Steve Pasierb’s New York Times Op-Ed: Marijuana Legalization

marijuana legalization

Today’s New York Times published an op-ed penned by our President & CEO, Steve Pasierb, in response to the Times’ July 27th editorial endorsement on legalization of marijuana, “Repeal Prohibition, Again.”  Steve’s response letter, below, can be found both online and in today’s print edition of the paper.

To the Editor:

As your July 27 editorial “Repeal Prohibition, Again” says: “There are legitimate concerns about marijuana on the development of adolescent brains. For that reason, we advocate the prohibition of sales to people under 21.”

Our concern about legalization is its effect on kids. Society may not do much better at enforcing this restriction on sale and marketing of marijuana to kids than we have with alcohol and tobacco. Research shows that use of any of these drugs in adolescence — especially early adolescence — significantly heightens risks of substance use disorders in later life.

We need to provide a much better prevention and treatment infrastructure, which expanded access to marijuana and increasing teenage use will require. That begins with limiting marijuana marketing that kids will be exposed to, and equipping parents with information about the very real health risks of early use.

These are not details to be sorted later, but vital considerations. These are the considerations that matter most to us, and to most parents, including — research shows — those favoring legalization.

President and Chief Executive
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
New York, July 29, 2014


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    Molly Binson

    August 20, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    okay can I make one more comment? One of the unintended consequences lately, one that we haven’t been able to control, is the use of synthetic “marijuana” among youth because it doesn’t come up on drug testing. (they keep changing the formula so that they’ll never be able to keep up on the drug testing end, which also makes the substance more unpredictable) (as an added excessive side comment, if you want to talk about an industry motivated by greed and disregard for public welfare, that is the drug testing industry) Synthetic drugs are a far greater hazard than smoking marijuana, as nobody knows what this stuff does to the brain, (and they keep changing it to dodge laws that get hastily created) and we’ve already seen acute life threatening effects from use of this stuff. Maybe if we’d left well enough alone, the worst thing parents would be finding would be a roach in their kid’s underwear drawer, not their child on life support.

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    Molly Binson

    August 20, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    Mr. Acquaviva, I challenge your assertion that the legalization proponents are “motivated by greed” and “not concerned” about the health and social aspects of legalization. National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has been actively engaged in ensuring that legalization is designed to deter use by minors and outlines specific tenets of responsible adult use. As with any substance, there will always be those that will misuse/abuse anything, whether legal or not. The difference with marijuana is that the consequences of overuse are largely inconsequential, especially when compared to alcohol. Also a far lower percentage of users get addicted compared to other substances. When compared with other substances in terms of costs to society in lost productivity and health care costs, marijuana ranks lowest of anything, even lower than fast food.

    I have been working in the social services field on some level since I was 15, starting with volunteering, for 41 years at time of this writing, and I have also been smoking marijuana since age 15.

    Now, as a licensed health professional, I am finally starting to see the emergence of rational dialogue on a substance that I have long considered to be NOT harmful, and even beneficial. Marijuana has components that have an anti-inflammatory effect over the whole body, and inflammation is at the root of every one of the most expensive health problems in this country, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, schizophrenia, arthritis, diabetes, depression. Marijuana can also help an addict stay abstinent from other more harmful substances, such as heroine, cocaine and alcohol. the gateway theory has been widely disproven. the vast majority of marijuana users do not graduate to use of other drugs.

    There is no comparison to alcohol or other drugs that tend to corrode the body from the inside out with heavy long term use. They have yet to find any serious health consequences with long term smoking marijuana, beyond the theoretical, which doesn’t seem to ever bear out. Cancer? I can show you peer reviewed articles showing that cannabis use DECREASES incidence of cancer. The psychosis link? In my 20 years as a licensed health professional now, I have not seen nor heard of a correlating increase in incidence of psychosis despite the reported increase of cannabis use since the 1990’s.

    I propose that with legalization of marijuana we will see what is already starting to bear out; decrease in crime, lower traffic fatalities (Colorado just reported that the first 4 months of this year had an almost 10% decrease in traffic fatalities compared to 2013). More jobs are being created and the tax base has expanded greatly, apparently buyers are able to accommodate the tax burden as business continues to prosper. As far as being motivated by greed and disregard for public welfare, NORML is also establishing its own version of BBB to ensure that the cannabis industry maintains a standard of quality, safety and consumer fairness, so that hopefully the cannabis industry becomes a model for how to do a business that has the public’s best interests at the forefront.

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    Thomas Gleaton

    August 13, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    It is interesting, at least to me, that most of the responses to drug legalizeation comes from the treatment communities which are seeing rapid increases in income and have very strong lobbying efforts in state and federal government. Are they lobbying for prevention or for taxpayers to fund some bad decisions by drug addicts. Is addiction a disease or a self induced condition occurring through bad choices and a few wayward genes.
    Since the 1980 when the US Congress saw a need and funded prevention programs in every school system there has been a continued decrease in the Safe and Drug Free School funding — with the budget being zeroed out under the present administration. Today the few dollars left in the budget is rationed to those school/communities that have the best grant writers. We should brace for the coming crises not just for our youth but adults as well.

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    Jimmy Stewart

    August 2, 2014 at 12:40 AM

    I think your response here is pretty level headed. As a recovering alcoholic I know firsthand the negative effects marketing and lack of education when it comes to drugs of abuse. I would like to see all drugs legalized because it COULD lead to tighter regulation than a black market, not because I want to see increased access to marijuana or any other drug. Regardless of whether you agree with prohibition (and from your letter I can’t tell), we need to have a serious discussion in this county about what marijuana legalization is going to look like. Taxing it and placing age restrictions on it clearly are not enough to curb abuse. We need to learn from the mistakes we’ve made with alcohol and tobacco before the industry becomes to big to fight.

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    Christopher Acquaviva

    August 1, 2014 at 10:48 AM


    Well said and very important to this entire conversation. Unfortunately most people interested in making marijuana legal are not concerned about the social and mental health issues associated with it. For the most part, they are motivated by greed. With the statistic being posted by Colorado at the present time, law makers are simply ignoring the medical facts in the hopes they can buy votes with the promise of lower taxes due to marijuana sales. Of course anyone with half a brain knows to take into effect that the current sales in Colorado are inflated because people are flocking from all around the country to purchase marijuana there. Like a typical monopoly, the numbers will change as the marketplace gets spread across the country, then we will see people very upset with law makers who promised huge tax revenues that will not be sustainable. In addition, the additional cost to the consumer will undoubtedly cause them to reduce consumption of some other goods or services, and this will have a net effect on the general economy. What really is most important to stress here is that parent need to understand the potential downside of letting there children do any type of drug or alcohol. We can only hope that law makers are smart enough to take this additional revenue stream and earmark it strictly for addiction and mental health services, instead of wasting it on pet projects and personal gains. Continue the fight, you have my full support.

    Christopher Acquaviva, Founder

    Second Chance Addiction & Recovery Foundation of NJ

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