March 3, 2013

Letters to the editor: Don't rush to make pot legal

In his recent column ("Feeling good about legal pot," Feb. 22), I believe Bill Nemitz's implicit endorsement of Rep. Diane Russell's initiative to legislate the legalization of marijuana for recreational use premature and a potential disservice to the public welfare.

Marijuana
click image to enlarge

Marijuana plants are seen at a grow house in Colorado, where residents voted last fall to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

2013 File Photo/The Associated Press

As a neuroscientist and physician, I know that we are sorely lacking the information necessary to endorse its immediate legalization.

In fact, most recently new neuropsychological and brain imaging studies of cannabis users have reported that significant marijuana exposure in adolescence predicts a decline in IQ and impairment in neuronal pathway connections in the brain.

Since adolescence is the critical time for the completion of pathway development necessary for optimal cognitive processing, such data would suggest that facilitating the access to marijuana during the teenage years could be harmful.

While much remains to be understood regarding the action of marijuana in the developing brain, at the very least our public representatives need to inform themselves prior to walking a slippery slope. There is a difference between making marijuana available as a medical treatment versus the promulgation of its use recreationally.

Maine should take the time to assure that its medical marijuana law is properly implemented and enforced. Moreover, we have the opportunity of learning much from the outcome of legalization of marijuana in two states of our union.

In fact, our national research institutions are poised to gather data on the public health and substance use from both Colorado and Washington over the next several years.

In the meantime, our legal system in Maine might do well to take a lesson from our federal government, which has adopted a policy of "benign neglect" when it comes to the criminal prosecution of state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs.

In the same way, given Maine's limited resources and economic priorities, it would appear more prudent to utilize our fine police resources to focus upon the real crimes and criminals in our midst.

Robert H. Lenox, M.D.

Orrs Island

Feiner's tax proposal would punish successful risk takers

In her commentary "Beast of Burden" (Feb. 10), professor Susan Feiner starts with a false premise and argues to a false conclusion.

People are poor because they took chances, risks, failed.

Take the expenses of the Portland family, two adults and two school-age children. Without children, they would live as well as I do on my fixed income. Why would the professor think any tax system should pay the Portland couple for deciding to have two children?

The professor's false logic continues: "Look again at the top 1 percent of Maine's non-elderly households."

Attempting to raise tax rates on these individuals historically produces negative income. Those $700,000 incomes are able to change their residence to states without income tax -- then they leave Maine for 183 days, paying Maine zero state income tax.

Feiner's false logic would penalize those families who took risks that paid off. Risk-taking made America; my Norwegian ancestors homesteaded northwestern Minnesota, prospered via 16-hour workdays.

Modern risk-taking should be rewarded, whether opening a hyperbaric oxygen therapy center, raising potato starch production or expanding a vegetable stand into a restaurant.

The professor's envy aims to punish successful risk takers because they make too much money. Forbes magazine says corporations have $2 trillion in retained earnings. Executives stopped taking risks, due to higher federal taxes.

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