OP-ED | Gird Your Loins, Nutmeggers: Recreational Weed Is Coming
It’s been said that smoking marijuana makes you stupid. So it’s reasonable to ask whether Connecticut will become stupider if the evil weed is legalized across the board. That question has to be on the minds of Nutmeggers after the recent Bridgeport visit of a former Colorado police chief who told his audience our state should get ready for legalized pot.
As most followers of the subject know, Connecticut legalized medical marijuana in 2012. But former Avon, Colo., Police Chief Robert Ticer is convinced the legalization of medical weed is simply one of the first steps in the strategy whose goal is the full legalization for recreational use. Since 1996, 23 states and D.C. have legalized medical use.
In 2013, Ticer’s state became one of four (five counting the District of Columbia) to legalize the recreational use of pot. The number of dispensaries in Colorado selling cannabis now rests at 505 for medical, along with 322 retail stores selling the stuff for recreational use — this in a state of only 5.3 million people.
The proposal put before Colorado voters was for a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational use, while taxing and controlling it in much the same way alcohol is regulated. Turnout was more than 67 percent and the ballot measure passed by almost 11 percentage points. The results were much the same in Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.
In his appearance at the Webster Bank Arena, Ticer warned of the likelihood of increased numbers of motorists driving while under the influence and suggested, if pot is fully legalized, state officials partner with the marijuana industry itself to raise the awareness of driving while stoned.
Ironically, Ticer unknowingly made a case for legalization. Currently, there is no real marijuana industry anyone in our state can partner with because the substance is still illegal for recreational purposes. There are, however, still lots of people driving stoned, notwithstanding pot’s illegal status.
Much of the opposition to legalizing the recreational sale and use of cannabis centers around the conclusion that consumption will rise substantially, especially among impressionable young people. Does this actually happen? Well, it depends on whom you ask.
A federal study found that in the year before legalization, about 1 in 10 Coloradans over the age of 12 reported having used marijuana in the previous month. A year after legalization, the same poll found use had risen to 1 in 8, which brought Colorado on a par with number-one Rhode Island, where recreational cannabis use is still prohibited. Go figure.
However, another study in a noted psychiatry journal found that use, particularly among young people, did not surge in states that legalized recreational sale and use — perhaps because parents were taking a stronger, more vigilant and more aggressive stance against weed. The study also found that “the use of cannabis by adolescents was already higher in the states that have opted for medical legalisation. But the change in the law did not lead to a jump in numbers.”
I’ve always thought the case for the legalization of the sale and recreational use of pot was very compelling. Don’t get me wrong. Marijuana isn’t a harmless drug. If you use it, there is a lot of evidence that memory loss and diminished motivation can result. If you smoke it, weed is at least as harmful to your lungs as tobacco — if not more so, owing to the fact that pot smokers draw more deeply and hold the smoke in their lungs longer than cigarette smokers.
If you use it, you’re making a bad decision. But pot isn’t nearly as addictive as alcohol and it’s practically impossible to overdose on the stuff. And it goes without saying that if I had the choice of sharing the road with a drunk driver or a stoned one, I’d take the latter any day. Weed simply does not impair reflexes and balance to the same extent that alcohol does.
I know. I can already hear the opposition saying the state shouldn’t be condoning stuff that’s as bad for you, as pot is. But I’m afraid that train has already left the station. Through excise and sales taxes, the state profits handsomely from the sale of alcohol, a drug which kills infinitely more people than weed.
And it is the height of hypocrisy for weed-phobic state officials to operate and promote the state’s lottery system, which panders to low-income consumers, while reaping hundreds of millions in slot revenues from the two Indian casinos — even as the families of compulsive gamblers try to pick up the pieces of their broken lives.
No, legal recreational use of weed in Connecticut won’t make us stupider. But it just might make us less pretentious, while tapping into the underground economy to provide lawmakers with another reliable revenue stream.
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