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baltimoresun.com

Marijuana prohibition fuels lawlessness, violence

11:00 AM EST, November 18, 2012

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If the goal of marijuana prohibition is to subsidize Mexican drug cartels, prohibition is a success ("The nonsense of marijuana busts shown," Nov. 11). The drug war distorts supply and demand dynamics so that big money grows on little trees. There is a reason you don't see drug cartels sneaking into national forests to cultivate tomatoes and cucumbers. They cannot compete with legitimate farmers.

If the goal of marijuana prohibition is to deter use, prohibition is a failure. The United States has double the rate of marijuana use as the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available. Spain legalized personal use cultivation and has lower rates of use. Portugal decriminalized all drugs and still has lower rates of use than the U.S. If anything, marijuana prohibition increases use by creating forbidden fruit appeal.

Thanks to honest public education, tobacco use has declined, without any need to criminalize smokers or imprison tobacco farmers. This drop in the use of one of the most addictive drugs available has occurred despite widespread tobacco availability. The only clear winners in the war on marijuana are drug cartels and shameless tough-on-drugs politicians who've built careers confusing the drug war's collateral damage with a plant.

Robert Sharpe, Washington

The writer is a policy analyst with Common Sense for Drug Policy.