Should Recreational Marijuana be legalized?

The inquiries we get from parents at Gobi run 65% - 75% about teens and the use of marijuana.  I attended a conference recently hosted by the Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation about some research that is just now coming from the first 5 states to legalize marijuana for recreational use.  While the results are not what was promised what is missing is that today’s marijuana is 300 times stronger than it used to be and most importantly it is an addictive substance.

A recent report issued by Smart Approaches to Marijuana showed that after the first 5 years of legalization;

1.       Since Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia (Washington, DC) legalized marijuana, past-month use of the drug has continued to rise above the national average among youth aged 12–17 in all five jurisdictions (National Survey on Drug Use and Health [NSDUH], 2006-2017).

2.       Alaska and Oregon are leading the nation in past-year marijuana use among youth aged 12–17 (NSDUH, 2006-2017).

3.       Colorado currently holds the top ranking for first-time marijuana use among youth, representing a 65% increase in the years since legalization (NSDUH, 2006-2017).

4.       Young adult use (youth aged 18–25) in legalized states is increasing (NSDUH, 2006-2017).

5.       In Colorado, calls to poison control centers have risen 210% between the four-year averages before and after recreational legalization (RMPDC, 2017). (Mostly due to edibles)

6.       And in Colorado Driving Under the Influence of Drugs incidents increased in a 2-year period from 12.2% to 17.2% of all incidents.

Also, residents in Colorado reported not being ready for the onslaught of dispensaries and advertising. Only 30% of the counties voted to have dispensaries but there are now twice as many medical and recreational dispensaries in those counties as Starbucks and MacDonald’s in the whole state combined!

Lastly, none of the states are reporting the huge tax windfall they expected from sales.  Colorado schools are yet to see the $40 million annually they were promised but more significantly the increase in expenses (emergency room, poison control, workplace and traffic injuries) are out weighing the benefits.  In fact, a study from Illinois showed that they projected income of $556 million but expenses of $670 million.

While the long-term physical and psychological effects of marijuana are still being studied, some of the rational for legalizing recreational use seems very shaky based on these results.