Jon Hunter says we don’t dare legalize marijuana, because it kills people:
A 19-year-old Sioux Falls man pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to fatally shooting his friend last year.
Stasek Alexandr Stefanyuk was showing off a shotgun when he shot and killed his friend Darias Tiger in September. Stefanyuk admitted he had been using drugs at the time.
The case is merely the most recent in a long string of tragedies and killings involving drugs….
Legalizing mind-altering drugs is on a roll nationwide, with marijuana leading the charge. Forty states have adopted a patchwork of laws involving some form of legalization. South Dakota is not among them.
Advocates point to the benefits of marijuana or its derivatives, often describing harmless situations, like a solitary person smoking a joint at home, or an elderly person getting pain relief from pot.
Killing another person while high is the other side of that story. For some people, the tradeoff of increased enjoyment by some while endangering others is worthwhile. We don’t think so [Jon Hunter, “South Dakota Should Resist Legalization,” Madison Daily Leader, 2019.06.25].
Hunter’s editorial contains multiple flaws:
- Stefanyuk pled guilty to possessing methamphetamine, not marijuana.
- “Legalizing mind-altering drugs” is not “on a roll nationwide.” I know of no major push to legalize meth.
- The shotgun killed Tiger, not the meth, and not any pot. Shall we ban shotguns?
- Lots of people kill themselves and others while drinking alcohol. Shall we ban booze?
There is science saying marijuana causes violent behavior:
These subjects were in the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development, comprised of 411 boys who were born around 1953 and living in working-class urban neighborhoods of London. 97% of them were Caucasian and all of them were raised in two-parent households. The researchers took into consideration other factors, including antisocial traits as assessed by the Antisocial Personality Scale, alcohol use, other drug use, cigarette smoking, mental illnesses, and family history.
Hers’s what they found: Most of the participants never used cannabis and they were never reported to have violent behavior. 38% of the participants did try cannabis at least once in their life. Most of them experimented with cannabis in their teens, but then stopped using it. However, 20% of the boys who started using pot by age 18 continued to use it through middle age (32-48 years). One fifth of those who were pot smokers (22%) reported violent behavior that began after beginning to use cannabis, whereas only 0.3% reported violence before using weed. Continued use of cannabis over the life-time of the study was the strongest predictor of violent convictions, even when the other factors that contribute to violent behavior were considered in the statistical analysis [R. Douglas Fields, “Marijuana Use Increases Violent Behavior,” Psychology Today, 2016.03.20].
…but science also puts a high body count on alcohol:
Alcohol-related violence causes substantial death, injury and health problems. The 2004 Global Burden of Disease project estimated that alcohol-attributable violence accounted for 248,000 deaths annually worldwide. As noted by Bellis and Hughes in this issue, the link between alcohol and violence has been recognized as far back as the 4th century BC [Kathryn Graham and Michael Livingston, “The relationship Between Alcohol and Violence—Population, Contextual and Individual Research Approaches,” Drug and Alcohol Review, 2012.09.01].
I share Hunter’s lack of enthusiasm for mind-altering substances. Switching off even part of one’s mental capacity with pot is like tying one hand behind your back while doing carpentry: it at least lowers your performance, not to mention creates hazards for others. But if Hunter is trying to make a case against marijuana, he should cite a case that actually involves marijuana, then get past anecdote to review actual science. He should also firm up why his argument about risk to others doesn’t also lead him to editorialize against the more obvious and widespread harm done by and to South Dakotans with shotguns and alcohol.