Facts disprove marijuana concerns

To the Editor:

After reading the factually lacking opinion piece "A marijuana store in every Vermont town," I was left scratching my head and felt compelled to write a response.

Let me begin by summing up the argument posited: Vermonters should be concerned because the governor has, in a practical and responsible fashion, asked Vermont officials to take a realistic look at the financial impact that marijuana usage could have in the state. As a result of following a progressive reform policy, we will soon be awash in crime and mental illness, keening from the minimal tax bump and wondering, what happened? Now, let's look at the facts surrounding marijuana usage from nationally recognized public policy research, media outletsand peer-reviewed medical journals: In Colorado, during its first seven months of legalization, marijuana has not cost taxpayers more in law enforcement. In fact, tens of millions of dollars have come into Colorado's tax coffers specifically to fund Colorado's law enforcement's efforts regarding marijuana. Furthermore, guess what has happened in Colorado since marijuanahas been legalized? Crime has gone down. Even though many officials, including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, fought marijuana legalization tooth and nail, stating it would cause increases in petty crimes and even sexual assault, just three months after Colorado voters passed the legalization of marijuana, Denver enjoyed a 14. 6 percent decrease in crime from the same time last year.

Now, let's discuss how Vermont law enforcement actually feels about marijuana legalization. Here's the truth: the majority of them haven't made up their minds yet. In fact, it would be more accurate to state, as reported in the Vermont Digger, when senior law enforcement officials talk one-on-one with other members of the law enforcement community, they agree that legalization makes sense but back at their departments there's a "pack mentality" that prevents them from speaking out. "They are frightened about coming out and saying this is something that should be changed" states one senior law enforcement official. It goes without saying that law enforcement needs to continue to hear from the informed public and, with the backing of our representatives, in order to implement realistic, practical marijuana usage laws. Particularly if that translates intoour police force focusing on solving violent crime.

Now that we've established that there is a real-world precedent for legalization leading to an increase in taxes and a decrease in crime, let's take a look at the medical facts surrounding marijuana usage. First, scientific research has unequivocally shown that using marijuana can have a positive effect on PTSD, anxiety, depression and insomnia. And for those of us who demanda recent example, in a study published on Aug. 25, 2014, in the latest issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers found that although overdose deaths from opiates have increased in the U.S. over the last decade, they were 25 percent lower in states that implemented medical marijuana laws than in other states. Given the recent concerns about heroin abuse in Vermont, I would go so far as to suggest this may provide an opportunity for funding supportfor both treatment programs and law enforcement. Additionally, there is no research proving marijuana smoking causes mental harm to the consumers such as to warrant mental hospital visits. Vermont's new mental health hospital will treat people with mental health disorders - not marijuana consumers or even marijuana abusers. The implication is snide and dismissive to those withmental illness to say the least.

Local residents should not be particularly interested in fear mongering and I would submit, instead of using outdated and unsupported arguments, they should take a hard look at the town- and state-level and decide what will work. Although a marijuana-based business may not be appropriate for downtown Manchester, it does not mean that there are other places where it is not wholly appropriate. Besides, if the Manchester Planning Commission does decide to permit such a business, I'm sure the shingle will be just lovely.

Ami Wennar



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