By Allen St. Pierre
Despite this amazing era of increased cannabis awareness and acceptability in America, there are still strong pockets of political resistance. One of the most important states that needs to exit the era of Reefer Madness post haste is the political bellwether Florida. Of America’s political behemoths–CA, IL, OH, TX, PA and NY–Florida is the state that has least embraced cannabis law reforms, defers way too much to law enforcement’s self-interests and it’s political leadership–Democrat and Republican–are lockstep prohibitionists.
To reform cannabis laws in America means reforming the laws in a politically important and diverse state like Florida.
However, when concerned citizens in Florida, like South Florida NORML’s Karen Goldstein, contact her elected officials like Governor Crist seeking parity with about one-third of the United States’ citizens who currently reside in states that have either decriminalized cannabis, or have ‘medicalized’ it, they instead receive disingenuous Reefer Madness-soaked replies from unelected, self-interested prohibition apologists.
April 16, 2010
Dear Mrs. Goldstein:
Governor Crist received your email and forwarded it to me for a response. I am the Director of the Florida Office of Drug Control. First, thank you for expressing your opinion to our Governor.
It is important to understand that our federal and state drug control policies have one overarching goal: to reduce and, if possible, eliminate the use of illicit drugs like marijuana.
Establishing a taxed and regulated legal market for adult marijuana users would not advance the goal of our drug policies. First, legal access to marijuana would likely result in steep usage rate increases. Our experience with alcohol and tobacco has taught us that commercial interests weaken sensible regulatory efforts.
A legal marijuana industry would employ promotion, advertising, and lobbying to increase demand while maintaining prices well below their current black market levels. Stimulating demand while lowering prices would undoubtedly lead to both increases in the number of Americans that use marijuana as well as the intensity with which they use it.
I am very concerned about the health and wellbeing of Florida citizens. The deaths caused each year by alcohol and tobacco represent a major cost to society that is in no way offset by the tax revenue generated by the sales of these substances. Furthermore, I do not believe that the adverse consequences of marijuana use (respiratory diseases, traffic fatalities, poor school performance, dependence, etc.) could ever offset the potential tax revenue it might generate.
Any policy change that results in an increase in marijuana use, particularly among youth, is unacceptable. Cannabis use has acute effects on attention and memory, something that constitutes a particular problem for adolescents still in school and perhaps contemplating a collegiate future. Furthermore, marijuana use impairs judgment and motor skills, posing a serious risk of automobile accidents. It is also estimated that about 10% of marijuana users eventually become dependent on it. By enforcing policies that suppress the use of addictive drugs like marijuana, we are affirming our ultimate respect for freedom and liberty by ensuring that fewer Americans get trapped into a life of addiction.
Finally, please be aware that federal and Florida laws prohibit “medical marijuana” because an expert review of the evidence conducted by the Institute of Medicine concluded that “Smoked marijuana…is a crude THC delivery system that also delivers harmful substances…[and] cannot be expected to provide a precisely defined drug effect. For those reasons there is little future in smoked marijuana as a medically approved medication.” Safer and scientifically proven drugs exist for all of the medical conditions that marijuana is erroneously thought to treat.
Again, thank you for your correspondence to Governor Crist.
Bruce D. Grant
Florida Office of Drug Control