Guest Column: Legalizing pot would lead to destructive social change
September 2, 2014
My neighbor and friend Andy Whyman wrote a guest column in the Aug. 15 Sierra Sun and Aug. 24 Bonanza stating his case for legalizing pot. Hopefully after he reads this we will still be friends. But Andy is just plain wrong on this issue and here is why.
His opening paragraph states that "the criminalization of marijuana is a war on citizens, particularly citizens of color." So by that reasoning we should legalize killing in the inner city neighborhoods for the same reason. Or maybe make mass murder legal because it is a war on white people.
He further defends his position by stating that by comparison to marijuana, other hard drugs, alcohol and cigarettes are more addicting than marijuana. Both of these arguments are ridiculous and irrelevant. In fact he states that only 9 percent of marijuana users develop any degree of dependency, like that is an insignificant number.
Andy jumps on the New York Times bandwagon of pushing for legalization like it is divine direction from one of the Gospels of the Bible. That carries about as much weight to non-liberal people as a push for outlawing abortion would be to liberal people coming from Fox News. The opinions of both news outlets are sincere but are not a reason to agree with the position they take in and of itself.
What is relevant to this argument is the 30 years of data that has been gathered that shows the harmful effects of this drug, especially on our youth. As well as some common-sense thinking about the unintended consequences that legalizing pot would have on our children and on our society.
In her letter to the editor in the Aug. 21 Bonanza that opposes legalization, Debbie Larson cites studies from the Northwest School of Medicine showing the adverse effects of pot use on the brain. I have found similar data confirming this in numerous studies by such esteemed publications as Journal of the American Medical Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Institute on Drug Abuse and the New England Journal of Medicine among others.
In fact, in an April 2014 publication a study in the Journal of Neuroscience documented that there is a much higher incidence of mental illness and adverse brain development especially in the working memory. What was astounding and concerning is that these adverse effects are being suffered by people defined as "casual users" — defined as once per week.
In addition to the scientific reasons found in the above studies, there are two more immediate health and safety issues that will become apparent immediately the day that pot is legalized. First is that there will now be even more opportunities for our kids to obtain the pot illegally. It would be naïve to think that someone making $10 an hour selling pot legally out the front door of a "legitimate" pot distribution outlet wouldn't also be selling it illegally on the side to our kids. See "California medicinal outlets" if my forecast seems far-fetched.
The argument from the legalize pot side is that there are already plenty of opportunities for our kids to get it illegally. So what? Let's not make it even easier.
Second is that you will immediately have a lot more impaired drivers on the road. In a compilation of nine individual studies published by the British Medical Journal, it was found that there were twice as many traffic accidents that involved people under the influence of marijuana than by those who were unimpaired. Again the pro pot people will claim that there is already a problem with alcohol-impaired drivers.
While again a "so what" answer is appropriate, there is a big difference that needs to be considered. Your typical drinking driver is not a threat at all hours because they are not usually drinking at all hours of the day. Your typical pot user will in fact take a couple of hits in the morning, again at lunch and then again for the ride home from work. And remember that while it normally takes several beers or drinks consumed over at least an hour or two for the typical drinker to become impaired, it only takes one or two hits off of a joint in a matter of seconds to make a pot user impaired.
While stating the above, I realize I probably offended the many mature pot users who do so responsibly in the safety of their own home. I would even consider the argument that we should decriminalize pot use by mature adults over a specific age. But here's the rub. I believe the majority of people who would vote to legalize pot aren't mature adults with kids. They are the 18- to 25-year-old crowd or some empty nesters that don't have younger kids.
If this comes to a vote in your state please vote no. Are you willing to risk your son or daughter's future? I'm not.
John Redfern is a 10 year resident of Incline Village. He is married and has adult children ages 35, 33 and 28 years old as well as twin 13-year-olds.
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