Is Colorado, The Centennial State, Becoming The Stoner State

Photo Credit: Ed Andrieski

Legal pot is either a problem or a panacea, depending on your perspective.

The Marijuana Accountability Coalition and Smart Approaches to Marijuana hate it and want it gone. They say they’re trying to prevent another marijuana version of Big Tobacco.

The Coalition hosted an event on the Colorado Christian University campus to warn Colorado about continuing down the cannabis causeway, including claims that marijuana among youth is rising.

“We should not live in a state where marijuana companies have a financial interest in hooking as many people as they possibly can,” Marijuana Accountability Coalition speakers said in opening their event.

Marijuana industry returns fire

The Marijuana Industry Group returned fire the next day, pointing to a study that teen use is not increasing.

“There appears to be no basis for the argument that legalizing medical marijuana increases teens’ use of the drug,” said Deborah Hasin, Ph.D., of epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School and senior author of the study.

Among the other points of disagreement:

Does marijuana use contribute to teen suicide?

Possibly: Dr. Kenneth Finn with Springs Rehabilitation cited Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data indicating that marijuana use is up among teens and young adults.

Finn also said that in kids ages 10 to 19 who completed suicides, marijuana is the most prevalent substance found in toxicology reports.

“I’m not say they’re overdosing on marijuana and dying. My point is that when they die and are tested, what they’re seeing most often is marijuana in their system,” Finn told the Marijuana Accountability Coalition gathering.

The presence of marijuana in Colorado suicides across all age groups is skyrocketing, Finn said.

Unclear: The Marijuana Industry Group counters that the correlation between marijuana and suicide is “unclear,” and the causation is “unfounded.”

The Group says that while suicide is the No. 1 cause of death in Colorado children ages 10 to 18, it says factors are mental health, depression, bullying and changes in personal relationships. The Marijuana Industry Group cites a study in Colorado published in the Journal of Adolescent Health that attributes 67 percent of suicides to firearms obtained in their household.

“It is irresponsible to try and divert attention from the resources that should be going to the prevention, education and treatment of Colorado’s youth to advance an unfounded correlation,” the Marijuana Industry Group said.

Is youth marijuana use increasing?

Yes: The Marijuana Accountability Coalition cites data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicating that since marijuana was legalized in 2012, past-month use has risen above the national average, and that Colorado leads the nation in first-time marijuana use among youth, a 65 percent increase since legalization.

No: The Marijuana Industry Group says youth marijuana consumption has remained stable since legalization, and is slightly lower than national averages according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory 2016 report.

What’s the science?

The jury is out: Finn said that in his patients, marijuana does not relieve pain and that his patients tell him it makes them sleepy and not care as much that they have pain. He said 90 percent of medical marijuana sold in dispensaries is sold for pain relief. Finn said the synthetic THC often touted by marijuana advocates is not the type of medical marijuana available in dispensaries.

He also said that opioids and cannabinoids act much the same way in the body’s cellular receptors.

“I believe in research. They need to study it. If they can prove it, I can live with that,” Finn said.

The Jury Is In: “The voters of Colorado have twice upheld their commitment to supporting legalized marijuana in the state’s constitution, and the state, the community and the industry have worked together to develop a tightly-regulated system, with requisite testing requirements, packaging and labeling regulations, security and more,” the Marijuana Industry Group said.