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The recent, intense arguments in Lompoc regarding marijuana commercialization have been most passionate, yet little in the way of scientific evidence seems to have entered the conversation.

This was confirmed to me by a member of Lompoc’s City Council. This situation has devolved to the point where the city has had to install a surveillance camera outside the mayor’s home out of concern for his family and property.

This commentary is not in favor of or against marijuana, but an attempt to bring some rational, proven information into the conversation.

For example, recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed its list of the five most addictive substances. Not unexpectedly, first was opioids and second was cocaine. I doubt anyone will be surprised by these two frontrunners. Unpredictably, though, No. 3 was nicotine, and alcohol was fifth. Fourth on the list was methamphetamine.

Sorry, folks, but marijuana did not make the top five. Looking at this list, we can now rule it out as the dreaded gateway drug. Drinking and smoking tobacco take the prize on that one.

In support of this perception, ask law enforcement and health-care providers and they will probably tell you alcohol and tobacco cause more human tragedy than all the street drugs combined.

Why is this? One thing that alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical opioids have in common is their corporate sourcing. Big corporations bring big advertising and big lobbying. For example, most of you may be aware that federal law prohibits Medicare from negotiating prices with drug companies. Alcohol and tobacco are heavily invested in keeping marijuana out of the marketplace, lest the sales volume of their own products be jeopardized.

Not on this list, but important just the same, are sugar and caffeine. One pharmacist has said that if caffeine were to come on the market today, it would easily be considered a controlled substance. If you or family members drink sodas, read the labels and you will probably find both these items present.

Caffeine in excess is addictive. So is sugar. A British medical journal cites a recent long-term study showing excessive processed food consumption — particularly food with high amounts of sugar — leads to a list of cancers. If nothing else, look at all the overweight people you come across daily. And let’s not forget diabetes.

People do drugs because drugs work. They get you high. They get you low. They mellow you out. They have been ingested, inhaled and imbibed by all cultures throughout and probably before recorded history.

Criminalizing drugs has never worked. Just look at Prohibition. Demon rum was the villain of its day and this only served to romanticize it. Things are not too different today, with dealers often being cast as dark heroes practicing a street form of entrepreneurship, risking life and limb against both the government and other competitors. In countries such as Portugal, drug policy has changed from criminalization to a public health focus with concomitant reduction in street and neighborhood crime, not to mention the financial toll on the community. Enforcement moneys have been successfully channeled into recovery and prevention.

The true tragedy here is that many of these health and life-sustaining issues are simply matters of choice at both personal and governmental levels. If you drink or smoke, you’re not really in a position to judge the substance use of others. Drugs are drugs.

“My drug is better than your drug” attitudes only serve to encourage rebellious youth. Just like music, drug choice is often meant to be exclusive to their generation.

Consider how your choices, both lifestyle and voting, impact not only you but the lives of family and friends who willingly follow your lead. Yes, you can make a difference.

Barry J. Marks is a resident of Lompoc.