As expected, Governor Schwarzenegger's call to legalize marijuana did not generate a wall-to-wall consensus. One organization that rejects the idea of legalizing and taxing marijuana is DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), which published today a piece in which they argue that marijuana is too harmful to be decriminalized:
"Legalization is not a path we want to pursue," Dr. Kar added. "This is sending a message that use of marijuana is okay. If marijuana is legalized, people and especially young people, will tend to look at it and think, 'Well, if it's legal, it can't be too harmful.' It is by no means the benign drug that some would have us think. The most complete, objective and reliable scientific evidence is entirely in the other direction. We would run the risk of having a rise in a sicker and nonproductive population, which would be further detrimental to the state's economy, if more people were to begin using marijuana."
These concerns bring up a host of questions, some of which have to do with the medical assessment of harm stemming from marijuana abuse (read more about that debate in Eric Schlosser's Reefer Madness), and some of which have to do with behavioral economics; namely, whether a change in legal status would lead more people to use marijuana. This last complex question has been the focus of a variety of studies on drug usage deterrence, including the masterful work of Rob MacCoun and Peter Reuter, who also draw parallels from other vices.