Summit Daily editorial: Federal bluster on marijuana reckless, but public health questions remain
March 7, 2017
Let's play a game of Who Said What. Take our your No. 2 and match up the quotes with the following people. (Go to the bottom of the editorial for the full answer key.)
A) "We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it's in fact a very real danger."
B) "I think it's up to the states. I'm a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely."
C) "… I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people … I do believe that you'll see greater enforcement of it."
D) "I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If He put it here and He wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?"
E) "Good people don't smoke marijuana."
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Who said what?
1) Attorney General Jeff Sessions:
2) White House press secretary Sean Spicer:
3) President Donald Trump:
4) Willie Nelson:
If you matched option E with Willie Nelson, then stop reading this immediately, go listen to "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die" and then retake the quiz.
Sessions and Spicer, of course, have made headlines with their off-the-cuff rhetoric and saber rattling over increased marijuana enforcement. Meanwhile, Trump (option B, if you haven't guessed) has been fairly chill on the subject.
In response to the more threatening comments, the Summit Daily and news outlets across the country have published stories attempting to puzzle out what might happen next in the Great American Marijuana Experiment. Will the feds really crack down on the burgeoning cannabis industry?
It is easy to dismiss the Trump administration's cavalier bluster on marijuana as mere Reefer Madness-era hysteria.
Legalization creates more drug-related crime and violence! Says who? Certainly not Summit County's district attorney.
It leads to opioid addiction! That American tragedy likely has more to do with doctors over-prescribing pain pills than with legalized weed, but the issue of addiction is worth studying further.
The Summit Daily, along with many leaders in marijuana industry, doesn't really believe there is an organized effort underway at the federal level to roll the legalization movement back to the Just Say No era.
To us, it is clear that regulating a legitimate industry is a much better option than policing a black market. Colorado is a shining example of that fact. As a state, we've buoyed our economy; fewer people are now imprisoned at great expense to taxpayers on drug charges; and the integrity of cannabis products and processes can be monitored and improved upon in a way that's impossible if the industry is pushed underground.
A federal thwacking could be economically devastating to our state.
Some estimate the cannabis industry had a total economic impact of $2.3 billion in 2015. In 2016 alone, the state collected $141 million in marijuana tax, license and fee revenue. In Summit County, revenue has surged. Additionally, the industry has created upwards of about 18,000 jobs across the state. At present, 28 states have authorized medical marijuana and eight states have legalized recreational cannabis.
To be sure, the anti-prohibition movement is rolling full steam ahead.
Is the president, the ultimate champion of raw capitalism, really interested in putting the brakes on that? Trump said on the campaign trail that legalization is "absolutely" a states issue. For someone who has repeatedly lauded his own efforts to make good on campaign promises, we would urge him to not make marijuana the exception to his rule.
We firmly believe that legalization has been a resounding economic success story. However, there are lingering public health issues that must be addressed. We aren't convinced that marijuana, as Willie Nelson himself once sang, only walks on the sunny side of the street. There is a dark side, especially as it relates to children. Though it has intriguing medical applications, we're only just starting to understand the profoundly negative impacts unchecked cannabis consumption can have on the developing brains of adolescents. Additionally, we have little reliable data on how marijuana use, like alcohol consumption, might alter family stability. In Summit County, four out of five parents of school-aged children said in a recent survey that they have used marijuana one of more times in their lives. The survey, however, does not dive deeper into the frequency of usage.
What we need is less war-on-drugs-style scaremongering and more clear-eyed, science-based inquiry and data collection into the long-term health and social impacts of marijuana use.
1: A, E
The Summit Daily editorial board consists of editor Ben Trollinger, publisher Meg Boyer, a reporter and three citizen members.