NEW YORK (MainStreet) Maybe marijuana legalization advocates were just blowing smoke -- when the Colorado Department of Finance reported collecting $5.4 million in taxes on medical marijuana in 2012. The predictions made by the public relations campaign waged by them are just blowing in the wind - at least according to Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).
According to SAM's new report about the effects of legalization in Colorado, pot proponents:
- 1- Overestimated tax revenues
- 2- Underestimated the amount of increase in those under age 18 using marijuana
- 3- Underestimated the increase in traffic accidents because of marijuana
- 4- Underestimated the increase in THC workplace usage
The multimillion dollar public relations campaign was waged to convince Colorado's voters that legalizing marijuana would be beneficial to the citizens of the state. It only extolled the virtues but it never mentioned that there might be costs, claims Kevin Sabet, the author of the report and a psychiatry professor at the University of Florida. He directs the Drug Policy Institute at the university.
"Of course, they might have thought this would happen but never discussed it during their $3 million campaign to spread the message that 'pot is safer than beer' and 'drug dealers don't ID,'" he said. "They are completely ignoring and are silent about these negative consequences happening now."
The report also noted that the e-cigarette and vaporizer industries are being spawned by legalization -- an economic boon; however, that comes an increase in the use of marijuana among youths - once again the exact opposite of what marijuana legalizers said would happen.
According to SAM, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) the third largest international tobacco company behind Philip Morris International, bought a percentage of Ploom in 2011. Ploom is a Silicon Valley startup that makes a "loose-leaf vaporizer that can be used to inhale heated vapor from marijuana as well as tobacco..."
E-cigarettes can be loaded with butane extracted hash oil (BHO). THC concentrates in this substance approach 100%. M-cigarettes ( marijuana vaporizers) are also becoming popular. SAM warns that "vape pens" permit teens to conceal pot use in school and elsewhere.
SAM is an organization founded by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), the son of Sen. Ted Kennedy. He is a mental health advocate and recognizes the problems with marijuana. SAM promotes a third way of addressing the issue - somewhere in between legalization and incarceration. Its four main objectives are:
- To inform public policy with the science of today's marijuana.
- To have honest conversation about reducing the unintended consequences of current marijuana policies, such as lifelong stigma due to arrest.
- To prevent the establishment of Big Marijuana that would market marijuana to children and to prevent Big Tobacco from taking over Big Marijuana. Those are the very likely results of legalization.
- To promote research on marijuana in order to obtain FDA-approved, pharmacy-dispensed, cannabis-based medications.
But some are skeptical of SAM. Rachel Gillette, executive director of Colorado NORML(the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws) was very critical of the report and of SAM.
"I am familiar with this organization," Gillette said. "There is a lot of disinformation coming from them. It is a lot of reefer madness"
"I find it ironic that they are complaining that there were not enough tax revenues collected," she continued. "Do they want more marijuana bought and used so there would be more tax revenues?"
Regarding the specific allegations, she denied they were true.
"We have documented evidence that post Amendment 64 crime has decreased in Colorado and teen use of marijuana has gone down," Gillette claims. "Their argument only seems to support an unregulated uncontrolled black market which is what we are trying to avoid."
Meanwhile an April 23 news report from Greeley, Colo. tells of two separate incidents of elementary school students trying to sell marijuana at school. A letter was sent to the parents from the Monfort Elementary School principal, Jennifer Sheldon. She wrote:
"We know that many adults have greater access to marijuana since the change in the drug's legal status in Colorado as of January 1, 2014. Because adults have greater access, there is also the danger that children now have greater access to this potentially dangerous drug."
--Written by Michael P. Tremoglie for MainStreet