Legalizing Weed in Colorado is Reefer Madness
60 Minutes recently did a piece on Colorado's gangbusters "medical marijuana" enterprise, on track to become a nine-billion-dollar drug industry by 2016. Although we Coloradoans are the healthiest, most athletic bipeds in the nation, so direly in need of medication by cannabis are we that 204 med marijuana shops bloom on Denver's streets and strip malls. And if the state's November referendum to go really big and legalize weed becomes law, our green gold rush will double or even triple.
The pot measure puts a bright spotlight on the tension between the libertarian's argument that a free adult should be able to make personal choices without government interference and the issue of how far laws should go in protecting the health and welfare of the population, especially the nation's youth. Legalization fans tell us that they merely want to "regulate marijuana like alcohol" and compare anti-weed laws to Prohibition, which didn't work.
But pot isn't alcohol, and the anti-nanny-state ideology that motivates us right-thinkers crashes and burns on the sharp crags of reality. The reality is that as legal dope proliferates, so does its illegal use by adolescents, especially when the cultural stamp of approval comes from the government itself. That's already happened in Colorado. As medical marijuana shops have boomed statewide, so has the number of youths illegally using the drug. In the last four years, suspensions for drug violations at Colorado public schools have increased 45 percent. As a result, Colorado already leads the nation in adolescent marijuana use, reversing the prior decade of steady decline.
Colorado parents, along with parents in Washington and Oregon, which have similar ballot issues, and parents in the fourteen other medical marijuana states, beware. Far from being a harmless "recreational drug," weed can do permanent damage to children's brains. This is no prudish "Reefer Madness" propaganda. Rather, it's the conclusion of a comprehensive study by researchers at King's College London and Duke University in the U.S., who found that persistent marijuana users who started smoking at school age had lower IQ scores as adults and were more likely to suffer attention and memory problems in later life than their abstaining peers. "Quitting or reducing cannabis use did not appear to fully restore intellectual functioning among adolescent-onset former persistent cannabis users," said Professor Terrie Moffitt of KCL's Institute of Psychiatry. She said adolescent brains appear "more vulnerable to damage and disruption" from cannabis than those of fully mature adults.
There's a reason why weed-smokers call their high being "wasted." I've personally seen the wasted brains and wasted lives that result from marijuana use in four of my close family members that I know of. All started smoking at 11 or 12, and two later dropped out of high school. All were males with great promise. Our family saw their drug use turn the years of their youth that should have been full of bright achievement to hopelessness and sullen depression. The aimlessness and sapped energy of the stoner replaced the eager exuberance that should be the province of the young.
Colorado's Amendment 64 would make it legal for anyone 21 or older to grow, possess, consume, "transfer," and "transport" marijuana to others, allowing an ounce of the drug -- that's enough for several dozen joints or eight pans of pot brownies. It also permits growing up to six plants. So growers can privately "transport" and "transfer" to others 21 or older. But the law prohibits the underaged from being on the receiving end of all this transporting and transferring, so no potential for mischief there. Right. Too bad the proposed law didn't include a few million dollars for extra police to pound on doors and make sure home gardeners are growing only the regulation six plants. Oh, and to watch the transporters and transferrers, 24-7, to make sure they're not selling to adolescents.
Legalization supporters always insist that current marijuana law enforcement is useless and ineffectual because kids can get it anyway; why, then, would anyone believe that enforcement of a law limiting pot to "adults only" is possible? A logical absurdity, by their own logic. When kids see the government legitimizing drug use, the message is loud and clear: this stuff is harmless, so why not light up?
One big reason why pot accounts for 67 percent of the adolescents in substance-abuse treatment programs nationwide is that today's weed is a much more addictively wacky weed -- in fact, up to 10 times more potent than that of several decades ago. It's not your dad's and mom's doobie.
In a transparently cynical bid for votes, the marijuana legalization measure requires the state to use the taxes from drug sales for "constructing public schools." So while weed is leaching the intelligence out of our children's brains, their drug use will build more classrooms where they can slump stoned in their seats, getting "educated." Only the truly drug-addled could come up with such a twisted bribe of well-meaning parents who want to increase school financing. Using drug taxes to fund schools is like taxing dogfights to benefit animal shelters, or taxing human trafficking and giving the revenue to debutante balls.
Colorado's Amendment 64 is worse than crazy; it's actually a form of child abuse, since science has proven permanent damage to vulnerable young brains. Weed cripples our kids' futures: studies show that youths who don't smoke pot before age 18 are nearly four times more likely to graduate from high school and college as those who do are. But these damaging consequences to our youth don't concern the selfish adults who care only about indulging in their drug of choice without the annoyance of legal consequences. Speaking of which, of course, federal law prohibits the production, possession, and sale of marijuana and correctly classifies it as a dangerous Schedule 1 drug, which could provide a problem for a future Department of Justice.
Probably one of the most compelling arguments against youthful drug use is the admitted former Maui Wowie devotee living in the White House. I wonder: where would our ruined economy and delusional foreign policy be right now if he'd spent less time inhaling?
Joy Overbeck is a Colorado journalist and author who's written for The Washington Times, the Daily Caller, the Kitchen Cabinet, www.mycoloradoview.com, and her quirky God website, www.godsayshi.org. Twitter -- @JoyOverbeck1