On July 10, the House Judiciary committee held a hearing entitled “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform.” The pro-pot panel that testified before the committee made many fantastic and outlandish claims to support the legalization of recreational marijuana use.
Claim 1: “Teen use of marijuana drops with legalization.”
One of the claims the panel made about recreational marijuana legalization is that when a state legalizes marijuana, adolescent usage declines. Yet, this claim does not match logic. As Charles Stimson notes, when marijuana is legalized, use by minors will rise because all deterrents have been removed:
Marijuana’s illegal status “keeps potential drug users from using” marijuana in a way that no legalization scheme can replicate “by virtue of the fear of arrest and the embarrassment of being caught.” With increased use comes increased abuse, as the fear of arrest and embarrassment will decrease.
Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) challenged the assumption that minors would be protected if the drug is legalized by pointing to the fact that legalization had “increased unintended exposure by young children” and “tripled” calls to poison centers for kids mistakenly “ingesting” marijuana. Thus, Rep. Cline asked Mr. Nathan, a member of the panel, “Have you seen youth access to legalization increase as a result of legalization?” Mr. Nathan was forced to admit that many more kids were mistakenly ingesting marijuana in legalized states. This shows that marijuana is much more accessible to minors and ripe for abuse in states were the substance is being made legal.
Claim 2: “The marijuana black market will be dismantled by legalization.”
The panel also made the argument that federal legalization would create a “regulated market” and take away the power of the black market. Yet, Neal Levine, representative of the Cannabis Trade Federation, was forced to admit that despite state regulation in states that had legalized marijuana, the black market was still the legal industry’s greatest “competitor.” This is backed up by research that shows the black market is the main seller in some legalized states. Even liberal California governor Gavin Newsom has admitted that the black market in California got more powerful after legalization. The governor has even recently deployed the California National Guard in an effort to halt illegal growers.
It is clear that government regulation does not stop the black market. In fact, if the federal government chooses to legalize and regulate pot, government intervention may very well increase the size and volatility of the black market as criminals seek to sell more potent strands of the drug than federal law allows.
Claim 3: “Marijuana is safer and causes less dependency than alcohol or tobacco.”
This claim made by a member of the panel is one of the most easily debunked myths about marijuana. The National Institute of Health has proven that marijuana is a gateway drug. Those who use marijuana become almost three times more likely to become addicted to opioids. The National Institute of Health also notes that, “Marijuana is associated with a six-fold increase in suicide.” This is just a fraction of the detrimental heath consequences associated with marijuana use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has noted that marijuana hinders brain development, can cause “paranoia,” hurts the respiratory system, and can cause permanent brain damage. The evidence is clear—marijuana is a dangerous drug and must not be legalized in the United States.
We Must Stand Against Marijuana Legalization
Legalization or decriminalization of recreational marijuana use on the federal level is bad policy. The STATES Act (H.R. 2093) and the SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1595) are just steps in the road to complete legalization. Not only do they stand upon questionable constitutional foundations, but they would increase the many social detriments associated with marijuana, including rises in drug abuse, crime, criminal trafficking, and mental health problems. Family health and safety would be degraded across the United States if these two pieces of legislation were to pass and put the U.S. on the road to legalization. For the sake of America’s families, Congress should reject the STATES Act and SAFE Banking Act, keep marijuana illegal, and focus on more effective ways of stopping the interstate drug trade.
Hugh Phillips is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council working on pro-life legislation.