Jonathan Cimmins

Jonathan Cimmins

Admittedly, I don’t have experience with marijuana, at least from the use end of experience. That is not to say that I have not been around the after effects of the drug’s use and abuse, I have seen the remorse that some users have expressed after a lifetime of using this “harmless” substance.

One of the citizen initiated referenda in November will decide whether marijuana is made legal for use by adults. Question 1 asks the voters if a small amount of the item will be allowed for personal use.

I mentioned my lack of personal experience with marijuana, well what I do have for experience is years of working with individuals, many of whom have co-occurring disorders covering mental health and addictions to both drugs and alcohol. I have heard the stories, both the glorification and the remorse, about years spent high and looking to get higher.

As can be imagined the range of drugs and substances that someone can use today is vast. Although when I talk to many individuals who have struggled through the addiction process, they name marijuana as the drug that started them down the road. They saw marijuana as harmless and considered its use to be a recreational activity that was commonplace. Most continue to use the substance to this day, but the acknowledgement as the drug’s place as their own substance zero cannot be completely discounted.

If Maine is to make the substance legal for personal use, then what kind of effect will be seen here? Will its acceptance be a harbinger for the use of harder more addictive drugs? Will we see more individuals who become addicted to a now-legal product? Should we even consider these questions as we get ready to vote in November?

What does this mean for Maine? Well, we have to look no further than Colorado and their legalization of recreational marijuana use. Since it became legal, the number of people who reported an occasional use of marijuana increased significantly according to Aspen Ridge Recovery, a drug and alcohol rehab center outside of Denver. The center also noted a sharp increase in the number of people who used heroin, methamphetamines and other illicit drugs all since marijuana was legalized in the state. Accidental deaths due to increased drug use are on the rise as well.

Is marijuana the worst drug that is out there? No. There are certainly other, deadlier drugs that can be consumed. That being the case, do we really want to make it more acceptable and available than it already is today? Do we want to encourage people to begin using a substance that may well lead to their use of other drugs?

We have a heroin problem in the state that has become significantly worse over the last five years. Making a substance like marijuana legal may be akin to putting a match in an arsonist’s hand. Will the benefits of making marijuana legal, and the tax revenue that it will gain, outpace the costs of increased treatment? The answer simply cannot be given now. While Colorado has seen an increase in money coming into the state because of revenue generated from marijuana sales, the cost to care for those who have an addiction problem has increased as well.

Definitive information is in short supply when it comes to marijuana. One’s own personal feelings about drug use go a long way in shaping their opinion of whether the benefits outweigh the costs of continued use. Perhaps until we can gather some more information, particularly from states that have made the decision to legalize it, marijuana should be kept out of the legal market.

That’s my two cents…

Jonathan Crimmins lives in Brunswick and can be reached at j_ [email protected]

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