, they say, drives up prices for marijuana, which in turn raises the stakes for dealers and others in the underground economy. That leads to violence, legalization proponents say.

Would legalizing marijuana create a slippery slope? Would it send the message to children and teens that using it has no consequences? And what are the consequences of marijuana use? Proponents say the substance is no different from alcohol; that is, if used at the right times and in moderation, an adult can function well as a user. Opponents argue that daily use can dull initiative and intelligence; and there are some studies that suggest it reduces the sex drive in men.

Is there a moral component to this debate? Should laws prohibit — or at least inhibit — people from using mind-altering substances? What about the nation’s experience with making alcohol illegal — is it analogous to the pot debate?

Join us in the debate.

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