I received a flyer in a mail today entitled “No on 91.” Measure 91 is Oregon’s ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. The flyer was plastered in candies with a tagline: “Why experiment on Oregon’s kids with these MARIJUANA junk foods?” Odds are if you live in Oregon you received one in the mail too, most of you I’m sure can see right through the long list of unsubstantiated claims on the back, but for those who aren’t familiar with the facts around the drug I present a counter argument–and unlike the fear-mongering flyer I’ll include where I pulled my data from:
The No on 91 Committee claims that big marijuana business targets kids with gummy bears, sugary kids cereal, ice cream, etc. There’s no such thing as “big marijuana business” because it’s still against federal law. The reason candies are commonly used is because it’s easy to infuse them with THC. It’s not about kids at all, its purpose is for recreation without smoke for those of us who are more health conscious or simply don’t enjoy smoking. Everyone’s required to present ID, and be at least 21 to get any of these substances.
They claim that youth use of marijuana increases when availability increases, but when you look at the stats of Oregon, Colorado, and Washington, youth use has increased at least 2% between 2006-2011–legal or not. (http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/40-marijuana-use-by-age-group#detailed/2/7,39,49/false/909,857,105,118,104/30/14409,317)
Measure 91 allows “too much marijuana”. Not sure what that means, but just because I would be allowed to own up to 400 joints or 1 LB of edibles doesn’t mean that’s what I can afford, or realistically want. There’s no point in keeping that much around when I can go down the street and buy some more.
“This is not Woodstock weed: Today’s marijuana is 300-800% stronger.” No it isn’t. Not according to Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, the director of the Marijuana Potency Project, “Since 1972…the average THC content of marijuana has soared from less than 1% to 3 to 4% in the 1990s, to nearly 13% today” (http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/09/health/weed-potency-levels/).
They claim that there is no standard for driving. According the Voters’ Pamphlet for the Oregon General Election, “(2) The offense described in the section, use of marijuana while driving, is a Class B traffic violation.” It’s almost impossible to set standards or limits on the substance like we do with alcohol because there’s active and inactive THC and every body processes it differently.
They also claim that “Like Colorado, the black market will always be cheaper than ‘legal’ taxed marijuana.” I’ll level on this one. If the substances is drastically overtaxed like it is in Colorado then yes impoverished communities will continue to use the black market. (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/nine-months-colorado-legalized-recreational-marijuana/)
The final reason for opposing Measure 91 is that “For every $1 the government receives taxing substances like alcohol & tobacco, it spends $10 in social costs.” I don’t know how they came up with those numbers, but there are a few logical flaws here. First, that’s for alcohol and tobacco, two legal substances which cause a lot of deaths (2.5 million for alcohol, and more than 5 million for tobacco worldwide), we still need more data on the social costs of marijuana. (https://ncadd.org/in-the-news/155-25-million-alcohol-related-deaths-worldwide-annually, http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/)
In the center of the flyer there’s an outlined section: Oregon Can Learn From Colorado’s Mistake
- Colorado’s 12-17 year old marijuana use rate is 39% higher than the national average.
- INCREASE of 57% in marijuana-related emergency room visits.
- INCREASE of 100% in traffic fatalities where drivers tested positive for marijuana.
- INCREASE OF 268% in poison control center calls for children (ages 0 to 5) for marijuana.
First, Colorado, like many states have shown that more and more youth are using the substance as previously mentioned. There are more people testing positive for marijuana in traffic fatalities, but here’s what you’re not being told: “The problem with these criticisms is that we can test only for the presence of marijuana metabolites, not for inebriation. Metabolites can linger in the body for days after the drug’s effects wear off — sometimes even for weeks. Because we all metabolize drugs differently (and at different times and under different conditions), all that a positive test tells us is that the driver has smoked pot at some point in the past few days or weeks.” As reported by Radley Balko of The Washington Post. As for the 268% increase in poison control calls, according to USA Today the number of calls reported last year was 70, and most of those could have been prevented if parents took the time to hide their drugs with all the other things adults leave around the house like guns and rat poison. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/08/05/since-marijuana-legalization-highway-fatalities-in-colorado-are-at-near-historic-lows/, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/02/marijuana-pot-edibles-colorado/7154651/).
Finally, look at the top four groups who oppose the measure: Oregon Pediatric Society, Oregon Sheriffs, Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police, and Oregon District Attorneys Association. The Pediatric Society aside, what do the other groups stand to lose if Measure 91 passes? Money. So before you vote “No” on 91 remember it’s not really about the kids, that’s just a ploy to tug at your heart strings. Legal venders check ID, black market dealers don’t. We should protect our children, and that happens though education and personal responsibility, not by keeping something illegal. Oregon has some of the highest, if not the highest, marijuana use in the nation. The best thing we can do for kids, and our society is to legalize and control it. Lastly, whether or not you vote either way, our state’s never going to benefit from misinformation and fear, you can be against drugs, but please don’t be against facts.