Pubdate: Wed, 12 Aug 2015
Source: Chico Enterprise-Record (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Chico Enterprise-Record
Note: Letters from newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority
Author: Thomas Elias


Four potential ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana are in the 
works for California's next general election, with pot advocates yet 
to choose the variation that will get their concerted push.

But one thing for sure: Whichever one they send out for signature 
gathering will say nothing about the detrimental effects of the 
mind-altering weed, well known as a proven demotivating factor for heavy users.

The eventual pot legalization initiative (its official name is yet to 
be determined) will likely tax pot producers and dealers just like 
other businesses. And it will contain rules against anyone under 21 
obtaining it, like measures adopted in Colorado and Washington.

There will also be no nonsense about doctors' recommendations, now 
required for medical marijuana use under Proposition 215. Those 
recommendations now facilitate cannabis use for plenty of folks with 
no discernible medical problem. This, of course, does not change the 
fact marijuana has helped plenty of cancer patients and others who 
need their pain alleviated, as well as helping vision problems and 
other ailments marijuana often eases.

Legalization would mean there would be no stigma attached to using 
marijuana. Entrepreneurs all over California are already gearing up 
to market everything from bongs to cannabis-laced fudge the moment 
legalization arrives.

But as acceptance of marijuana has increased, both nationally and in 
California, the dangers also have risen. A 2014 study in the medical 
journal Current Addiction Reports found that using pot only once a 
week can lead to cognitive decline, lower IQ and memory problems. 
Other studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine and 
other peer-reviewed medical magazines report a link between 
recreational pot use and brain abnormalities in young adults. Some 
law enforcement officials report more serious problems, too.

Not to worry, say legalization advocates, because the age limit will 
keep marijuana away from teenagers. The identical rule, of course, 
applies to alcohol, and how successful is that in preventing teenage 
and college drinking?

Acceptance of pot is so widespread that two of California's most 
conservative Republican congressmen, Tom McClintock of Roseville and 
Dana Rohrabacher of Orange County, along with liberal Democrat Sam 
Farr of Monterey County, are now pushing to prevent any federal 
interference with legalizing the weed.

All this ignores the sometimes fatal effects of pot use reported in a 
new study from the Arizona Department of Health Services. Examining 
all deaths of Arizona children under age 18, the department concluded 
128 fatalities in 2014 resulted from substance abuse. Marijuana was 
the most prevalent substance associated with youth deaths, linked to 
62, far more than alcohol or methamphetamine. This, when just 7.5 
percent of Arizonans use marijuana regularly, compared with 52 
percent who use alcohol. So there's little doubt pot is a more 
serious problem for youngsters who use it than beer or liquor.

Translate the Arizona numbers to California, six times as large but 
with no similar tracking of teenage deaths, and the likelihood is 
that more than 300 youthful fatalities here were tied to pot use last year.

Says Sheila Polk, county attorney for Yavapai County, Ariz., 
northwest of Phoenix, "Legalizing an addictive drug that is linked 
to...increased psychosis and suicidal ideas, lowered IQ, memory loss, 
impaired learning and academic failure means more damaged lives and 
lost opportunities for our youth. It's unconscionable to experiment this way."

Wrote Republican William Bennett, the nation's first drug czar and a 
former secretary of education, "Overseeing or encouraging more 
marijuana use is just about the last thing a government trying to 
elevate (living conditions) would do. At stake is the safety of our youth."

Sadly, it's unlikely voters will hear anything much like this when 
the drumbeat for legalization begins in earnest late next year.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom