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California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use in 1996 when voters approved Proposition 215. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use appeared on the ballot in California both in 1972 and 2010 but failed to pass.
In November, California is expected to have another initiative on the ballot to legalize marijuana. Is the third time a charm for California? And, if so, what lessons can voters learn from the legalization of marijuana in Colorado?
In 2012, Colorado resident Ben Cort left his full-time job at the company he co-founded to join the Vote No On 64 campaign. Cort, a former addict and sober 20 years this June, is a board member of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a junior fellow at the University of Florida’s Drug Policy Institute and business development manager for the Center for Addiction Recovery and Rehabilitation (CeDAR).
On March 8, at an event hosted by The Wellness and Prevention Center in partnership with St. Joseph Health and Mission Hospital, Cort separates fact from fiction with his first-hand account of the changing landscape of Colorado since legalization of marijuana.
Cort addresses the economic cost of legalizing marijuana including the growing homeless population, rising healthcare costs and failing tax revenues.
Two years ago, proponents of Colorado’s Amendment 64 maintained that regulating marijuana would reduce teen drug use. Cort counters and said by legalizing and commercializing pot, “We’ve normalized (it). The worst thing you can possibly do for youth use is to lower the perception of risk. The less risk kids see in a particular substance, the more likely they are to use it.”
Normalizing pot blinds teens from seeing the drug’s harmful effect on their brain, a fact concerning Susan Parmelee of the Wellness and Prevention Center at San Clemente High School. “Studies show that use of THC during adolescence changes the way the brain develops by striking the hippocampus (an area that’s critical for learning and memory) leading to trouble thinking and problem solving,” said Parmelee.
Cort agrees, “Today’s marijuana is five times stronger than it was in the past, and its use is tied with IQ declines, memory loss, learning problems and mental illness.”
If California is the next Colorado, what can its citizens learn from Colorado’s cautionary tale?
It’s a question Cort responds to next week, “We have a unique vantage point into this social experiment that is the legalization and commercialization of marijuana.”
The presentation will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, at the San Clemente Community Center,
100 N. Calle Seville. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.