Editorials

Do you want to voice your concern over the regulation and taxation of marijuana?  Here are some great editorial templates to help.


Let’s not regret decision

Rutland Herald, Letter to the Editor

Jacob Bee Ho Brown
Montpelier

The recent talk of legalizing marijuana in Vermont is of great concern to me and many of my peers. I am a junior in high school and I’m concerned about the status of the future for myself and for my community. Legalization carries with it severe risks to both individual and public health, as well as financial expenses needed to cover the impacts of drug abuse.

Read more here.


What the health care community is saying about the legalization of pot: Beware

By Emerson Lynn, St. Albans Messenger Reporter-January 2016

The Vermont Department of Health and the Vermont chapter of the American Public Health Association have both released reports on the Legislature’s consideration of proposals to legalize marijuana. They both asked the same thing: before you leap, consider the consequences. The reports are coming forth because it is being assumed the Legislature will pass legislation to legalize the use of marijuana and that the governor will sign the bill into law. What the two health organizations are saying is beware; the public T health and safety implications are considerable. The Vermont Department of Health put out an 84-page “health impact assessment” on what we might expect if the legislation were passed. Here are some of the highlights:

  • On almost all mental health fronts, the use of pot makes things worse. This is particularly true with psychosis and psychotic symptoms.
  • We can expect about a 30 percent increase in emergency room visits.
  • We can expect an increase in marijuana use among our youth, and a concomitant increase in the use of tobacco, which would add to our health care costs.
  •  We can expect the pot-smoking cohort to have increased challenges with their educational outcomes.

Nowhere, in either report, is there a single sentence that says the legalization of pot improves our health. To the contrary, the reports tell us to put in place as many protections as we are able. They include:

  •  raising the age to 25, based on research that shows the brain continues to grow until then and that use of pot at earlier ages can have a significant and harmful effect on the brain.
  • putting in place the infrastructure necessary to handle the medical and public safety needs.

restricting the use in public places If the state’s own health department is putting forth such warnings, then Vermonters have every right to ask why the legalization of pot is such an important thing to do. Obviously, it doesn’t help us on the health care front, and, as such, one would think that the state’s health care community would testify accordingly.

If affordable health care is still a concern, if opiate addiction is still an issue, then the proponents of the legalization effort should explain how the legalization of pot helps in either case. They have not, thus far.

There is a reason: a convincing argument can’t be made. What the proponents are arguing is that legalization is a way to eliminate the dealers, and if the dealers are gone, then we have one less scourge to deal with, which helps in the fight on other fronts.

This has not proven true in states that have legalized pot. Colorado still has a black market because the taxes levied on pot are enough that the dealers have consumers searching for cheaper prices.

The thought in Vermont is that our price should be low enough to discourage the dealers. Okay. But if the price is set low enough to rid us of the dealers [unlikely] then there is really no benefit to us as a taxable product, right?

And markets being markets, if we set the price so low, don’t we encourage consumption? If, for example, we eliminated the tax on tobacco products, wouldn’t we see an increase in tobacco consumption?

We would.

If the tax is low, and consumption rises, then wouldn’t we see an increase in the health care and public safety issues about which we are being warned?

If consumption increases, then it follows that the increased consumption levels will reach down into the adolescent years. That should concern us.

According to the health department’s youth risk behavior survey, there is a profound correlation between pot use frequency and mental health and violence tendencies. For example, according to the survey there is a five-fold increase in attempted suicide between those who don’t smoke and those who smoke 20-plus times a month. The levels of depression increase, and academic performance declines as the use increases.

What those in favor of legalization – including the governor – should do is to explain how the proposed legislation makes us a healthier, safer state in which to live. What they should do is explain the research behind their efforts. Failing this, they should explain why it is so important to rush approval of something that’s not fully understood.

Are Vermonters really clamoring for a law that will cost more in its effects than it generates in revenue?


 

Editorial: Marijuana and Suicide among Teens

Marijuana use is strongly associated with a number of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, these effects are unpredictable. They can happen the very first time someone uses marijuana, they can build up slowly with repeated use, or they can come on suddenly in regular users who haven’t noticed any negative effects before. The anxiety or depression can fade quickly or it can linger for a long time.

In teenagers, marijuana use is also associated with suicide. Data from the 2013 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that 24% of our high school students use marijuana, and that users are significantly more likely than non-users to plan a suicide and to make a suicide attempt.

Looking at all high school students combined, 11% made a suicide plan in the 12 months before the survey, and 5% made at least one suicide attempt in that time. Only 9% of non-users made a suicide plan and only 3% made an attempt.

The numbers go up as soon as marijuana entered the picture: 14% of light users (only 1 or 2 times in the 30 days before the survey) made a plan and 7% made an attempt. Among the heaviest users (20-plus times in the past 30 days), 21% made a plan, while 15% (more than 1 out of 7) attempted suicide.

When a drug becomes more socially accepted and more available in the community, more teenagers use it. Making it legal to use recreational marijuana will lead to more teen users, and that will lead to more suicide plans, more attempts, and more deaths.

Editorial: Big Marijuana

People in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana claim that it will help the Vermont economy by creating a “craft weed” industry, similar to craft brewing. Unfortunately, marijuana production and sales will not remain small Vermont businesses for long. Big Marijuana is already being formed by big investors, led by such players as former Microsoft executive Jamen Shively and by Big Tobacco itself.

