Legalizing marijuana is irresponsible and will harm teens

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Proposing that the state will potentially raise $200 million in new tax dollars from sales of retail marijuana is misguided and irresponsible, yet this is exactly what is being suggested in the Democrat’s version of the budget that was just released. The issue of legalizing retail sale of marijuana in Connecticut was debated earlier in the year by two committees of the legislature, and neither could generate enough votes to pass the bill out of committee, effectively delaying the decision for at least another year.

Even though I am still a high school student, I have checked some of the published scientific research on marijuana and I know that marijuana is a harmful substance. The scientific research is very clear that exposure to cannabinoids during adolescent brain development can negatively impact areas of the brain related to learning, memory, motivation and emotion even after use has ended.

In addition, it is commonly misconceived that marijuana addiction is not possible, likely because it is not as addictive as other substances. Yet, addiction is a real risk related to the use of marijuana and is much more likely to occur in youth who use. It should not be surprising to anyone that marijuana use affects the teen brain, but the general public has very little or no understanding of the risk.

Dr. Nora Volkow, the Director of NIDA, a Division of NIH, states on her web page: “The research studies have shown that exposure to cannabinoids during adolescent development can cause long-lasting changes in the brain’s reward system as well as the hippocampus, a brain area critical for learning and memory. The message inherent in these and in multiple supporting studies is clear. Regular marijuana use in adolescence is part of a cluster of behaviors that can produce enduring detrimental effects and alter the trajectory of a young person’s life– thwarting his or her potential.”

A closely related question is whether legalization will result in increased teen abuse of marijuana. As a teen, let me assure you that it will, and the increase will be substantial.

The statistics from Colorado over the past ten years as medical marijuana was commercialized with 500+ retail stores, and then fully legalized, led to a huge increase, giving Colorado the highest teen marijuana use rate in the U.S. It is common sense that legalization will increase marijuana use in Connecticut kids.

  • Kids will believe the legislature would not legalize marijuana unless it is safe.
  • Increased access leads to increased use by all ages, including kids.
  • We all know media attention and advertising works.
  • Candy, brownies, and packaging for kids. Pot Tarts?
  • A bunch of PSA announcements will not overcome the impact of legalization on teens.
  • Big money is at stake and the people pushing this are devious, so they will lie to you.

I urge the legislature to take this potential revenue source out of their budget and take the time to consider all potential costs.

Before believing there will be a tax windfall, you must consider all the costs.

When my mom was in high school, one of her Guilford friends, a high school freshman, was killed on his bike on Route 77 by a teen driver intoxicated by marijuana. If marijuana use increases, in addition to fatalities, consider the costs to Connecticut of paralysis cases covered only by Medicaid. The hospitalization costs for fractured skulls, broken bones, and massive burns. Consider the financial cost to Connecticut for detox and treatment of additional addicts, and the costs for educating additional suspended or expelled students. Consider the costs of all the additional schizophrenia and psychosis cases. Consider the social costs of alcohol and cigarettes and extrapolate that to increased marijuana use and addiction.

Connecticut should perform an objective study of projected costs of increased marijuana use in the state. This should include law enforcement and regulatory costs, as well as medical and educational costs.

Finally, I am concerned that Connecticut’s legislative leaders have disregarded the public debate, information that was presented at the committee hearings, and the views of the majority of our legislators and are using the excuse of potential new revenue to pass harmful legislation.

I urge our legislators to reject this strategy and make a commitment to supporting the health and well-being of our young people and families.

What do you think?

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