If you missed Kevin Sabet’s most recent letter to the editor, you can probably imagine what its about after just reading the headline: “If you think Big Tobacco is bad wait until you see Big Marijuana.” The crux of his argument is that legalization will create a new Big Tobacco that will be even worse for reasons that don’t make very much sense.
I responded to his editorial with this letter to the editor:
No one wants to return to prohibition:
Yesterday’s paper featured an Op-ed by Kevin Sabet of Project SAM, an anti-marijuana organization. He argues that legalization will create a new “big tobacco” trying to prey on children and get people addicted to marijuana. His comparison is misleading. No one is seriously disputing that marijuana safer than tobacco and alcohol. Still, even if it were as dangerous as Sabet claims to believe it is, how would that be an argument for its continued prohibition?
I doubt that Sabet would make the case that we should go back to the “Boardwalk Empire” world of bootlegging and moonshine. Alcohol is far more harmful than marijuana is, and what we learned from our experience in the 1920’s is that prohibition makes it even worse. During prohibition the profits enrich criminals, and there can be no regulation. I agree with Sabet that a new big tobacco is not what we want to see. That doesn’t mean we should resign ourselves to ongoing prohibition.
That being said, the Star Advertiser chose instead to publish this editorial submitted by Robert Sharpe:
We already have ‘Big Marijuana’
Kevin Sabet just doesn’t get it (“If you think Big Tobacco was bad, wait until you see Big Marijuana,” Star-Advertiser, Insight, Sept. 24).
Big Marijuana already exists in the form of Mexican drug cartels. These are ruthless people who cut off heads to resolve business disputes, sell drugs to anyone regardless of age, and have a vested financial interest in providing cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin to consumers.
Like it or not, marijuana is here to stay. We can collect taxes on legal marijuana or we can subsidize drug cartels. Punitive laws have little, if any, deterrent value. Despite the dire predictions of drug warriors, the sky is not falling in Colorado.
There is no societal benefit to having consumers purchase untaxed, unregulated and potentially unsafe marijuana from criminals. It’s time to put public health before culture-war politics. We can close the gateway to hard drugs by taxing and regulating legal marijuana.
Policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy Washington, D.C.