Say no to legalization

Editor of the Reformer:

The proposal before the Vermont State Legislature to allow for the legalization and sale of recreational marijuana seems to me as a psychiatrist and a grandmother to be a bridge too far.

While I understand the arguments about marijuana being less problematic than alcohol, and also the nature of the wide black market availability of the marijuana as an illegal substance, I am quite concerned that we are going to engage in an experiment here in the Vermont, that may well have an unintended consequence for our children, that is Vermont sponsored marijuana dependency.

This concern is based on my clinical experience as a psychiatrist and is supported by the analysis by Jonathan Caulkins, Stever Professor of Opearations Research and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. He is the co-author of "Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Now."

As estimated by SAMSA, 2.8 million people in the U.S. meet the criteria for cannabis dependence, which is about 21 percent of current users. In contrast about 13 percent of alcohol users meet the criteria for dependence. Frankly, it makes very little difference if pot has the same potential to produce dependency as alcohol or more potential. Substance Dependency is marked by social dysfunction.


Even if we use 13 percent as the number of marijuana users who are dependent, we already have a problem here. There are an estimated 80,000 marijuana users in Vermont. This means that Vermont has about 11,000 individual who are already dependent on this substance.

This number is apt to increase if there is easy access to legal pot. Certainly it will be easier for our children to get than it is now.

I understand that the 80,000 users in the state would like to have easier access to this drug. I understand that there is a black market, which we would of course like to contain. I understand that bill for legalization and sale attempts to pursue a course of "harm" reduction, and to avoid, for now at least, highly processed forms of cannabis. What I do not understand is how we can justify running the risk of creating culturally sanctioned, Vermont sponsored availability to an agent that has addictive potential, and may expose our children to more risk than they already have.

We continue to suffer the negative effects of alcohol on our community and the unintended consequences of the wide availability of opiates as well. Do we need to create another problem with a recreational intoxicant which we certainly all can do without.

It seems to me that there is nothing admirable about selling any substance that can produce dependency, causing deterioration in social, work or school performance. There is certainly nothing for our society to celebrate in heading down a path which places an emphasis on the freedom to be intoxicated above the nurturance of social responsibility, awareness and competence. Frankly, it is really quite sad.

Lesley N. Fishelman, Dummerston, Jan. 14