Vermont legislators are expected to take up legislation to legalize pot this month, but they should examine the evidence and stop looking at dollar signs. Marijuana causes car accidents and is known as a trigger for mental health problems and psychosis.
On August 7, 2015, Jody Herring of Barre killed four people. It was the worst recent case of violence in our nation’s second least populous state. Herring had mental health issues and a drug problem, with marijuana the substance most evident in her history. (Lancet Psychiatry Journal published February 16 2015 study that 1/4 of incidences of first-time psychosis in London over 6 years were triggered by marijuana use. Herring had been using for a long time.)
At least 3 others who died in Vermont this past year — Richard Tom, Joseph Marshall, Lance Magoon — were in crashes involving stoned drivers. In 2014, one third of all traffic fatalities in the state occurred because of drugged drivers, with marijuana a drug frequently mentioned in these crashes. Vermont decriminalized pot in 2013.
Some residents understand the problem that pot legalization will hurt the state. However, a Vermont legislator is introducing a marijuana legalization bill in the House floor. The ideas behind this bill express a naivete similar to that of the voters who passed legalization in Colorado in 2012.
Hype About Pot Legalization is Like the Hype Leading to Iraq War
Back in 2003 Americans went to war believing that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The evidence wasn’t good, but the hype leading up to it was effective. Today the idea that marijuana legalization will empty our jails and take away the black market for drugs is being hyped also, leading to false ideas and flawed political strategies.
Marijuana lobbying groups supporting pot legalization promote myths like “marijuana is safer than alcohol.” Another false claim is that pot can be regulated like alcohol, even though it grows like a “weed.” Those who advocate for cannabis promote the idea that it will raise all kinds of tax money, without thinking about social costs.
In fall, 2015, a meeting of Colorado teachers concluded that student marijuana use is the #1 problem affecting their students. This assertion comes almost 3 years after legalization and 2 years after commercialization. Both the Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper called legalization reckless, and the Attorney General Cynthia Coffman called it “not worth it.”
One of Vermont’s senators, Bernie Sanders, is running for president riding a wave of misunderstanding regarding the bandwagon of legalization. Sanders is embracing marijuana legalization — and Scandinavian style socialism– two mutually exclusive political goals.
We would like the think politicians advocating for legalization are just naive and gullible. We hope they are not taking money from the big marijuana businesses and lobbyists.
Some states advocate for marijuana as a way to raise money without thinking of the social costs. Vermont should do some soul-searching about how early marijuana use may have influenced the state’s opiate heroin epidemic.
States with heavy youth pot use, Vermont, Oregon, Colorado have among the highest rates of other drug usage. Seventy percent of those who overdose begin their substance abuse with marijuana, according to studies to SAMHSA.
Problems in Department of Family Services
Over the past few years Vermont has had deaths and tragedies involving the Department of Family Services, 3 of them directly related to marijuana. Legalizing marijuana would be like “throwing fuel on the fire.” Here’s some evidence of the recent deaths related to marijuana usage in Vermont:
1) Jody Herring shot and killed a DCF worker, Lara Sobel, and three relatives, Julie Ann Falgarano, Rhonda Herring and Regina Herring. When it the case goes to trial, Jody Herring’s mental health records may be sealed. She had a lengthy arrest record and it’s certain marijuana use was a huge part of Jody Herring’s life. Since Sobel knew there were no THC pills, she knew that Herring was disturbed. The story is so unfortunate, but it’s also unfortunate that people aren’t adequately told about how dangerous marijuana is for brain health.
2) Aiden Haskins died a violent death, and it appears that the mother’s boyfriend, Joshua Blow, was responsible for the death. Blow told police he fell down the stairs while carrying Aiden as he while fetching his marijuana pipe from the basement — to take it to work with him. (Who takes marijuana to work???) Blow used multiple substances, and there’s mounting evidence that most marijuana users are multi-substance abusers, too.
3) Rosemary Gile used marijuana every day of her pregnancy and gave birth to a baby boy deemed a “high risk” because of extremely low birth weight. In her sleep, 27 days later, she smothered the baby to death.
4) The driver was way over the THC limit in a double fatality accident of Richard Tom, bicyclist, and Joseph Marshall, driver, on April 26, 2015.
5) On December 24, 2014, Lance Magoon of Richford had marijuana in his system when he crossed into an oncoming lane and hit another driver. He died at the scene.
Leader of SAM (Smarter Approaches to Marijuana) – Vermont, Debby Haskins recently wrote an editorial asking for more scientific evidence before legalizing pot. The deaths of 9 people directly related to using marijuana should be enough to silence the call to legalize marijuana. It would be irresponsible and foolish for the legislature to gamble on pot legalization, now or at any time.