- - Thursday, January 10, 2019

Everyone enjoys his bad habits, else they wouldn’t be habits, but fortunately most of us have the sense to swear off the ones that cause lasting harm. The obvious danger of tobacco to health has pushed cigarette smoking to a record low. Sad to say, the use of marijuana is growing now that ambiguity over its legality is well advanced. Potheads are sometimes thought to be mellow folk, whose only bad habit is wearing out the sofa while lost in lethargic reveries about what they can’t remember. Surprising to some, pothead behavior occasionally ranges into violence. Potheads should learn the underside of the drug before joining the high life.

Contrary to the view that the weed is a trendy drug with little or no downside, there are undeniable reasons to steer clear of the seven-pronged leaf. A new book by Alex Berenson numbers the risks smokers take when they light up. The book, “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence,” cites research showing that THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, can trigger psychotic episodes.

Statistics that Mr. Berenson gleaned from the first four states to legalize recreational pot — Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska — reveal that the number of murders has climbed 25 percent, considerably faster than the national average. Where smoking grass is prevalent, crime flourishes. Since Alaskans were permitted to toke in 2014 and Oregonians in 2015, larceny and motor vehicle theft has risen dramatically. In Colorado, where legalization occurred in 2014, the crime rate has risen 11 times faster than the national average. Correlation isn’t necessarily causation, but it’s clear evidence that if cannabis and crime aren’t best buds, they easily co-exist.

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There’s evidence beyond Mr. Berenson’s book. In Colorado, telephone calls to poison control centers have risen 210 percent above a four-year average, and marijuana-related emergency room visits jumped 35 percent between 2011 and 2015, according to “Smart about Marijuana,” a 2018 study compiled by medical authorities. In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown signed an emergency bill in three years ago legalizing recreational pot, as opposed to the weed posing as “medically useful,” and emergency room cases of pot poisoning surged nearly 2,000 percent at Central Oregon hospitals the following year.

It’s not only the careless stoner who winds up on a gurney. Colorado reports that the number of pot-intoxicated drivers involved in fatal highway accidents spiked 88 percent between 2013 and 2015. The state of Washington counted a doubling of drugged driving fatalities following legalization in 2012. It could be worse. A survey by the Colorado Department of Transportation found that 69 percent of pot smokers have driven under the influence at least once during the past year, with 27 percent conceding that they drive while stoned nearly every day.

After decades of lobbying by pot advocates, 2018 saw the number of states allowing the sale of pot for medicinal purposes rise to 33 and the District of Columbia. Nine of those and the District have legalized marijuana for pleasure and recreation. No further need to pretend that it’s a miracle drug. With the new year grass groupies are targeting new fronts. Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna of California, both Democrats, have introduced federal legislation to end marijuana prohibition in all 50 states.

Public opinion polls demonstrate the work of pot advocates is nearly complete. An October 2018 poll by Pew Research Center poll found that 62 percent of responding Americans believe the drug the Woodstock generation pushed from rebellion to mainstream should be legal. That’s double the support it had eight years ago.

Compassion for those who rely on medical marijuana for pain relief is admirable enough, but compassion shouldn’t be wasted on the great majority of pot shop patrons who have no doctor’s prescription. States collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in sales taxes and license fees should explain how a lust for tax revenue outweighs heartbreak.

There are platitudes aplenty touting the right of a free people to self-medicate with alcohol, pot or any other drug they choose. But the campaign for cannabis legalization alongside the nationwide outcry over the tragedy of 72,000 annual opioid deaths comprises a jarring case of doublethink. Potheads and their friends should think again.

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