In response to my earlier piece on why Connecticut lawmakers should reject marijuana commercialization,  Brendan Ruberry wrote a rebuttal that, on its face seems scathing, but to be clear, the attempted rebuttal falls flat and well off the mark.

First, Ruberry’s attempts to discredit the fact that users of today’s high potency forms of marijuana have been found to be five times more likely to develop psychosis. He calls it “a half-truth,” and claims that the study only examined “the effect of marijuana on teenagers.” Not only is this false, but he also attempts to refute my piece with the wrong study.

Ruberry’s attempt to discredit this points to a study conducted in 2011, whereas our initial piece quotes — and links to — a Lancet Journal study published in 2019. By the way, The Lancet is one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed journals in the world.

The Lancet study, viewable here, drew from a population of 900 individuals in Europe ranging from ages 18-64 — and not focused solely on teenagers, per Ruberry’s claim.

Ruberry asserts that, when it comes to high potency marijuana use and the development of psychosis, “Similar evidence for adult use does not exist.” It quite literally does and was shown for the first time at the population level by the Lancet study. In the same paragraph, Ruberry claims that 99% THC products are exceedingly rare. This is also not the case.

One can browse the menu at any pot shop in Colorado, just for one example, and find that 99% THC products are actually fairly easy to find. For example, I just went to look at the menu of one such dispensary, Star Buds in Denver, and found you can pick up the 98% THC vape cartridge, “The Clear Golden Goat,” for $60. This also dispels Ruberry’s claim that the high potency products are only available in the “crystal meth” forms.

Furthermore, Ruberry both claims that “it is extremely unlikely that teenagers in a regulated cannabis market would get hold of such a potent and scarcely available (not to mention luxury-priced) product,” and states that that my original piece “conjured the image” of youth using these products…citing a number of studies, but declin(ing) to include any links. This is interesting, as my piece made no reference to this, and provided links to every major claim.

But concerning youth use of high potency forms of marijuana, the data once again makes the case that so-called regulation of marijuana, much like the regulation of alcohol, has failed to keep high potency forms of the drug out of the hands of youth.

A release of data from Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment that was published just this month found that since 2017, marijuana vaping among Colorado high schoolers has increased 70% while the use of marijuana “dabs” – also known as “shatter” – has risen 49%. What’s even more concerning is the fact that among high school students who have used marijuana in the last thirty days, the use of these dabs and shatters rose an astounding 156%.

Finally, Ruberry’s assertion that SAM’s stance is one solely of prohibition again fails to show that he fully read my piece. In the conclusion, I unequivocally break with the policy of prohibition by calling for an end to criminal penalties for marijuana use and an expungement of prior records.

In the debate over commercialization, it’s crucial that we engage in debate, and it should be welcomed. But we must also ensure we secure our arguments with facts, and not rely on personal attacks and faulty interpretations of data.

Will Jones III, MPA, serves as the Communications and Community Outreach Associate for Smart Approaches to Marijuana

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