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Commentary

With the City elections around the corner, there is renewed interest among some candidates with respect to reversing the City of Elko prohibition against marijuana dispensaries. Please allow me to weigh in with some thoughts on this matter.

Legalization of marijuana will be no silver bullet providing societal harmony and productivity. Portugal’s Director-General of Drug Policy, João Goulão, states that his country’s hard drug availability since July 1, 2001 comes with strict limits on legality. And the limits on legal amounts are enforced with perhaps more vigilance than in some countries which wage the most strident wars on drugs. Furthermore, the decriminalization of drugs would be an unmitigated disaster without easy access to treatment (Bramham, 2018).

Drug access has become a significant national cost, requiring extensive support of 1-2% of the national population. That support, from medical care to food and shelter, transportation, treatment, counseling, and subsidized employment, requires essentially a matching portion of the population.

So, drug provision in Portugal evidently occupies 2-4% of the population, either as users or in social support roles. The vaunted elimination of law enforcement costs must be considered more as a transfer of costs from one approach to another. Costs are not eliminated, but must be deliberately re-allocated.

Without a rigorous and well-considered development of that extensive support system, legalization will be the unmitigated disaster of which Sr. Goulão speaks. In the United States, legalization schemes have not included substantial support systems.

Importantly, in Portugal marijuana was only legalized recently, in June 2018. And recreational marijuana is restricted. So, legalizing marijuana in the United States is very troubling, with those most in danger of addiction being the young (Narconon, 2018).

Adolescents and young adults will have greater access, with concomitant negative life-affecting results whether use is later halted or not (Next Step, 2015). Those effects range from lessened developmental and intellectual capacities to hard drug dependencies.

In common business settings, both the federal illegality and the known effects of the drug lead many employers to levy uniformly harsh restrictions and prohibitions of its use. That posture cannot be expected to change, with both safety and productivity reduced through drug use.

The safety aspect is reinforced by insurance consequences to individuals or firms with transgressions. And employers simply are not in business to hire low-productivity employees.

Ironically, those who push legalization tout burgeoning new income streams as absolving legalization from any concerns of societal cost. Essentially, the pushers are progressive predators, not capitalists, and do not acknowledge the individual and societal burdens they will generate and must be made to bear.

With marijuana having been legalized by Nevada, it is wise to consider the local ramifications and whether suitable support systems can be devised, developed, and sustained.

The State has not done this, leaving municipalities with the burden. Users and their required support systems can be expected to remove a few percent of the population from contribution to productive society. And users diminish their own future – with irreparable negative effects for the young.

The economic costs are difficult enough to justify, but the impending damage to the youth of our community cannot be morally justified. Those are among the reasons I’m supporting Reece Keener for Elko Mayor. Keener is the candidate that has demonstrated a resolve to heed the recommendations from our local law enforcement community with respect to marijuana establishments.

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Ralph Sacrison is a member of the Elko County Natural Resources Management Advisory Commission.

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