Pot tales of the week

Pot tales of the week

A prohibitionist outfit called Protecting Nevada’s Children sent out an email message on Oct. 5: “This is the lie our opponents are using to legalize pot: Legalizing recreational marijuana will help kids. The absurdity and blatant disregard of facts is hard to believe. Especially when we know that legalizing pot leads to more drug abuse, increased fatal accidents, doubles children’s visits to the ER, and increases calls to poison control (for children) by five times.”

In May, the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis released a study that examined data on 12 years of drug use by kids ages 12 to 17. While the study was being conducted, some states made medical and recreational marijuana use legal for adults, allowing the researchers to add data. They found that marijuana use by teenagers declined under relaxed laws 24 percent from 2002 to 2013. In addition, they found that problems such as becoming dependent on the drug or having school or relationship problems declined by 24 percent over that period of years. The study appeared in the June issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Also in May, the Pediatric Academic Societies 2016 meeting heard a study that showed no change in the percentage of adolescents who found it easy to obtain marijuana in Washington after that state made recreational use legal for adults.

Assume that a certain number of children are going to try illicit substances—alcohol, tobacco, marijuana. It’s probably a pretty good bet, if we all recall our own youthful experiences. Should they be sent out into a world in which those substances are available to them only in an illicit marketplace inhabited by dangerous people?

Or should they face a marketplace in which those substances are illegal to children and regulated for adults? The latter is what ballot Question 2 proposes.

Some parents have no doubt had the experience of children getting into the Coricidin under the impression they were M&Ms. The remedy was putting the pills out of reach, not asking government to outlaw them.

In the Oct. 20 Reno Gazette-Journal, Washoe Sheriff Chuck Allen argues against enactment of ballot Question 2, which would regulate recreational use of marijuana. The sheriff relies almost entirely for his data on the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federal program created to try to discredit Colorado legal marijuana.

Though Sheriff Allen says RMHIDTA collects data, it does not—at least, not in the sense of doing original research. It uses data developed by other, scientific organizations, and puts a sinister spin on it. The Pulitzer-winning fact-checker Politifact once showed the difference between official Colorado Department of Transportation statistics and RMHIDTA statistics. RMHIDTA often asserts in the text of its reports deceptive claims that it backs away from in the footnotes.

Forbes Magazine columnist Jacob Sullum describes the modus operandus of RMHIDTA: “So even when the task force does not simply make stuff up, it filters and slants the evidence to play up the purported costs of legalization while ignoring the benefits.” It is actually illegal under Title VII of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act law for RMHIDTA to provide even-handed information on marijuana.

In addition to using an unreliable source for his data, Sheriff Allen does not mention his own conflict of interest in advocating against ending marijuana prohibition—his agency gets funding from drug forfeitures. In calendar year 2014, Nevada law enforcement agencies received more than $4 million in forfeiture funds. According to the Washoe sheriff’s office, it received $255,346.45 in such funds during fiscal year 2015-2016.