I can’t speak for all citizens of Mille Lacs County, but I can unite with others who have spoken out against Gov. Walz’ recent, stronger push for the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Walz made a statement this month: “My agencies have been tasked to put all of the building blocks in place, from Revenue to the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health. We will have everything ready to go, and we will be able to implement it in Minnesota the minute the Legislature moves this.” He added that he is counting on supporters to push for the legalization of recreational marijuana.

A recent report created by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a program established by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in 1996 and an agency which tracks the impact of marijuana legalization in the state of Colorado, lays out some facts about the impact legalization has had on their state, facts I think we should all take a hard look at.

First of all, this isn’t good for our children.

In our own circles, I have seen straight A students attend college, only to lose interest as their interest in smoking marijuana overtakes them. I’ve seen younger kids in high school and on my son’s hockey team overtaken with marijuana use and dive into depression.

The largest network of rehab facilities nationwide, American Addiction Centers, says, “While it may have the impression of being a harmless, fun substance, it is still a drug that changes what goes on in the mind, sometimes with significant consequences. The long-term effects on the brain and body make marijuana a dangerous drug to a lot of people, leading to negative outcomes that don’t show until years later.”

They note issues with memory (both long-term and short-term), a link to depression, long lasting harm to a child’s memory when a mother smokes marijuana while pregnant or nursing, a link to testicular cancer, heart attack, and more.

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area study stated that youth marijuana use increased 20 percent in a two-year average (2013/2014) since legalization in Colorado, compared to the prior two year average. In comparison, youth marijuana use declined 4 percent nationally during the same 2013/2014 period.

College-age marijuana use increased 17 percent in the two-year average (2013/2014) since legalization compared to the prior two-year period. And nationally, this age group’s use increased 2 percent. Colorado college age past month marijuana use for 2014/2015 was 61 percent higher than the national average compared to 42 percent higher in 2011/2012.

Secondly, this isn’t good for our law enforcement.

Crime in Denver increased 6 percent from 2014 to 2016, and crime in Colorado increased 11 percent from 2013 to 2016. The research noted that many of the same trends have also occurred in Washington since legalization including impaired driving, traffic fatalities, and use among teens. The study also states that emergency department admissions related to marijuana use increased from 6,715 in 2012 to 11,439 in 2014.

Third, this isn’t good for our health.

American Addiction Centers notes that production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which regulates the pleasure and reward centers of the brain, is compromised with heavy marijuana use, according to an article in Molecular Psychiatry. In addition, the National Institute on Drug Abuse cautions that the chemical THC (the active compound in cannabis) can increase the heart rate by as many as 50 beats per minute, which can last as long as three hours. The Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that regular marijuana use can not only contribute to the possibility of a heart attack but also to heart rhythm disorders and stroke, even in young people who have no other risk factors for heart disease. Other conditions linked to marijuana use exist as well.

According to the report, marijuana-related deaths increased 63 percent from 71 to 115 persons after recreational marijuana was legalized in 2013. In 2009, Colorado marijuana-related traffic deaths involving drivers testing positive for marijuana represented 9 percent of all traffic deaths. By 2016, that number has more than doubled to 21 percent.

And this isn’t good for our society.

The Clinical Psychological Science journal looked at what smoking marijuana did socially and wrote that regular cannabis users experienced downward social mobility and financial difficulties, like struggling with debt and cash flow.

As of June 2017, there were 491 retail marijuana stores in the state of Colorado compared to 392 Starbucks and 208 McDonald’s. Sixty-six percent of local jurisdictions have banned medical and recreational marijuana businesses.

Colorado adult past month marijuana use for 2014/2015 was 124 percent higher than the national average compared to 51 percent higher in 2011/2012.

The Colorado annual tax revenue from the sale of recreational and medical marijuana is $115,579,432 or .5 percent of Colorado’s total statewide budget with 424 retail marijuana stores in 2016 compared to 322 Starbucks and 202 McDonald’s.

I could go on and on, and I suppose many of us thought this issue was settled with the drug campaigns in the 80s and 90s comparing your brain and a fried egg or when Nancy Reagan said, “Just say no.” But when society lets down their guard, the children suffer and, ultimately, we all suffer.

So to Gov. Walz, again I say that not all people here believe marijuana should be legalized. I believe the people of Minnesota are a healthy group of people and, for the most part, don’t want this in our state.

If Gov. Walz would like to focus on lightening up the DNR policy on angler walleye fishing here on Mille Lacs, that is something we would all appreciate.

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