Lee’s Summit CARES brought a Colorado expert to town this week to talk about that state’s experience with legalized marijuana.
Roby Little, director of Lee’s Summit CARES, said the results in Colorado are important because Missouri recently loosened its laws on marijuana. It allows limited medical marijuana, permitting a marijuana extract for epilepsy to be distributed through the Missouri Department of Agriculture (but no funding for the program). She said that in 2017, for those over 21, possession of less than 10 grams becomes a misdemeanor without a jail penalty.
Now pro-legalization groups are working on a ballot initiative for Missouri in 2016, she said.
About 75 students and adults attended The 3rd Annual Fall Marijuana Forum on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at Paradise Park. The speaker was Thomas J. Gorman, director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
Gorman said the path in Missouri is similar to that taken by groups that promoted recreational marijuana in Colorado. On a projection screen, he flashed quotes attributed to leaders of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Gorman said that marijuana effectively became legal in 2009 when the U.S. Attorney General’s office decided to stop prosecutions there despite federal laws, and with the state passing legislation for medical marijuana use and finally voters deciding to make recreational marijuana legal in 2012.
“It’s a foot in the door. That’s how they go about it,” Gorman said.
He said legal marijuana weakens prevention efforts because it makes recreational drug use more affordable and more available, reduces perceptions of risk and affects public attitudes, making marijuana use more socially acceptable.
Gorman presented a litany of negative outcomes based on statistics and examples pulled from media accounts. He also shared photos of newspaper advertisements promoting marijuana.
He made rebuttals to common opinions about marijuana and its legalization:
• Many studies prove marijuana is addictive for about one in six people.
• Colorado is seeing increased use of the drug among middle school, high school and college-age students.
• Its overall crime rate has gone up, although a direct connection to legalized marijuana cannot be proved.
Claims that crime has gone down are untrue, he said, because legalization proponents cherry-picked their statistics.
“Try not to make the same mistake as Colorado. Tell your legislators to wait a couple of years,” Gorman said.
For the agency’s report “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado,” go to: www.rmhidta.org.