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For some reason, way too many stories about opiate addiction have gained my attention in recent weeks. A young man’s death, a fentanyl-laced imitation weed causing a medical crisis in a Connecticut park and discussion about a friend’s chronic pain. In addition, the Democratic candidate for governor wants to open up the debate on legalization of marijuana. She also wants to allow farmers to grow industrial use hemp, which is not anything about recreational drugs. Hence, this column.

I think there are several parts to this issue. There is a problem for traditional drug cartels. Their business model has been disrupted by the spread of the legal recreational marijuana market. Now, any consumer who wants to can buy pharmacy grade weed legally in many states. It’s better product and there is no problem finding safe sellers.

What’s a cartel CEO to do? Fortunately, there is a huge number of people who undergo surgery or who experience painful trauma every day. People get their teeth pulled, and they have back pain. Doctors, not wanting to be called often to discuss the need for pain medication, prescribe enough pills to last several weeks. If they don’t take them, others in the family do. If they do take them, they may become addicted. At some point, they run out of prescriptions and seek other supply. The cartel responds to the new market.

The United States is known to have this population with the economic resources to eagerly engage in better living through chemistry, and who are willing to seek out drugs outside of legal distribution channels. Unfortunately, not all of the suppliers in this trade like Americans very much. They are content to bring down our country in the same way the Chinese were targeted with the opium trade in the 19th century. Lace drugs with fentanyl? Why not?

Marijuana, like alcohol and tobacco, is not without side effects. However it is effective for relieving anxiety and pain. When it is sold from controlled distribution chains, it is not worse than other legal substances. Plus, I like being able to know when someone uses marijuana. If they over-use, I may question their judgment. I certainly am interested in watching Elon Musk’s decisions more closely after his recent podcast use.

It is true that many people want to use food, drugs, or other addictions to deal with the stress and physical or psychological problems of their life. It’s a problem recorded through historical periods. At times, our needs and a difficulty with supply for these products have fostered a criminal supply system that has caused wider problems outside of the participants themselves. A legal business, however, furnishes economic growth and social wellbeing.

Paulette Jordan feels that the increased income from taxes on marijuana could boost educational spending. Other states have found the same, although as supply has increased to meet demand, prices are falling. Not spending money on drug crimes saves law enforcement budgets to fund more attention to violence, human trafficking and white-collar crimes.

Please note that I don’t champion the use of mind-altering substances outside of medicinal prescriptions. Many people use them even with possible harm. If I am sounding like a libertarian, I would agree with them on this policy. To me, it is common sense to reduce crime and allow another way to treat chronic pain.

The only way society has ever dealt with harmful practices is through scientific reasoning and the taboos many religions place on them. It is impossible to practically enforce laws that many people believe should not apply to them. A common phrase is, “you can’t legislate morality.” It is possible nevertheless to regulate the time and place these substances are used and the age of permissible consumption.

I think we should be wise about marijuana. The cost of using criminal penalties to curtail sale and consumption is too high. The demand generates violent criminal activity by seller and consumer. That costs governments more money. Why not let the market work its magic? The government and entrepreneurs make money. Consumers have safe supply. People who oppose use can use the same ways to discourage marijuana use as they do alcohol and tobacco. That, by the way, also creates more jobs. Morality is not wrong, but using economics makes control practical.

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Linda Brugger retired from the Air Force and is a former chairwoman of the Twin Falls County Democrats.

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