I recently participated in a debate on “Florida Voter Forum” over whether Florida should legalize recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and over. My opponent, Michael Minardi, campaign manager for Regulate Florida, is leading the push to pass HB 467, which would legalize marijuana for all adults.
His argument is largely based on the belief that when adults are punished for using marijuana it can end up tearing the family apart because a parent is now in prison and can’t earn a living.
Yet I have parents coming to me all the time, saying, “Please don’t make my job as a parent harder by legalizing this stuff.” When parents have to try to convince their kids that something they see adults using is bad for them, it can be pretty hard to make the case against drugs and alcohol.
What research shows
Because what drives drug use? The perception that it’s safe, that it’s okay. The other thing that drives it is availability. It’s quite clear that having more marijuana available just encourages more use.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reported on one study showing that eighth-grade students from schools located within five miles of a medical marijuana dispensary were more likely to have recently used marijuana compared with those from schools located farther from dispensaries.
It also noted that legalizing marijuana led to increased availability for adolescents in many regions.
“There has been an increase in marijuana-related emergency and urgent care visits, for example, in the pediatric population in Washington State and Colorado since the commercialization of medical and recreational marijuana,” the AAP says.
What statistics show
According to a study from 2004 to 2011 by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), in states where marijuana was legalized, the probability of use increased 16 percent; the frequency of use rose from 12 percent to 17 percent, and the increase in abuse and dependence soared from 15 percent to 27 percent.
Here’s another frightening statistic: After Colorado legalized marijuana for adults in 2013, marijuana use in those ages 12 and up shot up from 26 percent to 61 percent higher than the national average, and traffic stops for driving while impaired with marijuana increased from 11 percent to 20 percent.
So the facts don’t support the supposed advantages of the proposed legislation.
I thank the Florida Voter Forum for giving me the opportunity to set the record straight on legalizing marijuana, and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch the debate for yourself. Then contact your representatives and ask them to vote against legalizing recreational marijuana in our state!
-Peggy Sapp, President & CEO