, Salem, MA

February 5, 2014

Letter: Marijuana's dangers outweigh its benefits

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Marijuana was approved in 20 states plus the District of Columbia for medical use in the year 2013. Marijuana is now legal for recreational sales in Colorado, and Washington will make it so. In June, Maine, California and Vermont may follow suit.

I can understand why the medical use was approved in Massachusetts and I voted for it, but the distribution left something to be desired. It appears to me that the geographical sites are the prelude to recreational use. And when recreational use comes up for a vote in Massachusetts, I believe most people would vote no. I hope so.

The American Medical Association has come out strongly against 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 the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Today’s marijuana is at least five to six times stronger than the marijuana smoked by some of today’s parents. We are often shocked to hear that, according to the National Institute of Health, one in six 16-year-olds who’ll 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 eight-point reduction in IQ and marijuana use is strongly connected to mental health problems.

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

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

We can expect a social cost ensuing from increased marijuana use to greatly outweigh any tax revenues. Witness the fact that tobacco and alcohol cost society $10 for every one dollar in taxes gained.

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

In light of currently skewed discourse on marijuana, these are difficult facts to digest in one fell swoop. We’ve 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.

Roger Salucco