Pubdate: Mon, 20 Jan 2014
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2014 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Kevin A. Sabet
Note: Kevin A. Sabet is a former senior White House drug-policy 
adviser, director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and author of 
"Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana" (Beaufort Books, 2013).


Colorado Will Demonstrate Why Promoting Pot Is a Mistake

On Jan. 1, Colorado made history as the first jurisdiction in the 
modern era to license the retail sales of marijuana.

To be sure, there were no bloody fistfights among people waiting in 
line and, as far as we know, no burglaries or robberies. Legalization 
advocates cheered.

While it is true that most people who use marijuana won't become 
addicted to heroin or otherwise hurt society as a result, Colorado's 
experiment with legal pot can be called anything but successful.

What didn't make the news were some troubling developments.

Multimillion-dollar private investing groups have emerged and are 
poised to become, in their words, "Big Marijuana"; added to a list of 
dozens of other children, a 2-year-old girl ingested a marijuana 
cookie and had to receive immediate medical attention; a popular 
website boldly discussed safe routes for smugglers to bring marijuana 
into neighboring states; and a marijuana-store owner proudly 
proclaimed that Colorado would soon be the destination of choice for 
18- to 21-year-olds, even though for them marijuana is still supposed 
to be illegal.

Popular columnists spanning the ideological spectrum, in The New York 
Times, The Washington Post and Newsweek/Daily Beast, soon expressed 
their disapproval of such policies as contributing to the dumbing 
down of America.

Colorado's experience, ironically, might eventually teach us that 
legalization's worst enemy is itself.

This raises the question: Why do we have to experience a tragedy 
before knowing where to go next?

Sadly, the marijuana conversation is one mired with myths. Many 
Americans do not think that marijuana can be addictive, despite 
scientific evidence to the contrary.

Many would be surprised to learn that the American Medical 
Association (AMA) has come out strongly against the legal sales of 
marijuana, citing public health concerns. In fact, the AMA's opinion 
is consistent with most major medical associations, including the 
American Academy of Pediatrics and American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Because today's marijuana is at least five to six times stronger than 
the marijuana smoked by most of today's parents, we are often shocked 
to hear that, according to the National Institutes of Health, one in 
six 16-year-olds who try marijuana will become addicted to it; 
marijuana intoxication doubles the risk of a car crash; heavy 
marijuana use has been significantly linked to an 8-point reduction 
in IQ; and that marijuana use is strongly connected to mental illness.

Constantly downplaying the risks of marijuana, its advocates have 
promised reductions in crime, flowing tax revenue and little in the 
way of negative effects on youth. We shouldn't hold our breath, though.

We can expect criminal organizations to adapt to legal prices, sell 
to people outside the legal market (e.g., kids) and continue to 
profit from other, much larger revenue sources, such as human 
trafficking and other drugs.

We can expect the social costs ensuing from increased marijuana use 
to greatly outweigh any tax revenue - witness the fact that tobacco 
and alcohol cost society $10 for every $1 gained in taxes.

Probably worst of all, we can expect our teens to be bombarded with 
promotional messages from a new marijuana industry seeking lifelong customers.

In light of the currently skewed discourse on marijuana, these are 
difficult facts to digest. In one fell swoop, we have been promised 
great things with legalization. However, we can expect to be let down.

Voters in other states should watch Colorado closely and engage in a 
deep conversation about where they want this country to go. Buyer, beware.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom