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Marijuana legalization by Kelly Sickafoose

I often get asked the question, “Why don’t we just legalize marijuana?” Here are some of the most common issues raised and what the research tells us. 

Some people argue that marijuana should be legalized like alcohol and tobacco, and that it will solve budgetary problems. Essentially, legalization means cheaper drugs and more availability, which equals more use. Usage levels for alcohol and tobacco are much higher than marijuana. Alcohol and tobacco industries promote addiction and target kids. For every $1 gained from alcohol and tobacco tax revenues, $10 is lost in legal, health, social, and regulatory costs. A Colorado drug dealer says that if anything, legalization has helped his business because “it’s over-priced; it’s being taxed way too high.” Also, countless people are NOT behind bars for smoking marijuana. Only 0.4 percent of prisoners with no prior offenses are in jail for marijuana possession. Ninety-nine point eight percent of federal prisoners sentenced for drug offenses were incarcerated for drug trafficking. The risk of arrest for each joint smoked is one for every 12,000 joints. Arrests and costs will increase with legal marijuana.

Some people say that marijuana is harmless. It is not. One in six teens and one in 10 adults who try marijuana become addicted. Marijuana use directly affects the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, and reaction time, which can last up to 28 days. Marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more carcinogens than tobacco smoke. Marijuana use has significant effects on IQ and learning. Persistent and heavy use among adolescents reduces IQ by six to eight points. Youth with poor academic results are more than four times likely to have used marijuana in the past year than youth with higher grades.

Legalization of marijuana brings about an increase in teen use. Marijuana use among Colorado teens is currently fifth highest in the nation and 50 percent above the national average (Colorado 10.7 percent, National 7.6 percent). Drug-related referrals for high school students testing positive for marijuana increased by over 150 percent. In 2007, tests positive for marijuana made up 33 percent of the total drug screenings, by 2012 that number increased to 57 percent.

Some people think because they smoked marijuana “back in the day,” and “nothing bad” happened to them, it should be legalized now. Today’s marijuana is not the marijuana of the 1960s. In the past 15 years, marijuana potency has tripled and since 1960 it’s grown five times stronger. It has even grown stronger in the past year. It was 27 percent 2013. Officials are now seeing 32 percent THC content.

Marijuana use is resulting in several other negative effects. Marijuana-related incidents are causing a dramatic increase in ER visits. THC-positive workplace drug test results in Colorado Springs rose by 30 percent since 2013. Drivers who use marijuana are more than twice as likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes. In Colorado, fatalities involving drivers testing positive for marijuana rose by 112 percent.

We simply cannot afford to legalize marijuana. The negative effects far outweigh any benefits.  

For more information, please visit us on Facebook at Council for a Drug Free LaGrange County – CDFLC.