Legalizing pot in Illinois is terrible public policy

By The Madison County Record | Mar 11, 2015

To the Editor:

To the Editor:

Shortly after his swearing in as governor, Governor Rauner picked up the task fumbled by Governor Quinn by telling general counsel Jason Barclay to move ahead on the authorization process to establish a list of growing and dispensary centers for marijuana.

Using the set of standards provided in the medical pot law, Rauner's office released a list of 18 approved centers where cannabis will be grown, and 52 approved sites where medical pot will be distributed in Illinois. Yet to be resolved is how the cannabis seeds will legally be able to enter the state of Illinois. According to federal law, it is illegal to transport marijuana seeds across state lines.

Even though the so-called “Medical” Cannabis Pilot Program has yet to begin, State Sen. Michael Noland (D-Elgin) has introduced legislation (SB 753) which would legalize the possession of 30 grams of marijuana and five plants for anyone over 21 years of age.

In the Illinois House, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) has introduced legislation (HB 218) which would lessen the criminal penalties of recreational marijuana possession of 30 grams or fewer to a $100 ticket and a petty offense.

In their attempts to dismantle drug laws, have Sen. Noland and Rep. Cassidy ever considered what constitutes 30 grams of marijuana? Thirty (30) grams of marijuana makes 75 joints. The street value of one gram is $10. Five plants can produce 1,120 grams of marijuana, enough to make 2,800 joints and the street value is approximately $11,200.

Already established across this nation are a growing number of medical marijuana dispensaries. A majority of Americans even support the legalization of marijuana.

Recommended reading is a book written by former drug czar William J. Bennett and federal prosecutor Robert A White, "Going to Pot: Why the rush to legalize Marijuana is Harming America." The book documents how all the evidence against marijuana is on the side of science and fact. Science proves that smoking pot suppresses the dopamine receptors in a brain, which doesn't wear off like when consuming beer or other alcohol.

The outcome: Smoking pot over an extended period of time will result in a drop of IQ. As noted by Robert White, the marijuana of today is stronger than it was in the 1970s, to which Bill Bennett remarked, "This certainly is not your grandfather's pot!"

"Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive drug in marijuana, has risen from 5 percent to an average of 13 percent as part of marijuana," the book says. "In some medical dispensaries in Colorado, it now makes upwards of 30 percent of the drug."

Unfortunately the legalization advocates are winning the debate as they are organized and well-funded. Disturbing is that the public is not being sufficiently informed about the harm of marijuana.

Consider what the socially liberal former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, had to say during a trip to Colorado early in February at which time he argued that states who move to legalize the plant for recreational and medical purposes are risking children's intelligence.

As Bloomberg stated, according to The Aspen Times, "What are we going to say in 10 years when we see all these kids whose IQs are five and 10 points lower than they would have been?"

Bloomberg then added, "I couldn't feel more strongly about it. This is one of the stupider things that's happening across our country."

Bloomberg, now 72, admitted to smoking marijuana in the '60s when the drug was far less potent and dangerous than the marijuana of today. In 2013, Bloomberg described medical marijuana as "one of the greatest hoaxes of all times."

Even Colorado's left-leading Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose state was the first in 2012 (along with Washington state voters - and now Alaska) to legalize recreational pot for adults 21 and older, has said he thought the legalization of pot in Colorado was a bad idea.

What is happening in Colorado since it legalized the possession, sale, and consumption of marijuana? With the passing of Amendment 64, adults 21 or older in Colorado can legally possess one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana or THC.

According to a report issued on August 20, 2014 by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact” legalization in Colorado has resulted in:

1. The majority of DUI drug arrests involve marijuana and 25 to 40 percent were marijuana alone.

2. In 2012, 10.47 percent of Colorado youth ages 12 to 17 were considered current marijuana users compared to 7.55 percent nationally. Colorado ranked fourth in the nation, and was 39 percent higher than the national average.

3. Drug-related student suspensions/expulsions increased 32 percent from school years 2008-09 through 2012-13. The vast majority were for marijuana violations.

4. In 2012, 26.81 percent of college age students were considered current marijuana users compared to 18.89 percent nationally, which ranks Colorado third in the nation and 42 percent above the national average.

5. In 2013, 48.4 percent of Denver adult arrestees tested positive for marijuana, which is a 16 percent increase from 2008.

6. From 2011 through 2013 there was a 57 percent increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits.

7. Hospitalizations related to marijuana has increased 82 percent since 2008.

A recent article written on behalf of the Illinois Family Institute, in reference to the havoc caused in Colorado due to the reckless agenda pushed in Colorado to legalize pot, expressed these thoughts:

"We could reasonably expect the same negative consequences here in Illinois: an increase in crime, hospitalizations, car accidents and deaths. Make no mistake, these reckless public policy decisions will create significant problems for families, businesses, and communities throughout Illinois. Marijuana use leads to greater cognitive deficits, lower IQ’s, loss of fine motor skills, a suppressed immune system, apathy, drowsiness, lack of motivation, sensory distortion, mental illness and anxiety. Absenteeism and dropping out of school are common in marijuana users who start young and use regularly," the article states.

Posing a serious danger to children are marijuana-infused edibles designed to look like products that would appeal to children. In Colorado, 45% of its marijuana market is edibles. The response time when ingesting edible marijuana takes 30-60 minutes, while when smoking pot there is an almost immediate reaction of between 10-15 seconds. Because of the slow onset of action by marijuana edibles, users are prone to repeat the dose and risk taking too much and accumulating lethal amounts of THC in the body.

These are facts that must be considered by Illinois lawmakers before any further action is taken on HB218 and SB753. The facts speak for themselves:

- One in six children who use marijuana will become addicted, and with regular use, may suffer the loss of six to eight IQ points.

- Marijuana THC concentrations now exceed an average of 10 percent. Some marijuana samples show THC concentrations exceeding 30 percent.

- Marijuana has an addiction rate of one in every 11 adults who have ever tried it – or one in six adolescents who have ever used it.

- Marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more cancer-causing substances than tobacco smoke

A lie often advanced by those pushing to legalize pot is that prisons are filled with pot users, resulting in our correctional system being overwhelmed with people arrested for smoking or possessing marijuana. The Office of National Drug Control Policy dispels this myth.

Will the disturbing outcome of Colorado's marijuana legalization slow down the push to legalize marijuana here in Illinois beyond that of medicinal use? Or will the recognition that pot is big business by legislators throw all caution to the wind as the thought of future tax revenue supersedes all else?

Drug policy should be based on hard science and reliable data. The data coming out of Colorado points to one and only one conclusion: The legalization of marijuana in Colorado is terrible public policy. Do Illinoisans really want the same for their state?

Nancy Thorner
Lake Bluff, Ill.

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