Op­po­nents cite new us­age study on pot le­gal­iza­tion

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - NEWS - By Jack Kramer CTNEWSJUNKIE.COM

— 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.

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