“The jujitsu of marijuana legalization” (Jan. 27), by former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, laid out, based on his past and current positions/experiences, basically a mandate for making “right” numerous injustices or “wrongs” that have occurred to people of color related to their marijuana use. His answer to these inequities is to legalize recreational marijuana use in Minnesota. He would include three principles as part of that legalization legislation, namely: (1) provide a fresh start for those in the legal system, (2) create economic opportunities for communities most harmed by past enforcement, and (3) legalization should include prevention. He cites the first two principles as being directly related to the black community. I would argue that both could be addressed without legalizing recreational marijuana. If they are as important as he thinks, why not address them right now? The state is facing a $1.5 billion surplus. Surely money could be found.
And, finally, Rybak gets to principle No. 3. He starts his illumination of this principle by admitting, “Recreational marijuana may become legal, but that doesn’t make it good for you.” He goes on to say, “Initiatives might include providing accurate research on the disturbing indications of what the drug does to adolescent brain development; focusing on preventing nefarious practices like marketing colorful edibles to kids; and preventing impaired driving, whether caused by marijuana or alcohol.” Aren’t these the kind of questions/considerations that should be asked and answered before legalization legislation is enacted? Would you make alcohol legal for 16-year-olds or allow 12-year-olds to drive legally, then only after the fact see if those decisions had adverse consequences? Why should the questions related to marijuana legalization be treated differently?
I would also note that Rybak conveniently left out of his reference to impaired driving those distractions related to cellphone use for talking or texting. If the state can’t come to grips with control of texting and driving, how in the world do we expect it will be able to control marijuana smoking and driving? Fortunately, Star Tribune editorial cartoonist Steve Sack got the distracted-driving issue right on the same page as the continuation of Rybak’s article from the Opinion Exchange cover. Nice juxtaposition there!
C.T. Killian, St. Paul
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I applaud and thank the Star Tribune for printing, and not begrudgingly, differing viewpoints on a wide range of topics. Rybak presented a position for marijuana legalization. A letter writer the same day presented his viewpoint against legalization. Rybak’s pro-legalization position is based on real-life situations growing up and his tenure as the mayor of Minneapolis. The letter writer posits against legalization with the if even one young person can be saved from addiction approach in conjunction with the not-proven marijuana is a gateway substance.
My guess is that the letter writer has not experienced addiction personally nor has taken the time to better educate himself on addiction as a disease. Addiction, not the substance/activity (i.e., gambling), is what attacks and destroys lives. Fortunately, there are many programs, public and private, to help people recover from this devastating disease. Directing and focusing our collective knowledge to where the real problem exists (the disease) and taking appropriate nonpartisan action with input from professionals closest to the “action” (law enforcement, legislators, educators and health care workers) leads to effective solutions. Minnesota has consistently been a leader when it comes to embracing the unifying “one state” philosophy regarding public health and safety (witness recent positive changes taking place in the Legislature — thank you, Star Tribune — with regard to rape cases and elder abuse). Now is the time for all of us to step forward together and become a state that passes common-sense laws legalizing marijuana for all.
Stephen Ettel, Golden Valley
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The Jan. 27 letter to the editor on marijuana legalization (“It’s a gateway drug, plain and simple”) supports a critical point on this subject: that through legalization, the drug becomes much easier to obtain for the average citizen, loses any social stigma associated with its use and over time creates far more users (and by extension, abusers) as a percentage of the population than ever before.
Today, the three drugs that cause the most damage to our society are all legal: alcohol, tobacco and opioids. The lessons from these drugs are clear:
(1) Profits and tax revenue never compensate for the massive health problems created by abusers of these legal drugs.
(2) Once a drug is legalized, you can’t go back. The genie is out of the bottle. After a decade of Prohibition, the U.S. was a far healthier country with significantly lower incidences of alcohol-abuse-related deaths and disease. But recreational alcohol use was too widespread and ingrained in our society, and Prohibition was reversed.
It’s far smarter to let the states that have legalized recreational pot serve as our “petri dishes” for the next decade. Study the full social and medical impact in those states, including any associated rates of cancer due to marijuana’s carcinogenic elements.
Minnesota and other states can follow in time. There’s no rush to fully legalize, except by loud advocates like Bill Maher who are motivated by their personal love of the drug, coupled with a myopic perspective that their experience is true for all. They ridicule the notion that caution is warranted, dismissing it as old-fashioned ranting from puritanical zealots.
All drugs have potential benefits for medical use through development of derivatives, and that should be fully pursued for marijuana, too.
But, if you want to use pot recreationally today, you can get it. Leave it be, decriminalize, and wait and see.
Karlin Linhardt, Minneapolis
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I start with the premise that THC in the marijuana plant can be an addictive and harmful drug as recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. I understand that many readers do not agree with this view. At Smart Approaches to Marijuana Minnesota (SAMMn), we are not in favor of criminalizing marijuana use. But as experts reported at our recent news conference, in Minnesota less than half of 1 percent of individuals in Minnesota prisons are there for a marijuana offense.
We would support more research for this issue because the reasons R.T. Rybak gave to legalize marijuana to address social-justice issues are weak. Commercialization of marijuana is not needed to address his three points.
• No. 1 (to provide a fresh start for those in the legal system): This can be done by revising the criminal justice system.
• No. 2 (to create economic opportunities for communities of color): If there is any money left over (states that have commercialized are not seeing the windfall they thought they would), creating such opportunities is doable by many legitimate options. It seems insulting to communities of color to say they should be targeted to advance the commercialization of an addictive drug.
• No. 3 (to boost prevention): If drug abuse prevention is a worthwhile social and health priority, it seems intuitive that we should boost current support for it without legalizing another addictive drug.
At SAMMn, we support decriminalizing marijuana and reforming the state’s medical marijuana laws by learning from research and from data provided by other states.
Judson Bemis, Minneapolis
The writer is chair of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Minnesota.