OPINION | NEWSWEEK – You may have heard about New York state’s move to legalize marijuana. But lost behind the celebratory pro-pot headlines were the stories of Maryland, Hawaii, North Dakota and Wyoming.
These states all saw marijuana legalization bills fail over the last week and joined New Hampshire in rejecting marijuana legalization this year, after more than a dozen states did so last year.
This is encouraging news.
Our country is struggling to navigate two major public health crises. First and foremost is the COVID-19 pandemic, which lawmakers are rightly focused on. But we are also in the midst of a devastating mental health and addiction crisis.
The data coming out of states cannot be ignored. For example, West Virginia just reported that overdose deaths increased more than 40 percent in the last year.
All told, some 1,147 West Virginians lost their lives to addiction between 2019 and 2020. Similar trends are being seen across the country, as overdose deaths have increased 25 percent nationwide.
Lawmakers should tread very lightly when it comes to normalizing and expanding access to marijuana, a substance proven to negatively impact mental health and increase chances of future substance use. New reports have shed even more light on the consequences of marijuana legalization.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland found that those who initiate regular marijuana use as teenagers were more than 20 times more likely to become illicit drug users and 3.7 times more likely to be high-risk alcohol drinkers.
Colorado has seen consistent increases in opioid overdoses since legalizing marijuana. In fact, 2020 was the worst year on record for drug overdoses in the state.
Furthermore, a massive study out of California found that the state’s youth may be more likely to use marijuana since legalization in 2016.
The study looked at data from more than three million 7th, 9th and 11th graders and found significant increases in lifetime and past-month marijuana use among almost all demographics.
This directly undercuts the idea that legalizing marijuana and deeming it safe won’t lead to more youth using the drug.
Even more concerning is the use of new, more potent forms of marijuana …
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