You could have heard about New York state’s transfer to legalize marijuana. But misplaced behind the celebratory pro-pot headlines have been the tales of Maryland, Hawaii, North Dakota and Wyoming. These states all noticed marijuana legalization payments fail during the last week and joined New Hampshire in rejecting marijuana legalization this 12 months, after greater than a dozen states did so final 12 months.
This is encouraging information.
Our nation is struggling to navigate two main public well being crises. First and foremost is the COVID-19 pandemic, which lawmakers are rightly targeted on. But we’re additionally within the midst of a devastating psychological well being and dependancy disaster. The knowledge popping out of states can’t be ignored. For instance, West Virginia simply reported that overdose deaths elevated more than 40 percent in the last year. All instructed, some 1,147 West Virginians misplaced their lives to dependancy between 2019 and 2020. Similar traits are being seen throughout the nation, as overdose deaths have elevated 25 percent nationwide.
Lawmakers ought to tread very evenly in relation to normalizing and increasing entry to marijuana, a substance confirmed to negatively impact mental health and increase chances of future substance use. New studies have shed much more gentle on the results of marijuana legalization.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland discovered that those that provoke common marijuana use as youngsters have been greater than 20 instances extra more likely to turn into illicit drug customers and three.7 instances extra more likely to be high-risk alcohol drinkers. Colorado has seen constant will increase in opioid overdoses since legalizing marijuana. In truth, 2020 was the worst year on record for drug overdoses within the state.
Furthermore, a large research out of California discovered that the state’s youth could also be more likely to use marijuana since legalization in 2016. The research checked out knowledge from greater than three million seventh, ninth and eleventh graders and located important will increase in lifetime and past-month marijuana use amongst nearly all demographics. This straight undercuts the concept that legalizing marijuana and deeming it secure will not result in extra youth utilizing the drug.
Even extra regarding is the usage of new, stronger types of marijuana. Recently launched knowledge from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment inform us that the usage of marijuana vapes and different concentrates, generally often known as dabs, amongst younger individuals within the state has skyrocketed within the final two years. These types of marijuana can include as much as 99 % pure THC, the psychoactive compound that makes a consumer really feel “high.”
The rise in the usage of high-potency marijuana additionally coincides with a rise in marijuana being detected in toxicology studies for teenagers who’ve died by suicide in Colorado. Advocates have lengthy warned that youth marijuana use poses a major danger of despair and suicidal thoughts.
The psychological well being of our youth is struggling in the course of the pandemic. Emergency room visits for psychological health-related points have risen 24 percent, charges of intentional self-harm have dramatically spiked and depression and anxiety have elevated amongst younger individuals during the last 12 months. Expanding entry and selling the usage of a drug recognized to exacerbate psychological well being points right now can be like pouring gasoline on a hearth.
Sadly, these knowledge factors aren’t generally recognized. And in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers who help legalization have adopted new techniques to make it even tougher for public well being and security advocates to share very important information in state legislatures. Of course, in-person legislative hearings are usually not presently an possibility, however legalization supporters accountable for hearings at the moment are in a position to restrict and even stop public well being advocates from presenting arguments through Zoom or different digital platforms.
In these hearings, we have heard incessantly that legalization will remove the illicit marijuana market, but time after time now we have seen the illicit market thrive and even develop stronger in states with “legal” pot.
We have additionally heard how legalization and commercialization efforts promote social fairness—creating new alternatives to spice up communities that suffered the brunt of the War on Drugs. In actuality, nonetheless, the pot business is overwhelmingly managed by prosperous multi-state operators. Altria—proprietor of Phillip Morris and Marlboro—in addition to alcohol conglomerates are a number of the business’s greatest buyers. Positioning authorized pot as a possibility to empower underserved communities is nothing however a slick speaking level.
Legalization has additionally achieved little to cut back the racial disparities in marijuana arrests. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a famous supporter of legalization, in states the place marijuana has been “legalized,” African Americans stay extra more likely to be arrested for a marijuana violation than whites, regardless of related charges of use.
Five states this 12 months have killed legalization efforts, however extra payments are making their means via legislatures across the nation. Lawmakers can attempt to disguise from the details, however the fact constantly comes out in knowledge addressing marijuana’s impression on communities, youth and extra. As Americans navigate the numerous aspects of marijuana legalization, they deserve correct, credible information, not false claims that profit nobody however buyers. We should demand transparency.
Kevin Sabet, Ph.D., serves as co-founder and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and is a former senior drug coverage advisor to the Obama Administration. His upcoming guide “Smokescreen: What The Marijuana Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know” can be distributed by Simon & Schuster and out there April twentieth. Former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy is co-founder of SAM; founding father of The Kennedy Forum; co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, “A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction;” and a former member of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
The views expressed on this article are the writers’ personal.