Jan. 1, 2014, was a big day in Colorado. Pot stores opened for the first time anywhere in the U.S. Nine months later, Colorado’s governor is calling the whole thing “reckless,” and their legislature is scrambling to, well, do something. Before we in Maine jump off the same cliff, we need to dispel some myths being perpetrated here.

Myth No. 1: You can go to jail for smoking pot. Wrong. Nobody is incarcerated in Maine for smoking marijuana. It’s not a crime. You can’t be arrested, go to jail or get a criminal conviction.

Possession of up to 2½ ounces, which is a lot of pot, is a civil offense, like running a stop sign. So the argument that we will reduce our prison population by legalizing marijuana for recreational use is, frankly, absurd and outright dishonest.

Myth No. 2: It’s no worse than alcohol or cigarettes. Except that it stays in your body for 30 days and contains over 400 compounds, compared to alcohol’s 1. It has 50 to 70 percent more carcinogens than tobacco, and smokers of marijuana get four times more tar in their lungs per puff than smokers of tobacco do.

Marijuana contains an enzyme that converts hydrocarbon into a cancer-causing form. And it suppresses the immune system. And it’s the only drug out there that affects all three parts of the brain.

Myth No. 3: It’s not addictive. In 2013, 78 percent of children aged 12 to 17 admitted to publicly funded treatment centers in the U.S. were there for marijuana dependence. Sixteen percent were there for alcohol dependence, with heroin a distant third at 3 percent.


For young adults ages 18 to 25, marijuana dependence was the cause of 25 percent of all admissions to publicly funded treatment centers. (No. 1 was opiates at 33 percent, and alcohol at 26 percent.) If marijuana is not really addictive, someone ought to tell these kids, their parents and the treatment providers.

Myth No. 4: We can tax it and solve some budget problems. So would selling our children into servitude – which, of course, we would not want to do, and yet, by encouraging pot use, we are doing just that.

Legalizing something is the same thing as encouraging something, especially among our youth. And we’ve already learned a hard lesson from alcohol and tobacco: For every $1 gained in tax revenue, $10 is lost in health, legal, social and regulatory costs. The only winners are the businesses that produce, promote and sell it.

Myth No. 5: It’s working great for Colorado. Not true. It’s a social experiment and, like Alice’s trip through Wonderland, what’s supposed to be up is down and vice versa.

Revenue is way down from projections – like one-third. Why? Because it’s less expensive to buy it on the street. Why pay that 26 percent tax when you don’t have to? Most customers in Colorado are tourists. As one Colorado police chief described the impact of legalizing recreational pot: “It has done nothing more than enhance the opportunity for the black market.”

What’s up in Colorado? Pot-related violent crimes – burglaries, robberies and homicides linked to pot. Driving under the influence of marijuana and stoned driving-related deaths. (Dozens of drug recognition experts have had to be added to the ranks of police agencies.)


Admissions to hospital emergency rooms as a result of marijuana ingestion – pot is way stronger than it used to be when we baby boomers were in college, and hashish oil-infused gummy bears and Swedish fish are indistinguishable from the safe ones. Also up is welfare fraud, as EBT cards are being used to buy pot.

Myth No. 6: We’ll regulate it, like alcohol, and keep it out of the hands of kids. We all know how well that’s working.

The bottom line here is that marijuana use limits learning, memory, perception, judgment and motor skills and damages the brain, heart, lungs and immune system. It causes mental illness, hampers the development of positive relationships, distorts perception of reality, prohibits real happiness, fosters lethargy, reduces IQ and suppresses emotional development and motivation. And now psychiatrists have a new diagnosis just for potheads: “amotivational syndrome.”

Substance abuse is the No. 1 driver of crime, and a major driver of health costs, economic failures and all manner of ills and unhappiness. We already have to divert colossal, staggering resources away from other things like education and infrastructure and access to justice and services to ameliorate it, and so far, I give us a D minus. So why would we want to make the problem even bigger? Are we smoking something?

— Special to the Press Herald

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