On pot talk, Fetterman should chill

During his statewide listening tour currently getting underway, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is destined to hear plenty of support — unfortunately — for legalizing recreational use of marijuana, if a September 2017 Franklin and Marshall University poll remains an accurate barometer of how state residents really feel about the issue.

That poll found that 59 percent of the people surveyed did not oppose the prospect of legalization.

Meanwhile, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale estimated last year that Pennsylvania could generate nearly $600 million in additional tax revenue annually by legalizing recreational marijuana use and imposing a 35 percent tax on it.

The auditor general referred to data indicating that more than 8 percent of Keystone State adults already use the now-prohibited substance in a recreational way.

But Fetterman’s listening tour needs to hear from more than the people who already smoke marijuana illegally and those who would join the marijuana-use “crowd” if it were legalized. Hopefully, psychiatrists, other health professionals and researchers with evidence cautioning against recreational-use approval will not be hesitant to step forward during the tour.

There’s nothing wrong with a statewide dialogue regarding the issue, but Fetterman must hear both sides of the proverbial fence — and the “other side” of the marijuana issue is not necessarily the source of pleasure and freedom that proponents suggest.

An article — “Marijuana is more dangerous than you think” — published in the Jan. 5-6 edition of the Wall Street Journal provides plenty of information supporting that opposition viewpoint. The article, written by Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter, is adapted from Berenson’s new book “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence.”

If he hasn’t already, Fetterman should take time to read the book before he gets too far into his statewide tour. As he discusses the issue with those who attend his listening sessions, he should be prepared to ask questions to gauge the knowledge and understanding about all that might be at stake.

Fetterman has been an outspoken advocate for recreational-marijuana legalization, but that shouldn’t preclude him from acknowledging arguments against his stance.

Berenson’s article touches on the increasing use of cannabis. It says that in 2006 about 3 million Americans reported using the drug at least 300 times a year, the standard for daily use. By 2017, the article says, that number had increased to 8 million, and many people now are using cannabis that is far more potent than ever before.

“What is clear is that, in individual cases, marijuana can cause psychosis, and psychosis is a high-risk factor for violence,” the article says. It continues:

“A 2012 paper in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, examining a federal survey of more than 9,000 adolescents, found that marijuana use was associated with a doubling of domestic violence in the U.S.”

Meanwhile, a report compiled by Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a national group fighting legalization efforts, reveals that in Colorado, which began allowing recreational marijuana use in 2014, the number of people intoxicated due to marijuana use and involved in fatal traffic accidents increased 88 percent from 2013 to 2015.

Fetterman’s listening tour must not ignore the deeply troubling potential downsides of marijuana use as the tour attempts to ascertain the level of public opinion supporting it.


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