Pubdate: Mon, 31 Oct 2016
Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)
Copyright: 2016 The Pueblo Chieftain
Author: Kenneth Finn


Colorado has led the charge for legalization of marijuana and many
states are following suit and are entertaining the legalization of
marijuana in this year's elections.

What most people do not know is that Colorado has a public health
problem directly related to marijuana and that 70 percent of Colorado
municipalities have voted no to having legalized marijuana in their

Since de facto legalization in 2009 and by vote in 2014, Colorado has
taken over the nation in youth use in 12- to 17-year-olds. The
industry has evolved over the past several years and adolescents have
evolved as well. They are receiving the message that marijuana is safe
and natural, that it's an herb, and that its a medication.

When a substance becomes more "normal," acceptable, and more widely
accessible, children and adolescents will use that substance more and
develop problems associated with pervasive use.

There has been a significant increase of accidental exposures and
hospitalizations related to increased marijuana use, particularly in
the very young, since legalization.

Treatment for marijuana use or dependency is the No. 1 admission
diagnosis in Colorado youths, ages 12-17. There is a wide variety of
products available and students are using the same products at school.
Because many of these products do not smell like pot, students freely
use at and during school with things like edibles, vapor pens and
herbal teas directly in front of the teachers and school resource officers.

Marijuana is addictive and that is medically proven and generally
accepted. The addiction rates in the adult is about 9 percent, but in
the developing adolescent brain it is about 18 percent and is based on
marijuana potencies of the early to mid-1990s.

Marijuana in Colorado has become more potent since then, so the
addiction rate is likely higher. It has a withdrawal syndrome, similar
to alcohol and narcotics, which include drug craving when taken away.

Once Colorado legalized marijuana, the line between medical and legal
marijuana blurred to the point where, in some instances, it did not
exist. Patients who possess medical cards freely share their marijuana
with family and friends. Parents self-diagnose and treat their
children with marijuana products, typically edibles, for diagnoses
which may not even exist (ADHD or anxiety, for example).

Marijuana-related driving fatalities in Colorado have been on a steady
increase over the past 10 years and in 2015 were the highest level
ever. Marijuana use has been documented to slow reaction times,
processing speed, among other things that are required to operate a
vehicle safely. Pot users are not better drivers.

Combining multiple substances, like alcohol and/or narcotics with
marijuana, which can also impair one's ability to drive, is noted in
many of those driving fatalities. There has been an increase in people
killed by stoned drivers in Colorado over the past couple of years.
This is a public health and safety issue.

The amount of money marijuana has made for the state of Colorado
comprises 1/2 of 1 percent of the state's general fund. It is not the
cash cow most people think it is. Schools have not received the
benefit that was felt to be part of the passage of Amendment 64. The
societal costs are beginning to outweigh any revenue, just like the
alcohol and tobacco industries did.

In summary, the legalization of marijuana in Colorado has spelled a
public health disaster for the state. Other states are blindly
following suit, like lemmings, without looking at the potential

The issue has gone far beyond "responsible use" or "marijuana as
medicine." The marijuana industry continues to promote the financial
benefit to states without noting, ever, the negative ramifications to
the public. Colorado has been building the plane while flying it and
is moving toward a potential public health disaster.

Dr. Kenneth Finn

Board Certified, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Board Certified, Pain Management (Anesthesia/PMR)

Board Certified, Pain Medicine

Member, Governor's Task Force on Amendment 64

Member, Colorado Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council
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