Marijuana: Politics, Partisanship,
and Demagoguery
He who knows only his side of the case, knows ­ little of that  .  .  . ​
(but) wrong opinions and practices gradually yield to fact and
argument. ­
—John Stuart Mill1
Every year, more than 480,000 Americans die as a result of using
tobacco.2 In 2014, alcohol use resulted in the deaths of 88,000 Ameri-
cans,3 including 9,967 ­people killed in alcohol-­related traffic collisions.4
Alcohol was used before 32 ­percent to 50 ­percent of all hom­i­cides5 and
was a major ­factor in more than 33 ­percent of sexual assaults,6 nearly
25  ­percent of violent crimes,7 and 66  ­percent of intimate vio­lence.8
According to the Cato Institute, when ­these figures are translated into
deaths per 100,000 users, “tobacco kills 650, alcohol 150, heroin 80,
cocaine 4.”9 To date, ­there have been no reports of marijuana as the pri-
mary cause of death.10
If a Martian ­were to visit the United States tomorrow and be shown ­
these statistics, he might be surprised to learn that of three substances—­
tobacco, alcohol, and drugs—­only drugs, including marijuana, are crimi-
nalized. The Martian might also be surprised, indeed bewildered, to learn
that even though alcohol and tobacco ­ were ­ legal substances and even sub-
sidized, American society was willing to lose $180 billion annually,11
arrest and incarcerate hundreds of thousands of American citizens for
drug offenses (further overcrowding prisons already beyond capacity and
Previous Page Next Page