Viewpoint: It’s not about medicine, it’s about money

  • Kate Frey Courtesy Photo—

For the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/8/2019 4:29:40 PM

Don’t be fooled. In New Hampshire, those advocating for full commercialization of marijuana are not campaigning to expand personal freedoms or to improve health care. New Hampshire already has a robust medical marijuana program, currently serving more than 7,000 people for over 20 qualifying conditions. Instead, commercialization advocates are pushing to open our state to another large industry that would profit off dependent users of an addictive substance.

By commercializing marijuana, New Hampshire would be permitting all aspects of the business – the manufacturing, the distribution, and retail sales. Like Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco before it, Big Marijuana makes its money on the backs of new and heavy users who will support the industry throughout their lifetime.

In both the alcohol and tobacco industries, major companies have knowingly advertised their addictive products to susceptible Americans, killing or harming hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. In 2006, nine major cigarette manufacturers were found guilty of fraudulently deceiving the American public and marketing their harmful products to children, even while the corporations were well-aware of the health risks of smoking.

Now, major players in both the alcohol and tobacco industries have invested billions in marijuana. If we approve commercialization, we will be allowing a similar situation to play out in the Granite State, with major companies marketing their harmful products to young people as their brains are developing and putting them at risk for future health issues. This has been a reality in states that have legalized, where major industry-backed companies have worked to protect their profits and silence public health advocates, putting their children and communities at risk.

The legalization of marijuana is without a doubt a public health concern. According to such expert groups as the American Psychological Association, adolescents’ developing brains are particularly vulnerable to lasting damage from marijuana use.

Children’s brains are still “under construction” through their early-to-mid-twenties. In the short term, marijuana use can lead to impaired short-term memory, perception, judgment, and motor skills. In the long term, the interference with the developing brain can lead to poor mental and physical health.

In addition to psychosis, regular marijuana use in teens has been linked to increased risk of developing several mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and personality disturbances. Further, early marijuana use is a risk factor for developing a substance use disorder later in life.

New Hampshire already has one of the country’s highest rates of binge drinking and substance misuse among our young people, as well as the nation’s lowest perception of harm for marijuana. Our children are simply not aware of the dangers of marijuana use, so they are using it at higher rates than their counterparts in other states.

If we commercialize and invite the Big Marijuana industry into our state to market to our kids, we risk even further lowering that perception of harm and increasing use of the drug among children and teenagers.

This increased use poses significant public safety concerns, as well, in terms of roadway safety. Marijuana is known to impair judgment and many other skills needed for safe driving: alertness, concentration, coordination and reaction time. By itself, marijuana is thought to roughly double a driver’s chance of being in a crash, and the combination of marijuana and even small amounts of alcohol is even more dangerous.With all the work we’ve done to combat the ongoing addiction and mental health crises in our state, we cannot sacrifice the health and safety of our young people, by commercializing another harmful substance.

 

Kate Frey serves as vice president of advocacy of the New Futures organization and has primary responsibility of directing and managing New Futures’ alcohol and other drug-policy initiatives.




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