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Myers: Pot opponents help spread drug use

One of the messages baby boomers grew up with is that one of the worst ways to improve behavior is by lying about it. In the mid-1960s when LSD came on the scene, drug officials said it was just as dangerous as marijuana.

Given the fact that many of the 1960s young had smoked marijuana and knew how harmless it was, this supposed alarm went a long way in getting people to try LSD. As Consumers Union reported in 1972, “Official pronouncements repeatedly labeled marijuana, like LSD, a ‘hallucinogen,’ leading people to conclude that the effects were similar. The fact that many of the warnings against marijuana were patently false…helped destroy the credibility of LSD warnings from the same sources.”

Well, here we are again. Nevada has just gone through a campaign over whether marijuana should be legal and regulated, and falsehoods were employed freely, constantly, and nearly exclusively.

One newspaper editorial read, “And no matter how much pot enthusiasts argue otherwise, marijuana is both addictive—one in 10 people who try pot will become hooked on it.”

The key word here is “hooked.” It makes it sound like smokers cannot get off it. In fact, the INTENSITY of marijuana addiction is less than most substances and about equal to coffee. According to Scientific American, “in a large-scale survey published in 1994 epidemiologist James Anthony, then at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and his colleagues asked more than 8,000 people between the ages of 15 and 64 about their use of marijuana and other drugs. The researchers found that of those who had tried marijuana at least once, about 9 percent eventually fit a diagnosis of cannabis dependence. The corresponding figure for alcohol was 15 percent; for cocaine, 17 percent; for heroin, 23 percent; and for nicotine, 32 percent. So although marijuana may be addictive for some, 91 percent of those who try it do not get hooked. Further, marijuana is less addictive than many other legal and illegal drugs.”

A Reno letter to the editor read in part that since regulated marijuana came to Colorado, “the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s official tally on major crimes from 2014 to 2015 (the last year of available data), homicides are up 14.7 percent, rapes are up 10.6 percent, robberies are up 9.6 percent, motor vehicle theft us up 27.7 percent and the only crime category dropping was burglary, which was down .9 percent.”

What it neglected to mention is that this crime rise is happening in every state, not just the two with regulated marijuana – and that, as President Nixon’s commission on marijuana reported, “marijuana “was usually found to inhibit the expression of aggressive impulses. … In fact, only a small proportion of the marihuana users among any group of criminals or delinquents known to the authorities and appearing in study samples had ever been arrested or convicted for such violent crimes as murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault or armed robbery.”

One letter writer in Genoa claimed that Denver got no marijuana tax money for schools. It did.

Various people claimed that regulated marijuana would hurt Nevada tourism. In Colorado and Washington tourism has boomed: “22 percent of survey respondents said marijuana was ‘extremely influential’ in their decision to visit Colorado. Twenty percent said it was ‘very much influential’ ”

A prohibitionist propaganda outfit called Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area claimed that since regulated marijuana, Colorado teen marijuana use is higher than the national average. This is true. What it leaves out is that it is also lower than it was before regulated marijuana, and that youthful marijuana use in Colorado has declined steadily since it became legal.

Nevada lawyer Jim Hartman said regulated marijuana has “compromised the state’s workforce and caused large companies to hire workers from other states, as would-be employees fail pre-employment drug tests.” That was true BEFORE Colorado changed its marijuana laws.

Opponents of ballot Question Two this year have done a lot to discredit the case against drugs by spreading plenty of new falsehoods.

Thanks a bunch, folks.

Dennis Myers is an award-winning journalist who has reported on Nevada’s capital, government and politics for several decades. He has also served as Nevada’s chief deputy secretary of state.

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