Letter: Weigh costs of drug legalization

In response to the Sept. 14 letter to the editor from Else Pedersen, Chairwoman of the Greater N.O. Drug Demand Reduction Coalition, I wonder why she apparently thinks marijuana legalization is a bad idea even though she says nothing about criminalizing alcohol, which is much more addictive than marijuana and is, in and of itself, more likely to cause anger and violence than marijuana if used by itself.

Could it be that Prohibition has failed to teach us that it was better to legalize, tax and regulate alcohol and otherwise deal with its addictive effects than to deal with the criminality its prohibition caused?

Apparently, Pederson overlooks the greater ill effects of the war on marijuana, which is infinitely more widespread and costly than was Prohibition. Consider what it costs us to fight this war on land and sea and in the air in foreign countries and in defending our borders. Consider the costs to our criminal justice system in capturing, investigating, trying and imprisoning the many thousands of persons, including many who were merely in possession of marijuana for personal use, who are caught up in this war.

The fact of the matter is that we are paying for both sides of this war. Who else do you think might be financing our opponents? If it is not us, then it must be them, who could only do so by making money hand over fist only because marijuana is illegal. And so it’s we who are financing the drug gangs that have devastated large areas of Mexico by the mass slayings of countless numbers of people, many of whom were totally innocent of anything except being related to the wrong person.

As far as addiction is concerned, both liquor and tobacco are far more addictive than marijuana. And regarding health issues, whereas marijuana has medicinal uses, liquor and tobacco have a monster adverse effect on our already rapidly rising healthcare costs.

This letter is based on the experience and from the point of view of an 83-year-old who spent decades drinking more than his share of liquor and smoking more than his share of tobacco and marijuana. Because of COPD, he had to give up smoking several years ago and found that it was much, much harder to break his tobacco addiction than his marijuana habit.

Stewart P. Butler

retired activist

New Orleans