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Published on April 16th, 2015 | by Deb Wolf


Why we need to be Talking About Marijuana

Current prEvents     January 19, 2015   Times Argus

Why We Need to be Talking About Marijuana

Vermont has the highest use of marijuana in the country for both adults and youth. Recently, the status of marijuana in Vermont has changed significantly. In 2004 Vermont legalized medical marijuana; in 2011 it authorized four dispensaries. If a medical professional determines that an individual’s condition would benefit from marijuana, the drug is legal and available for them. In 2013 Vermont decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Nobody is going to jail in Vermont just for small amounts of weed.

The next discussion in this state will be about the possible legalization of recreational marijuana for adults over 21.

In Vermont, a volunteer group of concerned citizens called SAM-VT (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) is looking at the current science and daily research to help inform a thoughtful discussion about legalizing recreational use of marijuana. Many Vermonters believe that marijuana is harmless. What does current science tell us?

Is marijuana harmless?

  • Marijuana is addictive. Teens and young adults are much more susceptible to addiction. One out of every six teenagers who uses marijuana will become dependent on it either as a teen or later in life.
  • Marijuana is significantly linked with mental illness, including schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, anxiety and suicide.
  • Marijuana is associated with lower grades in school and reduced chances of graduating from high school or attending college. A study of people who started using marijuana as teens and persisted into their thirties showed that heavy users lost an average of eight points off their I.Q. scores. Even light users showed some loss.

Are marijuana users safe on the road?

  • Marijuana causes delayed reactions.
  • In states that have legalized marijuana, impaired driving has significantly increased traffic accidents and fatalities.
  • There is no easy test (like a breathalyzer) to determine levels of impairment.
  • Many drivers mix alcohol and marijuana.
  • The Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that 23% rode with a driver who had smoked marijuana, compared with 21% who rode with someone who had consumed alcohol.

Is all marijuana created equal?

  • The active ingredient in marijuana (THC) is five or more times more powerful in today’s marijuana. Dosage in edible forms of marijuana is highly uncontrollable (and attractive to children).

Will regulation of marijuana confine its use to adults?

  • Evidence in Colorado and Washington shows that youth use rises as adult use rises.
  • Youth use of currently regulated substances (alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs) remains high.
  • Only 31% of VT youth think regular marijuana use is harmful.
  • Advertising and sales in stores promote use among all ages.
  • Availability and normalization of substances attract youth use.
  • In Colorado, use among high school teens has doubled.

Will regulation and taxation yield huge revenues for the state?

  • Legalization did not have the intended effect Colorado citizens expected. Proponents said it would generate tax income over $160 million, but already the legislature has cut tax income projections to less than half of that.
  • Current taxation levels for alcohol and tobacco do not cover the social costs and treatment costs.

Will legalization eliminate the black market and put the drug cartels out of business?

  • Proponents claimed legalization would cut crime, yet 40% of Colorado users are still purchasing it on the black market, and the January-June 2014 crime rate in Denver has increased by 6.7% over the same period in 2013.

Regulation is hard to pull off effectively.

  • Proponents say marijuana use can be regulated, but Colorado now has over 300 types of sweet marijuana edibles for sale, users are openly flouting the rules against use in public places, and emergency room visits have increased.

Take time to look at the 163-page report on “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado”, produced in August by researchers at the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. http://www.rmhidta.org/html/August%202014%20Legalization%20of%20MJ%20in%20Colorado%20the%20Impact.pdf

We don’t know all the effects that legal marijuana will have in Colorado or other legal states. We won’t know for a couple of years at least. But we in SAM-VT will continue to monitor the reports and research as they become available. As we continue this discussion in Vermont I hope that every Vermonter will visit the www.sam-vt.org web site to get the most current science-based facts and related news that the popular media often skims over or buries. We owe it to our youth to make an informed decision. Our future depends upon it.

Learn more:

National Institute on Drug Abuse: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana

CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America:


By Debby Haskins, the Executive Director of SAM-VT (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)

Current PrEvents is produced by the Central Vermont New Directions Coalition in collaboration with the Washington County Youth Services Bureau, as part of the Partnership for Success grant from the Vermont Department of Health. Send feedback to currentprevents@gmail.com. View archived editions of Current PrEvents at cvndc.org.

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