On Aug. 11, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice under the Obama administration reaffirmed that marijuana is a Schedule One drug — dangerous because of its high abuse potential and public health concerns — and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime. The United States Department of Justice has confirmed it is committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act consistent with these determinations.
Any elected official who swears to uphold the Constitution of the United States may violate that oath by taking campaign contributions from the marijuana industry to advocate for any issue that contradicts the ruling by the Department of Justice.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Act and the Federal Credit Union Act forbid federally-insured financial institutions from working with drug cartels or any other business involved in selling illegal drugs. If a bank or credit union offering accounts to marijuana businesses run the risk of facing federal money laundering charges, why would elected officials not be held to the same standard?
Efforts to legalize marijuana are motivated by those who want to commercialize the drug for profit. Elected officials should give this issue serious consideration before taking money from this modern version of the Big Tobacco industry.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 9 percent of all marijuana users will become addicted, and that number increases to 17 percent of users who start using at an early age and that rate jumps to 25 percent among daily users.
We have not begun to understand the social and medical risks of today’s high-potency “crack weed,” which can contain up to 99 percent THC in edibles, dabs, waxes, and shatter. Compare that to the 7 percent THC found in “Woodstock weed.”
The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) just released its 2018 Report on the impact that legalized marijuana is having on Colorado:
• Colorado past month marijuana use for ages 12 and older is ranked third in the nation and is 85 percent higher than the national average
• Since recreational marijuana was legalized, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 151 percent while all Colorado traffic deaths increased 35 percent
• The yearly rate of emergency room visits related to marijuana increased 52 percent after the legalization of recreational marijuana. (2012 compared to 2016)
• The Colorado Task Force conducted 144 investigations of black market marijuana in Colorado resulting in: 239 felony arrests; 7.3 tons of marijuana seized; 43,949 marijuana plants seized; and recorded 24 different states where marijuana grown in Colorado was destined.
A recent study by doctors at Denver Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine revealed that nearly 70 percent of dispensaries in Colorado recommended pot products when contacted by a woman inquiring about the drug as a possible treatment for morning sickness.
According to the study, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, only 4.7 percent of dispensaries shared information on the potential harm to a baby during pregnancy, and 1.8 percent shared that there was risk to both the mother and her baby. By allowing budtenders, rather than pharmacists, to dispense drugs puts pregnant mothers and their babies at serious risk based on data that shows pot can be harmful to a developing fetus.
Our elected officials should reject the easy money promised by the National Cannabis Industry Association and instead focus on fostering honest conversations about the impact that the commercialization of marijuana is having on our youth, schools, and communities.
Peter Droege is the fellow of marijuana and addiction policy for the Centennial Institute. He is the former executive director of a men’s residential drug and alcohol recovery program in Denver.
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