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A Tale of Two Addictions

It’s schizophrenic, a conflict of two minds trying to occupy the same state. With one mind, Hoosiers buy into lawmakers’ attempts to restrict the influence of big tobacco industries – limiting propaganda and publicly decrying the effects of tobacco smoke to a bandwagon of willing followers. Smoking is bad, got it. With another mind altogether, the majority of Hoosiers polled in a recent survey support the idea of decriminalizing and possibly legalizing marijuana – a more hazardous smoke with longer lasting and more detrimental effects on users.

Andrea Neal of the News-Sentinel thinks this societal double-mindedness comes as a result of misinformation. Marijuana’s popularity has most likely increased, she reports, as a result of activists like NORML, who promote the legalization of marijuana for medical use. They refer to studies like the one published in the 1996 edition of The Lancet, a European medical journal, which initially found that marijuana had no ill effect on those who smoked it. Activists tend to ignore the fact that on several occasions the same journal published findings that directly contradicted that first study, firmly establishing that marijuana “is more dangerous than tobacco,” Neal says.

But the propaganda continues. And lawmakers are tuning in, as they toy with the idea of either legalizing marijuana for medicinal use or decriminalizing its recreational use – an idea that’s sure to please.

But isn’t it government’s job to protect its citizens? Studies have indicated that marijuana use inhibits short-term memory development and the ability to concentrate, making it difficult to learn new things. While the dangers of smoking tobacco are well-publicized, the fact that smoking marijuana “increases the smoker’s risk of developing lung cancer by 20 times the amount of one tobacco cigarette,” is little known (BLF, PDF available at http://www.blf.org.uk/Page/Special-Reports).

Peter Bella, a retired cop believes state legalization is only playing into a bigger hand. The ultimate goal of activists, as he sees it, is for each state to legalize cannabis use to ensure that national legalization will soon follow.

But the government will never fall for national legalization, Bella believes. For one thing, the government can’t regulate it. Unlike tobacco, marijuana is easy to grow and harvest for smoke. Second, if the government can’t regulate its growth and distribution, then they can’t profit from its use (http://www.procon.org/in-the-news-pdfs/washington-times-cigarettes-versu...). That’s a hard sell for an institution with debts reaching into the trillions.

It’s anybody’s guess who Indiana lawmakers will listen to when it comes to decision time. Let’s hope they consider all of the facts in their decision.

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