Don't fall for the scare tactics of anti-legalizers

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We urge our readers to disregard the scare-mongering emanating from the opponents of marijuana legalization and encourage them to do their own research. Our readers might learn that much of what the opponents are now saying, they've been saying since the days of "reefer madness" in the 1930s. Over the past 80 years or so, study after study has shown, as Doctors for Cannabis Regulation recently stated, "the prohibition and criminalization of marijuana use does more harm to the public than good."

"Citing hundreds of thousands of annual marijuana arrests, racial and economic disparities in marijuana enforcement, and the role of prohibition in keeping marijuana prices high and lucrative to violent drug dealers," stated the Washington Post, "the physicians say that creating a legal and regulated marijuana market is the best way to ensure public safety, combat the illicit drug trade and roll back the negative consequences of strict enforcement policies on disadvantaged communities."

But, on Tuesday, Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson took a tack that many legalization opponents have recently adopted, telling the Marijuana Advisory Commission that legalizing marijuana will mean "You are going to see more fatalities on the roadways. The data and the research does support that."

Anderson told the commission that as of Oct. 23, at least 11 drivers involved in fatal crashes this year tested positive for marijuana. He also noted that some of those drivers also had alcohol in their systems. Anderson also testified that data shows drivers under the influence of marijuana have been involved in more crashes since the state decriminalized the possession of small amounts of weed in 2013.

In January 2017, the Vermont House and Senate approved the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, but Gov. Phil Scott vetoed the bill. Scott established the Marijuana Advisory Commission and tasked it with gathering and analyzing data on legalization, including its affects on driving, health, taxes and crime.

"Government has an obligation to protect the people and not to enable their death," wrote Robert L. Orleck, a retired pharmacist and former Vermont Assistant Attorney General, in a letter to Vermont newspapers. "Enabling their death is exactly what will be happening if our legislators passes and the Governor signs legalization of marijuana and hard as it is to say, they will be responsible for the deaths of people. The evidence is there. ... Statistics are coming from Colorado and Washington and they are showing large increases in highway fatalities related to marijuana since legalization."

But the opponents of legalization are cherry-picking studies conducted in states that have legalized recreational marijuana and reaching specious conclusions. While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety noted there has been an increase in car crashes in states that have legalized the drug, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found there was no increase in vehicle crash fatalities in Colorado and Washington.

"We found no significant association between recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado and subsequent changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates in the first three years after recreational marijuana legalization," the study's authors concluded.

Studies have also shown that the health affects of marijuana usage are minimal, except in heavy users, and that is to be expected. Any substance that is abused is bound to cause problems. But if we are to prohibit things based on extreme cases, we wouldn't allow people to drive, or drink alcohol, or have access to firearms or not even get out of bed at all.

Rather than let the scare mongers dominate the debate over marijuana legalization, seek out the most accurate information. You will be surprised to learn there really is no valid argument for continuing the prohibition on marijuana. We urge the Legislature to take the issue up again and, if necessary, override the Governor's veto.

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