On March 16 of last year, a press conference opposing legalizing marijuana was held in Wallingford, with remarks by Mayor William Dickinson, North Haven’s First Selectman Michael Freda, State Sen. Minority Leader Len Fasano, Reps. Mary Mushinsky and Craig Fishbein, Rev. Todd Foster of New Haven, 19-year-old Jordan Davidson, and others.

In my opinion, media coverage of its intent – opposing legalization of marijuana – generally was lacking, and it seemed to give more exposure to marijuana proponents than to those opposed. Little, if any, coverage was given to Rev. Foster, who spoke eloquently and factually about problems all communities would face, or to 19-year-old Davidson, who detailed how his escalating addiction to marijuana affected his life.

Media coverage of Connecticut’s legalization issue focuses on projected tax revenue. It fails to account for the fact that surrounding states have legalized or will soon legalize marijuana. (Consider this: Revenue from Connecticut’s casinos fell as surrounding states legalized casinos.)

Neither print nor broadcast news stories report on the impact to citizens in states that have a years-long history with legalized marijuana. Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California all have issued impact statements about legalization’s consequences. Colorado has issued such reports yearly since 2013, showing steady increases of the negative effects to health, motor vehicle deaths, adolescents’ school issues, mental health, poison control, and many social problems, including black markets that continue to thrive.

Have any of those facts been presented to the Connecticut public? No. Were any of the medical studies of negative health effects ever reported? No. Was any legitimate medical organization’s opposition to medical and recreational marijuana ever reported? No.

Who will pay for the rehabilitation of marijuana users? Connecticut was a party to lawsuits against the cigarette industry for heath effects of smoking cigarettes. How will Connecticut handle the fallout of legalization when Connecticut citizens develop serious health issues? Who will the state sue then? Itself? Big Marijuana business? Will taxpayers just pay for their grand experiment again?

Connecticut, there are already data and studies from those states that have legalized recreational marijuana that answer important questions. Have Connecticut legislators ever researched them?

The California Marijuana impact report states that cannabis requires 450 to 900 gallons of water and significant amounts of energy to produce one pound. That doesn’t take into consideration the pesticides, fungicides, rodenticides and herbicides that pose human health concerns or pollute water supplies. Aren’t we concerned about the environment and climate change? In California, 70% of communities do not allow recreational marijuana and, in addition, rescinded medical marijuana sales. Why do you suppose that is?

One recent impact report, issued by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University (Nov. 2018) states that retail marijuana was legalized in only 46 of Colorado’s 271 incorporated municipalities. Think about that.

In 2016, Denver’s marijuana industry used 4% of the city’s energy – that’s enough electricity to power 32,355 homes – and was responsible for approximately 393,053 pounds of CO2 emissions (a greenhouse gas) – that matches CO2 produced by 38,177 cars. Furthermore, the marijuana industry generated 18.78 million pieces of plastic.

Alarmingly, 69% of marijuana users say that they have driven under the influence – and 27% of them, daily. People who use marijuana daily or near daily indicate they are 25% to 50% more likely to develop cannabis-use disorder. In Colorado, the cost to treat cannabis use disorder is $31,448,905.

Since the argument in support of legalized marijuana in Connecticut continually focuses on projected revenue, consider this: For every dollar gained in tax revenue, Coloradans spent $4.50 to mitigate the effects of legalization; costs related to the healthcare system and from high school drop-outs are the largest cost contributors. The number of Coloradans who attended college and use marijuana has grown since legalization; however, marijuana use remains more prevalent in the population with less education.

The Colorado facts and figures above are from “Economic and Social Costs of Legalized Marijuana” (November 15, 2018), issued by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, and contains information from data and legitimate studies. So that readers may see for themselves legalized marijuana’s impact in Colorado.

Proponents for legalizing recreational marijuana in Connecticut often cite poll results indicating overwhelming public support. If all we ever see on the news is how successful sales in other states are, or the rosy revenue projections, that’s not at all surprising. We are not being given the whole story. The public MUST be informed of the risks and the proven health, public safety, economic and social problems that those other states are experiencing.

William Butka is on the board of directors of the Connecticut Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association.

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4 Comments

  1. Yes, there are real risks…..but don’t those risks exist whether or not Connecticut legalizes marijuana? It is already legal in Massachusetts, and will likely be legal soon in Rhode Island and New York. Will Connecticut address those risks more effectively with legalization and thorough oversight and serious, sustained research or is it better to keep marijuana illegal? The commentary doesn’t address this fundamental question, which seems to be the real issue at hand. Intelligent legislation would include requirements for developing systematic, comprehensible data along with support for medical research and other relevant studies.

  2. Yes, there are real risks…..but don’t those risks exist whether or not Connecticut legalizes marijuana? It is already legal in Massachusetts, and will likely be legal soon in Rhode Island and New York. Will Connecticut address those risks more effectively with legalization and thorough oversight and serious, sustained research or is it better to keep marijuana illegal? The commentary doesn’t address this fundamental question, which seems to be the real issue at hand. Intelligent legislation would include requirements for developing systematic, comprehensible data along with support for medical research and other relevant studies.

    1. Why does CT need to develop its own data? States that have already legalized recreational marijuana issue impact reports that contain a treasure trove of data. We should learn from the mistakes of others, not clamor to make them ourselves, just because “everybody else is doing it”. And in none of those states with legal marijuana has the black market gone away. In fact, it continues to thrive in every one of those states.

      I have read some of those impact statements. I watched last week’s public hearing on SB 16, which aims to legalize recreational pot in CT. And I have read much of the written testimony submitted with regard to that bill. Have you?

  3. The problem with marijuana is that it kills the lungs overtime, lowers IQ by causing brain damage (to second hand smokers too which includes children) and promotes the illegal drug market by leaving the user with the urge of a greater high after weed no longer does it.

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