Marijuana itself does not induce violence. People don't smoke a joint and decide to shoot somebody. What produces the violence associated with marijuana is that it is illegal. The same dynamic caused the murderous Capone-style violence during Prohibition. And once Prohibition was repealed, the violence associated with the bootleg trade vanished, although the gangsters that it spawned did not.
Before any sensible discussion can take place about how to deal with illegal drugs in the United States, we must make the distinction between violence associated with a drug and violence associated with the drug trade.
-- Judy Mann, in the Washington Post, May 23, 2001, p. C15
Marijuana does not cause violence. Some people who support prohibition claim that marijuana itself causes violence. This was one of the original claims used to justify making marijuana illegal, but this claim is false. In fact, people who are high on marijuana tend to be relaxed, mellow, and too happy to want to fight. See "Psychoactive Substances and Violence" by Jeffrey A. Roth. In a report for the US Department of Justice, Roth noted that, rather than causing violence, marijuana actually "temporarily inhibit[s] violent behavior."
Prohibition causes violence. That was established pretty clearly between 1920 and 1933 when the federal government tried to outlaw alcohol. Alcohol prohibition created a lucrative black market that funded mobsters and generally promoted violence and criminal activity, without significantly changing the rate of alcohol consumption. Marijuana prohibition has the same effects. Innocent people are hurt by violence due to marijuana prohibition. Read the Tahoe Tribune article about William Hunt and his 8-year-old son, who were both shot when they accidentally stumbled upon a marijuana garden that was protected by armed guards.
If marijuana cultivation was legal, William and Matthew Hunt would not have been in danger.
Legalization, along with sensible regulation, would reduce violence. If marijuana were legal, the violence associated with it would disappear. Controlled distribution of the drug in a safe, regulated environment would eliminate the black market and its associated criminality. It worked with alcohol: the mobsters are no longer in control of alcohol, and police don't get shot making alcohol raids. We should take a lesson from history and legalize marijuana to reduce violence even further.
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