The end of the war on marijuana

By Roger A. Roffman, Special to CNN

(CNN) — The historic measure to regulate and tax marijuana in Washington State deserves to be looked at closely as a model of how legalization ought to be designed and implemented elsewhere in America.

We’ve turned a significant corner with the approval of Initiative 502, which purposefully offers a true public health alternative to the criminal prohibition of pot.

For the first time in a very long time, the well-intended but failed criminal penalties to protect public health and safety will be set aside. Adults who choose to use marijuana and obtain it through legal outlets will no longer be faced with the threat of criminal sanctions. People of color will no longer face the egregious inequities in how marijuana criminal penalties are imposed. Parents, as they help prepare their children for the choices they face concerning marijuana, will no longer be hobbled by misinformation about the drug and the absence of effective supports to encourage abstinence.

“The great experiment” of alcohol prohibition became the national law in 1920. Its intentions were good, but it failed in a number of vitally important ways. In 1923, the state of New York repealed its alcohol prohibition law. Ten other states soon followed, and in 1933 national Prohibition ended.

I believe Washington state has just played that pivotal role with regard to marijuana. Moreover, by borrowing from public health model principles known to be effective, the state has offered the most compelling replacement to prohibition considered to date.
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Marijuana As Medicine

By Roger Roffman, Sandra Counts, Paul Grekin, Ron Jackson

WHEN DECIDING what to believe about the potential benefits and harms of marijuana, the old saying “Let the buyer beware!” is good advice.

Many scientific studies have been conducted in the United States and in other countries concerning marijuana’s effects on health and behavior. Excellent summaries of the findings of this research have been published, but they are unfortunately written in technical language and not readily available to the public.

Information made available to the general public is often biased, particularly when it is delivered by those advocating proposed changes to the law that would either increase or decrease penalties for possession or sale.

With the initiative concerning medical uses for marijuana and other drugs (I-685) now certified for the ballot, it is “open season” for marijuana awareness campaigns in our state . . . all with the purpose of influencing voters as the November 4th election nears.

The good news about this process is that it is highly democratic, with many opportunities for expressing differing points of view. The bad news is that serious harm is done if a cause is championed by issuing incomplete, inaccurate, or unbalanced information all in the guise of facts.
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What parents should say to teens about I-502 and marijuana legalization

By Roger A. Roffman

THE voters have approved Initiative 502. A year from now, once licenses have begun to be issued to growers and sellers, it will be legal for those 21 or older to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana.

Today, an estimated 20 percent of 10th-graders and 26 percent of 12th-graders in our state have used pot at least once in the prior month. No one can say with certainty whether the new law will have an effect on youth.

Nonetheless, this historic vote is a reminder of how important it is for parents to discuss marijuana with their children.

Fortunately, help is on the way. It’s the kind of help that has been missing while we’ve relied on and been disappointed by an ineffective prohibition approach to protect young people from the drug.

Substantial tax revenues generated from the legal sale of marijuana to adults will be earmarked for public education about marijuana, education based on science rather than ideology.

Today, far too many people — young and old — are misinformed about marijuana’s effects, both negative and positive, on health and behavior.

These new revenues will also make it possible for us to use proven approaches to youth substance-abuse prevention in geographic and demographically diverse communities across our state.
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