There’s a new kind of reefer madness afoot nowadays. Not the kind that makes beautiful women and piano players get wild eyed and psychotic after smoking a little marijuana, but the kind that sees all common sense and science fly out the window in the quest for easy access to a little weed. It takes a good idea, legalizing marijuana, too far. Marijuana should be legalized, but we need to do it sensibly. We can’t do that until we stop clinging to an antiquated view of legalization that only seemed sensible in the 60s, from the back of a smoke-filled VW bus.

We’re in a whole new world that makes rolling papers and bongs look like the relics of the last century they are. Welcome to the age of marijuana marshmallows, where the legal pot sold in Colorado is 10 times stronger than the contraband of the 70s. Yet as Dick Evans, a/k/a Mr. Marijuana, recently told the Boston Globe, “The notion of prohibiting all use of marijuana by all persons in all circumstances, and punishing violators severely, runs counter to the very notion of freedom.” Have no fear, Mr. Marijuana, there is a solution.

Most thinking behind legalizing and commercializing marijuana goes like this: alcohol prohibition didn’t work, and marijuana prohibition isn’t working, therefore we should legalize and commercialize marijuana the way we do alcohol. This is a false choice. Marijuana prohibition may not be working, but modeling[MD1]  marijuana policy on alcohol policy makes no sense. We know a lot more about making good policy now than we did in 1933 when alcohol prohibition was repealed. Legalization proponents argue that marijuana isn’t as harmful as alcohol and maybe it isn’t, but science tells us that marijuana can still be plenty harmful. The NIH-NationalInstitute on Drug Abuse (NIH-NIDA) reports that 1 in 11 marijuana users become addicted, and for teens it’s 1 in 6.

But is it possible to fix our broken marijuana policy and legalize it while protecting the vulnerable? It is, and we have the means to do that already in place. We can build upon the existing framework to buy and use marijuana legally, and take the sensible implementation of medical marijuana and one step further: recreational marijuana by prescription. I asked Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo about this when he was on my radio show on WCAP recently. Like Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, he opposes legalization. When medical marijuana was being debated he supported having it dispensed at pharmacies. He told me he sees recreational marijuana by prescription as the logical extension of that view, and added brightly he thinks this is “pretty interesting”.

Mayor Marty Walsh, while recognizing that some can use marijuana recreationally without becoming addicted, is concerned about marijuana as a gateway drug, and says he is willing to take the lead in opposing legalizing marijuana. Attorney General Maura Healey, mindful of a possible ballot initiative in 2016 for full legalization, is deeply concerned about the dangers of marijuana use, and the people she has seen hurt by it. She is completely opposed to legalization. She told me she is committed to a public education campaign to warn about the dangers of marijuana use. She says further study is needed, including looking at what has happened in Colorado since legalization, but like Speaker DeLeo agrees this approach is “interesting”.

Senate President Stan Rosenberg remains non-committal, but told me on my radio show that he has floated a proposal to both Governor Baker and Speaker DeLeo for a non-binding ballot question in 2016 on legalizing marijuana, citing concerns that if a poorly crafted ballot initiative were to pass, Massachusetts would be stuck with bad marijuana law.

Proponents of full legalization say it will save money on law enforcement, and we could tax it and raise revenue. But the cost of abuse could be extremely high, and we may not be able to tax it enough to recoup our losses. “Marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off,” according to the NIH-NIDA, which also found 48 studies which showed marijuana use to be associated with lower graduation rates. As for driving high vs. driving drunk, NIH-NIDA performed a meta-analysis which found that the risk of being involved in an accident roughly doubles after marijuana use.

But what about the 91% of marijuana users who won’t become addicted, and who just like to get high? Plenty of people can use marijuana recreationally without abusing it, and there’s no reason for them not to have access. (Though it seems to me that anything that involves putting smoke into your lungs is probably not something you should do every day. Bring on the marijuana marshmallows.)

We can balance the science-based concerns about increased marijuana use by the vulnerable with the policy-based concerns about the cost of criminalizing marijuana, and we can do it with recreational marijuana by prescription. Just get a prescription before you buy pot. A doctor can look for vulnerability to addiction or abuse, such as bipolar disorder or other mental health issues, and talk with their patient about addressing underlying issues.

If you like getting high and you do so responsibly, the law shouldn’t stop you. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that everyone can use marijuana as safely as you can. I know you want your weed, but there’s a way to get it legally while still protecting the vulnerable from the potential of abuse.

As a public defender working before and after marijuana was decriminalized in Massachusetts I saw pointless prosecutions for having a joint, as well as marijuana addicts with crippled lives and aspirations they could never fulfill so long as they kept getting high. The most brilliant songwriter I’ll ever know, and you’ll never hear, used to get high every day instead of getting help for depression. He died much too soon. There are people who use valium to relax without becoming addicted, but no one thinks it should be over the counter. To protect the vulnerable, and everyone else, from the potential harm of marijuana abuse, is it  too much to ask that people just have a conversation with their doctor before they buy pot?