by Martha Hafner, Randolph Center
Are Vermonters a breed worth fighting for? Should we simply stand by and watch as marijuana and other addictive drugs steal the hearts and minds of our people, especially our young? Should we allow legislators to legalize marijuana and add to the already slippery slopes of drug addiction issues we already face?
In an earlier letter to the editor, I’ve commented about the need to protect our state’s most valuable natural resource — the minds of our youth. I also pointed to the need to protect our highways from drivers who are high with no roadside tests currently available to assist officers in holding drivers accountable for driving under the influence. We need to be heralding, that there should be designated drivers at any pot parties, too. This message will focus on the taxpayer’s lament and lessons from Colorado.
There is a steep cost to all of the drug issues Vermont currently faces. Someone told me $85 million, but that seems low to me. Add it up — jail costs $55-70,000 per year for each incarceration male/female. Then add the legal fees, safe harbor homes, counsellors for mental health, and job placement. Then there’s the DCF expenses for neglected children, their court costs and social workers. Then there’s the medical costs with added ER visits and rehab expenses. Of course there’s police legwork. Don’t forget the business and neighborhood expenses of stolen goods. There’s also lots of volunteer hours and community donations to rehab efforts. I’m sure there’s more.
Do we really need one more addictive influence legalized?
Marijuana can be addictive. It’s not as safe as many would have us think or as safe as it was 30 years ago. THC content is three times as potent. The brain isn’t fully developed until we reach 25 years of age. Marijuana can interfere with the brain’s nerve cells, leaving permanent damage to the developing brain. It interferes with muscle responses, concentration and other critical skills for driving and other skills requiring focused attention. Fourteen percent of all fatal auto accidents involve marijuana in the blood stream. Do we really want to see these numbers accelerate as well as opioid deaths that jumped from 100 to 149 from 2015 to 2016?
Colorado has four years of legalization. There is a short clip (28 seconds) of reports from their governor and the mayor of Denver at www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNerBOFuXZk. They report the following: Now they lead the nation in teen usage. Edible marijuana is marketed to their children. Marijuana traffic deaths have increased 62 percent. At one hospital, 50 percent of newborns had marijuana in their system. New finances for school programs have been diverted to regulation of the pot industry. A Colorado mother shares the horrors of her 14-year-old son’s psychotic and violent outbreaks due to his marijuana addictions in a video letter to Governor Scott (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_XuL3psDhc). She also describes the effects of international cartels that have moved into her community that was rated the sixth most desirable community in the US to live. Now they have moved in to grow marijuana to ship it overseas and exchange it for heroin.
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