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Letter to the Editor, Nov. 22, 2020: Northam should not back legalizing adult use of pot

Letter to the Editor, Nov. 22, 2020: Northam should not back legalizing adult use of pot

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Northam should not back

legalizing adult use of pot

Editor, Times Dispatch:

Gov. Ralph Northam recently voiced his support for legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana in Virginia.

Northam is a physician and a pediatrician, but he somehow has forgotten the science he learned and the young patients he used to serve. There is a serious knowledge gap between popular belief and scientific reality when it comes to marijuana, and Northam should know better.

While the public's view of marijuana has become more benign over the past 10 years, medical and scientific literature tell a much different story — especially when it comes to teens and young people — with addiction, dependence, gateway to opioids, mental disease, respiratory conditions and risky behaviors being just a few of the negative effects.

According to the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission, 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 claims in just four months during the pandemic, this kind of tax spending is irresponsible.

Virginia has 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. Its use also can contribute to respiratory complications such as bronchitis, which would make COVID-19 more dangerous for users.

The socioeconomically disadvantaged already were at an increased risk for psychiatric disorders before the pandemic, and they have been the most affected by it. According to Steven W. Bender in "The Colors of Cannabis: Race and Marijuana": “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.”

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

James Avery.

Charlottesville.

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