Regarding Amendment 64 on the November ballot, the arguments for passing a constitutional amendment that would forever alter the state’s fabric have significant holes that the public must understand.
First, we continue to hear that marijuana is not addictive. This argument is often combined with the term “harmless.” But the quality of marijuana has changed significantly over the past 25 years. The psychoactive ingredient commonly called THC has increased from roughly 3 percent to well over 10 percent, even as much as 30 percent. The higher the THC content, the greater the potential for harm, particularly with young people.
It has been proven repeatedly by top medical researchers that marijuana use is the No. 1 reason adolescents are admitted to substance-use treatment facilities in the U.S. and the No. 2 reason for adults (behind alcohol addiction) entering substance abuse programs. As strains of marijuana vary and methods of ingestion become more sophisticated, the potential for addiction and impairment increases.
The argument that regulation is the answer is a second fallacy. No “standards” can be set or even estimated for regulation. THC metabolizes at such greatly varied individual rates depending upon all types of factors, that it is virtually impossible to recommend a suggest dose or usage rate that would cause impairment, such as driver capacity and functional ability. For instance, THC clings to fat cells, causing a slower metabolization rate for those with a higher body fat content. THC can be found in the system of some people up to 30 days after ingestion.
This amendment would cause legal ramifications that will cost tremendous dollars in legislative battles for years to come. Think of what tobacco has cost us and understand that marijuana is the tip of the iceberg in long-term healthcare and legal wrangling.
Thirdly, a common “pro” position is the fact that legalizing this substance will generate millions for our state. This is categorically untrue and cannot be proven. Our country spends about $185 billion on alcohol-related problems with taxes on alcohol sales generating approximately $14.5 billion. Tobacco taxation only recovers 12 percent of the costs.
The authors of the proposed amendment have put forth grand ideas as to how we will spend our millions once generated by legalization, but they have no proof that such revenue will ever be seen. Additionally the amendment contains language that would indicate a mandatory tax increase, which would be included in the state’s constitution. This is a precedent-setting item that the voters should not ignore!
It also must be stated that changing our state law would not override the federal law, which classifies marijuana as Schedule 1 Control Act substance. Those who choose to use will still be subject to federal prosecution, which will open a can of worms for litigation dollars in our state. Is this the legacy we want for Colorado?
Lastly, Colorado voters should consider the harmful impact to our children should marijuana be legal for recreational use. The argument has been made that this is written only for the “age of 21 or older.” Has that stopped teenage smoking or alcohol consumption? NO. Young people only hear “legal” and all bets are off.
When asked to include language in the amendment pertaining to the dangers for adolescent health, the writers protested. Why is this, we have to wonder? Is it because they want to continue pushing the word “harmless” around? Recently the Colorado Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Society, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and the Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics urged voters to take a stance against Amendment 64 due to the dangers and risks.
It is a proven medical fact that adolescent marijuana consumption causes permanent damage to the developing brain and is a contributing factor to early onset mental illness and psychotic episodes. Our high school retention rates are already alarming, without adding another burden to our children. Colorado citizens must care more about our children than our own desire to get high.
Amendment 64 as a constitutional amendment that cannot be changed is the wrong way to approach this issue.
Jo McGuire is the director of training and compliance for Conspire!, which conducts drug tests.