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Enough happy talk about legalized pot

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POSTED January 6, 2014 12:16 a.m.

There was way too much giddiness in the media about the first day of legal pot selling in Colorado. Instead of all the happy talk, I think it’s time for some sober discussion and a strong dose of education about the addiction risks of smoking marijuana — particularly among young people. It may start out as a party, but it often ends up as something much, much worse.

With the grace of God, I’ve been clean and sober for over 18 years — a recovery experience that still has me going to a lot of 12-step meetings. And I hear time and again from young people coming into the rooms to get sober how pot smoking led to harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Now, this is anecdotal, and I am not an expert. And I will say that many people can control alcohol or pot or other drugs. But I am not one of them. And I am not alone.

Talk to virtually any professional drug counselor, and they will warn that pot is a gateway drug. Or listen to left-of-center columnist Ruth Marcus, who has gathered important professional evidence about the risks of pot.

Ms. Marcus reminds us that the American Medical Association recommended against legalization, stating, “Cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern.” The AMA added that pot “is the most common illicit drug involved in drugged driving, particularly in drivers under the age of 21. Early cannabis use is related to later substance-use disorders.”

The AMA also noted that “Heavy cannabis use in adolescence causes persistent impairments in neurocognitive performance and IQ, and use is associated with increased rates of anxiety, mood and psychotic-thought disorders.”

I am indebted to Ruth Marcus for this information. She, by the way, thinks “widespread legalization is a bad idea, if an inevitable development.”

Now, I didn’t hear any of this coming from the media in its first day of reporting on legal pot sales. That’s way too bad. The risks associated with pot use must be discussed frequently and soberly so that all can recognize the downside threats.

Of course, legalization will encourage greater use. In turn, that greater use increases the risk of addiction illness, a lack of growth as individuals and workers, and a more non-productive society.

Normally, I’m a free-choice guy. And I realize that I’m not going to be able to stop the legalization of pot. I can’t control that. But I can raise some of these important issues.

Alcohol and drug addiction are huge problems in our society. And it’s not easy to get clean and sober once the disease of addiction sets in. So many people search for that great initial high, and they keep searching until they get hooked. And if and when they get hooked, the costs and consequences are frequently catastrophic.

So no, I’m not going to completely oppose the legal sale of pot. But this experiment should be studied carefully before the rest of the country decides to go forward with it.

Most of all, the legalization of pot needs serious and sober discussion — not simply giddy reporting.

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