OP-ED: Floridians should be wary of marijuana legalization

Special to the News Bulletin
Published: Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 04:10 AM.

In spite of the widespread effort to normalize marijuana, Montana knows firsthand the societal problems it can cause. In effect this crusade of acceptability has undone years of “zero tolerance” and the “drug free” campaign in our schools and communities.

Most legalizers agree that marijuana is dangerous for adolescents, and argue that it will still be illegal for them. But it’s those young adults the industry targets. They are the primary users, consuming the majority of illegal drugs and suffer the most from its long term consequences.

Montana passed an initiative to legalize marijuana for medical purpose.  The industry exploded and became a multi-million dollar operation. By 2011 Montana had the 6th highest rate of youth marijuana use in the country and the 4th highest rate of youth addiction.  

As a state legislator I was inundated with complaints from cities, towns, communities, law enforcement officials, treatment centers and schools about disruption, safety, crime, dropout rates, students stoned and apathetic toward school and life in general.  This new enterprise was making drugs so familiar and acceptable that it was changing Montana’s culture.  Montanans felt duped. Come to find out the initiative was promoted and paid for by the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization whose purpose is for the total legalization of the drug.

I heard of growers destroying neighborhoods, reducing the values of homes and the foul language, harassment, and stench of crowds at the dispensaries. Parents complained that kids could not play in their own yards. Multiple dispensaries set up near schools, targeting our youth.

Students wrote asking who was defending their rights to a safe, drug free school. They wanted their friends back. Major industries in Montana reported the inability to find job applicants who didn’t test positive for drugs.

Montana’s Chief of Narcotics testified, “The current situation is a public health and safety disaster as well as a law enforcement nightmare . . . and an embarrassment to Montana on a national level.” He said Montana was growing so much marijuana it had become a “source country” for illegal export of the drug. Organized crime moved in and one of the world’s largest outlaw motorcycle gangs was involved in running drugs to their east coast counterparts. Our surrounding states did not consider us good neighbors.

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