June 22, 2013

Pro-marijuana group ties legalization to Portland beer fest

An organization is distributing literature which argues the drug is safer than the alcoholic drinks being touted at the festival.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

In this August 2012 file photo, many varieties of marijuana seedlings are on display. A national group that wants to legalize marijuana is taking advantage of this weekend's high-profile beer festival in Portland by handing out fliers saying marijuana is safer than alcohol.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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"It's a sentiment," Brennan said.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said police are taking a wait-and-see approach to the legalization effort, before commenting on enforcement.

ACLU spokeswoman Rachel Healy said that if Portland votes to legalize marijuana, it will send a message to the rest of the state.

"Hopefully, Portland will just be the first step and we'll be able to take this success to the state level," she said.

That's exactly what worries anti-drug advocates, especially those who work with teenagers.

Teenagers are considered most vulnerable to health effects of alcohol and marijuana because their brains are still developing.

A widely-cited study last summer suggested that heavy pot use by teenagers can be linked to reduced IQs.

Morrissey, with 21 Reasons, and others say teenagers are most likely to become addicted to the drug, and that marijuana use is linked to heart and lung complications, car crashes and mental illness, including psychosis, depression and anxiety.

Morrissey said teenagers are impressionable, and events such as Friday's informational campaign and Portland's legalization debate are sending a message that use of the drug cannot harm them.

The Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey tracks alcohol and drug use, and perceptions of the risks associated with both among high school students.

In 2009, when there was debate about increasing access to medical marijuana in Maine, 29.1 percent of high school students said there was no risk or a slight risk of harming themselves by using marijuana regularly, according to the survey. Fifty-six percent said there was no risk or slight risk of harm from smoking occasionally. In 2011, those percentages increased to 43.9 percent and 59.5 percent, respectively.

In Portland, the numbers were even bigger.

In 2009, 40 percent of Portland high school students said there was no harm in smoking marijuana regularly and 59.3 percent said there was no harm in smoking occasionally.

In 2011, those figures increased to 48 percent and 64.9 percent, respectively.

Morrissey said the statistics show that young people are accepting the notion that marijuana is safe.

"Studies show that once youth finds something not as harmful, they are more likely to partake in that activity or substance," Morrissey said.

 

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@pressherald.com

Twitter: @randybillings

 

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