By Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill
During the lull between legislative sessions, the marijuana lobby is preparing its next big push to legalize pot in Indiana.
These activists want you to believe their end goal is inevitable. The only question in their minds is how long they must wait for the rest of us backward Hoosiers (as they see us) to embrace their agenda.
Given national trends, one must concede that odds are tilting in favor of legalization. Some 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot for either recreational or “medicinal” use.
Those who understand marijuana’s dangers must speak the truth.
Marijuana is a harmful drug that poses long-term risks to health, safety, education and employment – especially among those who start young.
One in six adolescents who use marijuana becomes addicted, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Heavy users of marijuana report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental health, poorer physical health and more relationship problems than non-users, according to the same agency.
Multiple studies, such as one published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicate that regularly using marijuana worsens people’s memory – permanently.
Marijuana also hinders educational achievement.
Research shows that someone who uses marijuana by age 15 is 3.6 times less likely to graduate from high school, 2.3 times less likely to enroll in college and 3.7 times less likely to get a college degree.
Then there’s the matter of impaired driving.
The British Medical Journal reports that driving under the influence of marijuana is associated with a 92 percent increased risk of crash and a 110 percent increased risk of fatal crash.
In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration collects data from toxicology tests performed on drivers arrested for impairment, injured in crashes and killed in crashes. In all three categories, the most commonly detected illegal drug is marijuana.
Marijuana use is also linked to crime.
Eighty percent of men arrested for crimes in Sacramento in 2012 tested positive for at least one illegal drug. The most common was marijuana — found in 54 percent of the arrestees. As reported by McClatchy Newspapers, this data comes from former President Obama’s director of national drug-control policy.
Advocates of legalizing pot find it easy to dismiss all data contradicting their pro-weed mindset. Ignoring marijuana’s addictive properties, they focus exclusively on light and moderate users to generate “evidence” favorable to their agenda.
These activists often fall back on their old standby — arguing that legal products such as alcohol and tobacco also have adverse effects and yet enjoy wide acceptance.
So why should lawmakers discriminate against marijuana?
There are several reasons.
First, alcohol and tobacco became established as legal products over many centuries. We could not put those genies back in their bottles even if we wanted. We must fight the negative consequences of their abuse in ways other than prohibition. In discussing illegal substances, however, booze and tobacco are tossed into conversations simply as red herrings. We should not be so easily distracted.
Second, amid our current opioid crisis, Indiana leaders should work to curtail drug abuse rather than welcoming more of it. Legalizing a gateway drug such as marijuana leads vulnerable people to worse substances such as methamphetamine and heroin.
Finally — what about so-called “medicinal” marijuana?
A report from the Institute of Medicine concludes that “if there is any future for marijuana as a medicine, it lies in its isolated components, the cannabinoids and their synthetic derivatives.”
In fact, such medicines are already available. No one opposes them.
Simply legalizing “marijuana as medicine” is just a timid way of tiptoeing into waters that conscientious lawmakers know in their hearts should be avoided.
Here in Indiana, money-hungry profiteers are lining up with dollar signs in their eyes contemplating prospects of a legal marijuana market. Recent news stories named some of those eager to invest in legalized dope-dealing.
Let’s hope that day never comes.
Rather than follow the crowd – rather than even flirting with the folly of legalizing marijuana — Indiana lawmakers should stand firm in their resolve to keep our state on a better path.
Curtis Hill is Indiana’s 43rd attorney general.