Mind the Children
Byline: The Register-Guard
Advocates of marijuana reform in Oregon are expected to collect enough signatures to qualify one or more measures for the Nov. 4 general election ballot that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Colorado voters approved such use in their state 17 months ago and the law went into effect on Jan. 1. A glimpse of the challenges Colorado officials are dealing with in implementing recreational marijuana regulations came in a panel discussion last month at the annual meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists in Denver, foreshadowing issues likely to arise in Oregon.
The panel members included Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, an international advocate for marijuana reform. They agreed there are serious health and safety concerns regarding marijuana use by children and adolescents, and that the recreational use of the drug by adults needs to be closely regulated by the state. But while Elliott viewed legalization of recreational pot as a political cure-all, Wolk stressed scientists' frustration with federal restrictions that hamper research into marijuana's effects.
Noting that the nation is 45 years into the war on drugs, Elliott said the universal availability of marijuana in middle schools is proof that the drug war hasn't worked. Legalization, he said, is better than prohibition and "dramatically" increases citizens' freedom. He said current laws regulating alcohol and prescription drugs provide a good model for how to regulate marijuana.
But Wolk said much more research is needed before scientists will understand how marijuana affects the brain, especially the developing brains of teenagers. …