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Opinion/Letter: Dangers of marijuana are being overlooked

Opinion/Letter: Dangers of marijuana are being overlooked

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Gov. Ralph Northam has voiced his support for legalizing recreational marijuana in Virginia.

Dr. Northam is a physician and a pediatrician, but he displays a serious knowledge gap between popular belief and scientific reality when it comes to marijuana; one would think he would know better.

While the public view of marijuana has become more benign over the past 10 years, the medical and scientific literature tell a much different story — especially when it comes to teens and young people. I am a physician, and through experience, observation and research for my book “Marijuana: An Honest Look at the World’s Most Misunderstood Weed,” I have found that addiction, dependence, mental disease, respiratory condition, motor vehicle accidents and risky behaviors are just a few of the negative effects.

According to Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, setting up the infrastructure to facilitate the legal sale of marijuana would cost Virginia from $8 million to $20 million upfront. With nearly 800,000 Virginians filing unemployment in just four months during the pandemic in 2020, this kind of tax spending is irresponsible.

Virginia has already cut mental health-care funding since the beginning of the pandemic, though mental health issues are expected to rise as the pandemic continues.

» Marijuana is known to make users more susceptible to increased schizophrenia, psychosis, depression and suicide.

» Marijuana use can contribute to respiratory complications such as bronchitis, which would make COVID-19 more dangerous for those who smoke marijuana. 5

» Marijuana legalization is known to cause increases in motor vehicle accidents and traffic fatalities, which would extract emergency medical resources away from COVID-19 victims.

» The socioeconomically disadvantaged were already at an increased risk for psychiatric disorders before the pandemic, and they have been the most affected by it.

“Despite that legalization, marijuana usage continues to disproportionately impose serious consequences on racial minorities, while white entrepreneurs and white users enjoy the early fruits of legalization,” say the authors of “The Colors of Cannabis: Race and Marijuana.”

Just like with alcohol, opioids and gambling, it is the poor, minorities, disadvantaged and the young who will suffer disproportionately. Isn’t it time for the Democrats to support these groups rather than suppress and oppress them with another hallucinogenic drug?

James A. Avery

Albemarle County

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