Opponents cite new usage study on pot legalization
— Those opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana in Connecticut are armed with a new study that shows states that have legalized pot have a higher percentage of teenage users.
According to Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration indicates that more young people are trying marijuana for the first time in Colorado, the first state to allow recreational use, than anywhere else in the nation. The study by SAMHSA, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also finds that Colorado is at the top of the list for the lowest perception of risk of using cannabis among teens.
A news release from SAM highlights two other findings from the study above others:
⏩ Almost 8 percent of Colorado teens admitted to using cannabis for the first time last year, compared with 7.9 percent in Massachusetts, 7.4 percent in Washington, D.C., and 7.1 percent in Alaska — all jurisdictions where recreational use has been made legal in conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act.
⏩ Past-month usage is double in “legal” states among all age groups, and 45 percent higher in the 12- to 17-year-old category (9.1 percent versus 6.3 percent).
“The effects of legalization are revealing our worst fears,” Dr. Kevin A. Sabet, president and founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and a former White House drug policy advisor, said. “Big Pot’s profits-over-people business model is hooking more people on highly potent marijuana gummies, candies, waxes, and blunts while governments look the other way. How many lives have to be affected until we take action?”
In addition, SAM lists the following other findings of note from the study:
⏩ In 2017, past-month marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds was highest in Vermont (10.75 percent), followed by Oregon (10.35 percent).
⏩ In 2017, past-year marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds was highest in Vermont (17.88 percent), followed by Oregon (17.01 percent).
⏩ In 2017, perception of great risk from smoking marijuana once a month among 12- to 17-year-olds was lowest in Colorado (16.21 percent), followed by Oregon (16.84 percent).
The study “comes as no surprise” to William “Bo” Huhn, a spokesman for both CT Smart Approaches to Marijuana and Guilford Development Assets for Youth, a group of Guilford high school students and other advocates that is opposed to legalization.
“Anybody who would believe that legalization wouldn’t lead to an increase in use amongst young people is just wrong,” Huhn said. “Just the commercialization and marketing that occurs in a state after legalization happens should make it pretty obvious that increased use is a given.”
Huhn said the lack of more stringent regulations over marketing of recreational marijuana in the states that have legalized is “shocking.”
Dr. Deepak Cyril D’Souza, a research scientist and professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, and one who has frequently testified against legalizing marijuana in front of the Legislature, like Huhn, wasn’t shocked by the study.
“Well — I can’t imagine why anyone would be surprised,” D’Souza said. “Adolescence is also a period of heightened vulnerability for addiction. I am concerned that with legalization, comes commerHARTFORD cialization, and one strategy of commercial entities is to ‘catch ‘em young’ to make lifelong consumers.”
D’Souza added: “Then, there is the effect of cannabis on adolescents who are only just learning how to drive. Isn’t driving on I-95 risky enough?”
Huhn, D’Souza, and those opposed to legalization for recreational use know this year may be the toughest one yet to prevent the passage of a new law.
“It’s clearly going to be a significant issue for the Legislature,” Huhn said, when the new General Assembly reconvenes in January.
Gov.-elect Ned Lamont told Connecticut Public Radio listeners that “legalizing marijuana is an idea whose time has come,” and with Massachusetts starting sales, advocates for legalization would like to see Connecticut approve recreational cannabis during the 2019 legislative session.