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The legal drug we should be worried about isn’t marijuana

The Boston Globe

By Gianmarco Raddi

Alcohol is a far more dangerous substance. Yet the state of Massachusetts is thinking about making it easier to get.

Massachusetts recently issued its first recreational marijuana license, bringing pot more fully into the ranks of regulated substances. Bravo! Decriminalizing drugs is a tactic that has been demonstrated to reduce their harm, notably in Portugal. And legalizing pot in Colorado and other states has not led to a surge in usage and related crime — or indeed even that collective societal zombification predicted by legalization opponents. But regulation is not a panacea, as we’re seeing with a substance that’s been legal for much longer: alcohol.

Almost 1 in 5 adults in Massachusetts drinks excessively, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the higher rates in the United States. Consumption comes with substantial costs. For instance, the Massachusetts economy lost more than $5.6 billion in 2010, according to a 2015 study, from lost productivity, health care expenses, and other costs, including those from accidents caused by drunken driving. About 31 percent of driving deaths in the state in 2016 were alcohol-related. Nationally there are more than 88,000 alcohol-related deaths every year.

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