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What legal pot really threatens
 by David Sirota


Here's a fact that even drug policy reform advocates can acknowledge: California’s 2010 ballot initiative
to legalize marijuana does, indeed, pose a real threat, as conservative culture warriors insist. But not to
public health, as those conservatives claim.

According to most physicians, pot is less toxic - and has more medicinal applications - than a legal and
more pervasive drug like alcohol. Whereas alcohol causes hundreds of annual overdose deaths, contributes
to untold numbers of illnesses and is a major factor in violent crime, marijuana has never resulted in a
fatal overdose and has not been systemically linked to major illness or violent crime.

So this ballot measure is no public health threat. If anything, it would give the millions of citizens who
want to use inebriating substances a safer alternative to alcohol. Which, of course, gets to what this
ballot initiative really endangers: alcohol industry profits.

That truth is underscored by news this week that the California Beer and Beverage Distributors organization
is financing the campaign against the legalization initiative. This is the same group that bankrolled opposition
to a 2008 ballot measure, which would have reduced penalties for marijuana possession. By these actions,
alcohol companies are admitting that more sensible drug policies could cut into their government-created
monopoly on mind-altering substances. Thus, they are fighting back - and not just defensively.


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