Vote ‘no’ on legalizing pot

Dear Editor:

The Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention’s mission is “to promote the prevention of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use in youth by providing resources, education, and leadership to schools, families, and communities.” Toward this goal, we have provided age-appropriate health and wellness programs in local schools for many years. We also provide alcohol-, tobacco-, and drug-prevention education to teenagers and the community at large.

Our approach and philosophy are not based on morality or legality. We approach all substance abuse among both youth and adults from a health perspective. Amendment 64 would legalize the recreational use of marijuana for anyone in Colorado 21 or older. It is our opinion that passing Amendment 64 could have a detrimental effect on the youth of our community and our state. Here are some of the reasons why we oppose the amendment:

• The American Cancer Society states in a 2010 position paper that in addition to delivering THC to the body, marijuana “also delivers harmful substances, including many of the cancer-causing substances found in tobacco smoke. In addition, plants contain a variable mixture of biologically-active compounds and cannot be expected to provide a precisely designed drug effect.” The conclusion of their position is that “The (American Cancer Society) does not advocate the use of inhaled marijuana or the legalization of marijuana.”

• Although proponents of Amendment 64 say that legalization of recreational use would lead to more regulation and less use among youth, we disagree. The American Academy of Pediatrics says, in its policy statement, that “any change in the legal status of marijuana, even if limited to adults, could affect the prevalence of use among adolescents. For example, tobacco and alcohol products, both legal for adults 18 and 21 years of age, respectively, are the psychoactive substances most widely abused by adolescents.” It should be noted that in our community and nationwide, marijuana use has surpassed cigarette smoking among teenagers.

• There are many peer-reviewed studies that show that the earlier people begin using a substance, the more likely they are to have problems at some point in the future with dependence and/or addiction. We are very strong proponents of “delayed use.” The human brain continues development into the mid-20s. For every year that an adolescent delays use, their risk for future problems decreases about 14 percent. Using that figure, it is astounding to see the decrease in risk that occurs when a 14- or 15-year-old delays use until he or she is 18 or 21. If someone delays use until his or her brain is fully developed, the risk becomes almost negligible.

When reading and hearing the arguments in favor of Amendment 64, we see a great deal of comparisons made between marijuana and alcohol. Our philosophy is to educate using facts about all substances. We believe that all use involves some risk. We don’t educate on the basis of whether substance use is legal or illegal. Therefore our programs, presentations and media messages will remain consistent regardless of what happens on Election Day.

We believe that the entire community should be involved in prevention. Parents have the greatest impact on their children, and the Valley Partnership will continue to provide resources to them as well as to students, teachers, coaches and the community at large.

We do not think passing Amendment 64 is in the best interest of our state.

Zibby Schwartz, Emily Weingart, Art Daily, Kim Martin, Tom Heald, Carol Sams, Jeff Kraunz, Sandra Peirce, Elise Dreher, Sue Smedstad, Donna Keelty, Shelley Evans, Chris Peshek, Michael Connolly, Josh Berro, Bob Ferguson, Marianne Buchholz, Molly Tiernan

Roaring Fork Valley