Only a half year away from the first day marijuana became legal to grow, possess, consume and sell in Colorado, groups such as Focus on the Family say the new law has facilitated grave consequences, including deaths, child endangerment, and interstate trafficking.
"In just a few months since legalization, we've seen several deaths directly linked to legal marijuana use, children bringing pot-infused snacks to school and law enforcement in neighboring states reporting an increase in the seizure of marijuana traced back to Colorado," Focus on the Family's senior director of public policy, Carrie Gordon Earll, told The Christian Post this week.
Often touted by advocates as harmless, it appears there's a growing amount of evidence against marijuana usage and legalization that proves otherwise. As national policy and politics reporter Eric Schulzke wrote in his article, Dumb and dumber? Teen marijuana use linked to lower IQ in later life, researchers are discovering an increased urgency to do research on the drug's effects, including on the developing brains of teens, as more states are quickly considering marijuana legalization.
Colorado is joined by Washington in being home to legalized recreational marijuana use and legalization is currently being considered in 14 additional states.
"While none of these states propose making pot legal for minors, destigmatization and greater ease of access have already resulted in heavier use among youths in Colorado," writes Schulzke. "As marijuana is increasingly normalized and seen as relatively harmless, some experts doubt whether we know enough to justify rapid shifts in policy and behavior in pot usage."
Focus on the Family continues to oppose legalization of marijuana and will support campaigns to "defeat legalization as we are able." Earll knows well the damage already done in her state, where Focus on the Family is headquartered. "Sadly, it's likely that more states will consider making marijuana legal and we hope they will closely examine the impact of legalization in Colorado that we know so far," she said.
Legalization has led to an increase in edible forms of marijuana and unknown dangerous potency levels. Last March, a 19-year-old student jumped to his death off a Denver hotel balcony after friends said he ate a single marijuana cookie. Tests showed it was the strength of six premium-quality joints. Also, the autopsy cited "marijuana intoxication" as a "significant contributing factor," as reported by CBS.
In April, a woman called 911 saying her husband had eaten "pot candy" and was hallucinating. CBS reported that the husband shot and killed her before police could arrive, according to Denver authorities.
Despite the opposition of legalized pot by Christian and conservative groups such as Focus on the Family, 58 percent of Americans favored legalizing marijuana, according to a Gallup report this fall. A NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released this spring showed that 49 percent viewed tobacco as harmful, while 24 percent said the same of alcohol, 15 percent of sugar, and just 8 percent of marijuana, reported Schulzke.
"Shifting perception is quickly translating to youth drug usage in Colorado, which became ground zero for pot legalization in 2012 when the state voters chose to legalize and tax the drug," he writes. "The Office of National Drug Control Policy reported last year that one in four Boulder County high school students now use pot — more than three times the national average. And the numbers are shifting fast. In Adams County, a Denver suburb, high school marijuana use jumped from 21 percent in 2008 to 29 percent in 2012. Middle school pot use in Adams County jumped 50 percent during that period — from 5.7 to 8.5 percent."
FOTF, which is a non-profit organization founded in 1977 by psychologist James Dobson and based in Colorado Springs, says there are at least four good reasons to oppose the legalization of marijuana. "We also think it's important to issue a sober warning to those who are inclined to regard it as harmless recreation or a helpful form of medication," the group says on its website on the subject.
The reasons to oppose the legalization according to FOTF include first, the reality that illegality remains at the federal level and "people could end up in jail." Secondly, pot "contains 50 to 70 percent more cancer-provoking hydrocarbons. And pot-smokers tend to inhale deeply and hold their breath while smoking. As a result, long-term marijuana users, like their tobacco-puffing counterparts, are at higher risk than the general population not only for chronic lung disease but also for cancer of the upper respiratory tract and lungs."
Thirdly, the notion that marijuana is non-addictive is a myth, FOTF states. "It's true that marijuana-dependence expresses itself differently than alcohol dependence. Unfortunately, the dependence is every bit as real. There's a reason it's called 'the drug of apathy.' It impairs an individual's ability to make deep and meaningful attachments. It robs him of the ability to be intimate with other people. This promotes isolation, which feeds the need to smoke pot, which strains more relationships, which causes increased conflict in marriage or with co-workers and friends."
FOTF explains, "It's a vicious cycle. Heavy, long-term use of marijuana stunts emotional and social development. It kills motivation and prevents people from moving forward in their lives."
Fourth on its list, FOTF believes that marijuana truly is a "gateway drug."
"For adolescents and young adults alike it can become a gateway drug, introducing them to the harrowing world of illegal drugs and the criminals who produce and distribute them. A gateway drug also creates pathways in the brain that invite experimentation with harder street drugs or prescription medications. Studies have shown that 90 percent of those currently using hard addictive drugs like heroin started with marijuana," the organization states.
FOTF's current president, Jim Daly, believes that of all the problems associated with marijuana, however, the moral concerns might be the strongest.
"The Bible is very clear in warning against drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18)," Daly wrote on the subject when legalization first went into effect. "Granted, a person might drink a glass of wine at dinner and not become intoxicated, but what about marijuana? Isn't 'intoxication' the main point of using marijuana for recreational purposes?"
He continued, "As a father of two boys who'll have the legal right to try marijuana when they turn 21 here in the state of Colorado, all these things make me uneasy, but they don't make me disheartened. My responsibilities as a dad don't hinge on whether a particular drug is legal or illegal. My job remains the same: to raise young men who know and love God, to teach them to lean completely on Him, and to give them the tools to make wise decisions for life."