Documents that tobacco corporations were forced to make public by the huge tobacco settlement in 1998 reveal that the tobacco industry already had plans back then to use their tobacco marketing playbook with marijuana. This is the plan that recruited doctors to endorse the health benefits of smoking tobacco, the plan that systematically lied to congress and the courts about their own research showing the harms of tobacco, the plan that created Joe Camel in order to get more teens to smoke. Why? Because teenagers are almost two times more likely to become dependent on marijuana than adults are, and dependent users are life-long customers.

Tobacco giants Altria and Brown & Williamson have already registered domain names that include the words marijuana and cannabis. The estate of reggae star Bob Marley has signed on with a corporation that will be marketing Marley-branded cannabis products. In Colorado and Washington, Joe Camel has been replaced by cannabis sodas and pot-laced Gummy Bear clones. Will Vermont see Woodchuck Weed and Maple-Green Brownies?

Vermont craft brewers make a lot of very good beer, but Big Alcohol sells most of the beer drunk in Vermont, and anyway kids these days prefer sweeter drinks with higher alcohol contents. Big Tobacco has the land and machines to make pre-rolled joints, the scientists to breed even stronger strains of marijuana, and the labs to concoct sweetly flavored liquids to vaporize in e-cigarettes, or e-joints, if you prefer. Sure, there will be room in Vermont for a few pot farmers and “all natural” processors, but most of the pot jobs in our economy will go to sales clerks, and most of the profits will go out of state, while all of the costs will fall on our shoulders.

Editorial: Highway Safety

Vermont has the highest rates of marijuana use in the U.S., in all age groups. That goes along with some very disturbing statistics: In the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 16% of Vermont’s high school students reported having driven while under the influence of marijuana, while 22% reported riding with a driver who was under the influence. Only 8% reported driving under the influence of alcohol.

Our students have bought into the myth that marijuana is harmless. Unfortunately, that’s far from true. Recent studies have shown that marijuana impairs all of the faculties involved in driving, doubling the chance of an accident. The more you use, the worse the impairment, and the effects last for at least three hours after you stop smoking – much longer if you ingest it.

Combining marijuana with even small amounts of alcohol significantly increases the impairment, and despite claims by legalization advocates, there is absolutely no data to show that marijuana users are giving up alcohol. After the state of Colorado legalized medical marijuana, with no change in the proportion of drivers in fatal crashes who were alcohol impaired, there was a significant increase in the proportion who tested positive for marijuana.

Testing drivers for marijuana influence is difficult. There is no breath test, and the number of officers trained to spot impairment by behavior cues is small. Officers must have a reasonable suspicion in order to justify taking a driver to the station for an expensive blood test, and the results take hours to get. Our police don’t have the resources.

If marijuana is legalized, more people young and old will use it, and more people will drive under the influence. We need a method to test for marijuana impairment, but more important, we need to educate Vermont’s students and adults about marijuana and driving. And we need both before we even think about legalizing marijuana.

RAND REPORT GOOD START BUT LACKS CRUCIAL DETAILS

MONTPELIER, VT – The Rand Report to the Vermont legislature on the consequences of legalizing recreational marijuana in Vermont spends a lot of time detailing how to calculate the market, tax the product, and set up a distributor/retailer industry, but it falls short on details when it comes to calculating the costs that legalization will impose on Vermonters.

The Rand Report is a very good starting point for an informed discussion on legalization. There’s a lot of good information in it, but what it doesn’t show – doesn’t even attempt to calculate, in fact – is how much the state will be facing in terms of social costs associated with legalization, even for the harms that we know marijuana can cause.”

Among those harms, the report itself lists dependence, traffic accidents, cognitive impairment, psychotic outbursts, emergency-room visits due to overdoses, and chronic bronchitis, in addition to other near and long term health effects that new research has recently shown to be strongly associated with marijuana use.

It’s true that these social costs are very difficult to calculate exactly, but that’s why Vermont reached out to specialists like the Rand Corporation. We have data for alcohol and tobacco harms that show the socials costs are ten times higher than the tax income for these two legal drugs. Some argue that marijuana is not as harmful as these drugs, but even if that were true, there will still be social costs associated with the known harms, along with more demands on social services, reductions in workplace safety and productivity, and more need for prevention efforts to keep our teens from using, all in addition to the costs of regulation. We at SAM-VT feel the Rand team should have at least taken a stab at an estimate.

Without such an estimate, the Rand Report provides only one half of the equation. The legislature is being asked to calculate a return on investment for legalizing recreational use of marijuana, but you can’t calculate an ROI without both sides of the balance sheet. The Rand Report only gives us the income side.

To the report’s credit, it states many times that this is a very complex situation to deal with. It warns the legislature to take its time and even suggests waiting for all of the consequences to play out in Colorado and Washington before attempting to come to a decision here in Vermont.

We certainly can’t argue with that conclusion.

Debby Haskins of Calais, Vermont, a substance abuse treatment specialist with more than 25 years of experience in local schools, is executive director of SAM-VT, a volunteer organization made up of Vermonters – parents, grandparents, young people, senior citizens, and other concerned adults. SAM-VT represents diverse backgrounds, including drug & alcohol prevention, youth services, education, health care, law enforcement, mental health services, and business leaders. SAM-VT is strictly locally funded by small donors, who share the same concerns about the harms of marijuana and the social costs associated with regular use, particularly among Vermont’s children.