I am a licensed psychologist and certified substance abuse counselor. It has been part of my occupation to be "up on" issues about drugs, such as responsible drug use, drug abuse and drug dependence.
I have been on record for a number of years favoring a significant change of America's drug laws, shifting from prohibition/possession laws, which currently dominate, to responsibility laws, which, in my opinion, have been socially tested, rational, and will eventually lead to a resolution of the two-headed problem we now face: the irresponsible drug user on one hand, and the unnecessary prosecution of responsible users on the other. In my opinion, both extremes of the current drug problem argument are illogical and irrational. From my position, drug legalization or use which lacks strict social sanctions is unacceptable; equally, prosecution of the responsible user is unacceptable. Among many, one very clear and well thought out treatise on changing the drug laws can be found in "How to Legalize Drugs" edited by Jefferson Fish, 1998, Jason Aronson Inc.
Here's the dilemma: While many people in various professions favor significant changes in the drug laws as currently practiced, our society has come no where near the acceptance or practice of the conditions laid out for responsible use of drugs, as outlined in chapter 19: "Principles and Proposals for Managing the Drug Problem."
Until those of us who favor changes in the drug laws have laid out a rational proposal for responsible use (e.g. education, personal licensing, social restrictions, legal consequences for violations) and the strict and swift censure of irresponsible use (loss of privilege, treatment, incarceration) it makes no sense to legalize the use of any psychoactive substance, marijuana included. Until those who intend to use drugs are held to a formal standard of responsibility (as we have done with public cigarette smoking), no change in the laws is called for or rational. And this comes from a guy who favors a move toward more responsibility-based drug laws.
Marijuana shouldn't get favored status. Give all the arguments you want; I can cite research for the responsible and irresponsible use of any drug or anything, for that matter. Some drugs are easier to abuse, some tougher, but lets' not play favorites.
Yes, we should swiftly move to decrease the prosecution of responsible behavior, but lets' not do it willy nilly, without a rational plan that defines responsible use. That is as irresponsible as our current drug laws. I suggest we begin with a public forum in which all positions are considered, and work toward a consensus of opinion. Then, we consider changing the laws.
At this point, the "government" is not responsive to alternative positions, and many drug users hold themselves socially accountable to nothing regarding their use.