Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

July 5, 2013

MARK HEINIG: Clearing up marijuana misconceptions

What effects would legalization have on teenagers?

(Continued)

If the penalties were less harsh — fines instead of jail time — those offenders might be more inclined to simply plead guilty and pay the fine. How many people demand a trial for a traffic violation? No doubt some do, but I can’t recall a single one. Legalizing marijuana would not only eliminate a big expense, but it would also create a potential source of revenue. If pot were legal, we could tax it, just like we tax tobacco and alcoholic beverages. Once again, money is the issue.

Still, money isn’t the only issue. Before we tamper with our current policy, we should consider some facts we don’t hear much about: You can become addicted to marijuana. The chance of it happening to you is greater if you’re young when you begin using it. If you drive under the influence of marijuana, your chance of having an accident increases by more than 50 percent. The probability is even greater if you smoke pot and drink alcohol at the same time. If your blood alcohol level is between 0.15 and 0.8 percent, you can be charged with driving under the influence, but if you have any amount of marijuana in your blood or urine, you can face charges whether alcohol is present or not. Your penalty for driving under the influence of marijuana can increase greatly after your first offense. The first time, it’s a misdemeanor. You could serve 60 days in jail, pay a fine of $500, do 180 hours of community service and spend the next two years on probation. The judge can also suspend your driver’s license for up to two years. A second conviction is a felony. You may serve the next three years in prison, pay a fine of $10,000, and spend two years on probation. Suspension of your license for at least one year is mandatory.

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