Le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana could lead to plague of prob­lems

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Chris Ja­cobs State Sen. Chris Ja­cobs is a Repub­li­can rep­re­sent­ing Western New York’s 60th District. is an is­sues-ori­ented col­umn that ap­pears on the ed­i­to­rial page each day. Writ­ers must have some back­ground or ex­per­tise on the topic about which they

Those in power in Al­bany are push­ing for quick pas­sage of mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion. In de­cid­ing whether to le­gal­ize, the fun­da­men­tal ques­tion is whether the le­gal­iza­tion of pot will make the peo­ple of our state health­ier and safer? I be­lieve the an­swer to that ques­tion is a re­sound­ing “No.”

When you look at the states that have al­ready le­gal­ized, the data is not pretty. Le­gal pot states have seen sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in mar­i­juana-in­duced hos­pi­tal­iza­tions. In Colorado, the rate of mar­i­juana-re­lated emer­gency room vis­its in­creased 35 per­cent in the first four years of le­gal­iz­ing pot.

As we con­tinue the bat­tle against drink­ing and driv­ing, the le­gal­iza­tion of pot will add an­other deadly cul­prit to our roads. Since le­gal­iza­tion in Colorado, the num­ber of driv­ers in­tox­i­cated with mar­i­juana and in­volved in fa­tal traf­fic crashes in­creased 88 per­cent from 2013 to 2015. Wash­ing­ton State has en­dured a dou­bling of drugged driv­ing fa­tal­i­ties in the years fol­low­ing le­gal­iza­tion. These alarm­ing statis­tics are a main rea­son so many in law en­force­ment have come out against le­gal­iza­tion.

To­day’s mar­i­juana would be un­rec­og­niz­able by the Wood­stock gen­er­a­tion. Back then THC lev­els were about 2-3 per­cent. To­day’s pot, whether it is smoked, vaped, or eaten in at­trac­tive gummy bear shapes, con­tains up­ward of 25 per­cent THC. Fur­ther, chronic users are de­mand­ing higher and higher ra­tios of THC to sa­ti­ate their ad­dic­tion and the prof­i­teers are more than will­ing to ac­com­mo­date.

What about our youth? Cer­tainly, no con­clu­sive ev­i­dence ex­ists that le­gal­iza­tion is bet­ter for the health and wel­fare of our chil­dren. To the con­trary, states that have le­gal­ized have seen an in­crease in youth us­age. We have learned that brain de­vel­op­ment con­tin­ues through age 25. Mar­i­juana im­pedes brain de­vel­op­ment and am­pli­fies men­tal health ail­ments, es­pe­cially in ado­les­cents. When we le­gal­ize we make it more so­cially ac­cept­able, lead­ing to greater youth ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and us­age.

We have spent bil­lions of dol­lars over the decades to com­bat the deadly legacy of to­bacco and smok­ing in our so­ci­ety. It seems ir­ra­tional to sanc­tion an­other prod­uct whose main means of us­age is smok­ing. Sim­ply put, all forms of smok­ing are very dan­ger­ous for lung, heart and over­all phys­i­cal health. The ul­ti­mate irony is that big to­bacco, which is re­spon­si­ble for mil­lions of to­bacco-re­lated cancer deaths, has in­vested heav­ily in this new mar­i­juana busi­ness.

We need to take this de­ci­sion of le­gal­iza­tion very se­ri­ously. At a min­i­mum, I urge the gov­er­nor and the other in Al­bany lead­er­ship to slow down this process to as­sure that we gar­ner all the facts and per­spec­tives. The edi­to­ri­als on this page rep­re­sent the opin­ion of The Buf­falo News ed­i­to­rial board. Mem­bers are Pub­lisher and Pres­i­dent War­ren T. Colville; Ed­i­tor Michael K. Con­nelly; Ed­i­to­rial Page Ed­i­tor Kevin S. Wal­ter; and ed­i­to­rial writ­ers Dawn Marie Bracely and Greg Con­nors.

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