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June 1, 1994

Drug Prohibition—Time to Reconsider?

JAMA. 1994;271(21):1635. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510450007002

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OPINIONS tend to be stronger than data on illegal drugs. Apparently many people like it that way, given the brusque reaction to the suggestion by Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, MD, that legalization merely be studied.

Despite hundreds of studies designed to identify the dangers of drugs, most of what is said pro and con about marijuana, the most widely used illegal drug, is conjecture. So is most of what is said about the effects of legalizing it and other popular so-called recreational drugs.

What is clear is that prohibition of these substances, like the failed "noble experiment" of alcohol prohibition, generates disease, crime, and corruption. It is also clear that the intense regulation of illegal drugs is thwarting scientific investigation into the value of these agents in medical therapy, as well as into the development of agents to treat addiction.

A small but growing number of people now advocate legalizing

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