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Publisher’s View: Recreational marijuana risks warrant greater caution

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Rob Martinelli
President
Today Media Inc.

By Rob Martinelli

I have never bought into the argument that something is OK just because everyone else is doing it. 

Thirty-five states including Delaware have now approved medical-marijuana use, but less than half (including Washington, D.C.) have approved recreational use. I believe the Delaware legislature is not looking closely enough at the harmful side effects of Delaware House Bill 150 (HB150) that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.  

State Auditor Kathy McGuiness released a report in January that said Delaware could realize more than $43 million in annual tax revenue from the regulation and taxation of legal marijuana, assuming a 20% tax on $215 million in estimated retail sales. The Delaware bill would only impose a 15% sales tax.

The report also argued that the black market would be suppressed. But there is no real evidence that legalization at the state level reduces the illicit/black markets, particularly in states that implement some sort of tax. For example, California’s legal market generates about $4 billion in annual sales while its illegal market (which includes nationwide distribution) does about an estimated $10 billion, according to a recent story in Forbes magazine. With the possibility of the black market growing and the lower tax than was used in the McGuiness report, it’s likely the revenue from legal marijuana will be much lower than expected.

There is a difference between marijuana decriminalization and efforts to legalize cannabis consumption. There are social-justice reasons in favor of the first, but I agree with employers who are concerned about the second here in Delaware.

Gov. John Carney is on record supporting decriminalization and expanding Delaware’s medical marijuana program, but he remains concerned about legalizing recreational use.

As currently written, HB150 does allow employers to restrict the use of cannabis while at work, but it doesn’t include language on prohibiting its use after work hours. Business leaders understandably want to ensure they can enforce their current zero-tolerance policies on impairment, particularly if remote working remains in place.

This seems to be a time when Delaware’s well-deserved reputation for watching what other states do before acting is the correct strategy.

In Maryland, for example, lawmakers recently gave up on the effort to legalize recreational marijuana until 2022 because, as the sponsor put it, they “didn’t want to jam out a bill that would have problems immediately. We really wanted to get it right using best practices from other states.”

Delaware shouldn’t rush to pass recreational marijuana laws out of fear that people will go out of state to buy pot or because a majority of Delawareans say they support legalization when the federal government continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

In total, 19 states and the District of Columbia now have laws restricting employers’ ability to take marijuana usage into account when making employment decisions. State laws vary widely both in how extensively they limit employers’ actions, as well as in the number and types of exceptions they allow.

The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce has asked lawmakers to ensure that employers can regulate marijuana use in the same way that some Delaware companies can prohibit tobacco use for safety reasons, regardless of whether the employee is at work or at home. The state chamber also wants liability protection for employers as well as a spot test that can measure impairment before lawmakers consider passing HB150. I believe all those are good ideas so long as we consider the challenges of testing in a remote world.

Business owners’ liability concerns should be taken into greater account than the percentage of people who support legalization, and there are other open questions that need to be addressed.

In addition to the growth of the black market after legalization in some states, we need to be concerned about possible increased access to marijuana by adolescents if people 21 or older can buy it. According to a new analysis of federal data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers found that within a year of first trying marijuana, 11% of adolescents had become addicted to it, compared to 6.4% of young adults. Even more striking was that within three years of first trying the drug, 20% of adolescents became dependent on it, almost double the number of young adults.

In the state of Washington which was one of the first states to legalize recreational use, perceived harm from cannabis fell and usage increased significantly for both eighth and 10th graders compared to non-legalized states. Do we really want this for our kids?  

HB150 should not be passed just to keep pace with neighboring states or because a majority of our residents think it should be.


Rob Martinelli is the president and CEO of Today Media, the parent company of Delaware Business Times.


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5 Comments

  1. Brian Kelly April 21, 2021

    Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Nationwide!

    Don’t be fooled by marijuana “decriminalization” because citizens are still going to be treated like common criminals for marijuana under it. This is what desperate anti-marijuana prohibitionist types will now settle for.

    Police will confiscate your “illegally purchased” marijuana under so-called “decriminization”.

    They also fail to mention the additional huge cost of court costs which can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars on top of the relatively small ticket/fine.

    If you fail to pay these very expensive and often unaffordable court costs you will be in “the system” as a criminal. With a warrant out for your arrest and incarceration.

    This policy still allows marijuana to be used as a tool and probable cause by law enforcement to investigate marijuana consumers for no other reason other than even the detection of the scent of marijuana by law enforcement and they will confiscate your marijuana.

    Overall, decriminalization through it’s hidden, super expensive court costs and mandatory summons to appear in court, combined with the allowance of marijuana to still be used by law enforcement as a tool and probable cause still allows marijuana to be an ordinary. otherwise law abiding citizen’s introduction into the criminal justice system.

    No thanks! If this so called policy of marijuana “decriminalization” truly means marijuana is no longer supposed to be a “crime”, then why are marijuana consumers still going to be treated like criminals under it?

    Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws as the drinkers of alcohol. Plain and simple!

    Citizens will STILL be forced to the dangerous black market and a shady illegal street drug dealer to purchase their marijuana. Getting caught buying it is STILL a crime they will arrest and jail you for. Then, they will also most likely try to FORCE you to either mandatory community service and/or rehab, and if you don’t comply, guess what? JAILTIME!

    Also, we will still be wasting our tax dollars sending police around to write summons to marijuana users and wasting police manpower and resources.

    Instead of allowing our police the time, manpower and resources to protect us all from real, dangerous criminals who actually commit crimes with victims and pose a real threat to society.

    Why else do you think some politicians are so EAGER to “decriminalize”, instead of LEGALIZE?

    Don’t Let’em Fool Us!!!

    If you can’t purchase it legally and police will confiscate it, then it isn’t legal.

    If you have to fear a monetary fine/ticket which if you don’t pay and/or show up in court to handle, you then become a criminal with a warrant out for your arrest, and when convicted (yes convicted, as in crime.) you will then be forced into free manual labor and/or forced drug rehabilitation to be used as another statistic prohibitionists love to flaunt about supposed “marijuana addicts”, then….No, it’s not legal!

    This will not suffice! Getting caught purchasing marijuana is still considered a serious “drug deal” and you will be prosecuted for it!

    DEMAND FULL MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION NATIONWIDE!

    Reply
    1. Brian Kelly April 21, 2021

      Infinitely more workers end up impaired at work, calling out of work or in a stupor because of alcohol than marijuana.

      Why doesn’t alcohol concern you much more than relatively benign marijuana? It should.

      Legalizing Marijuana will not create a massive influx of marijuana impaired employees in our workplaces.

      It will not create a huge influx of professionals (doctors, pilots, bus drivers, etc..) under the influence on the job either.

      This is a prohibitionist propaganda scare tactic.

      Truth: Responsible workers don’t go to work while impaired on any substance period!

      Irresponsible employees already share our workplaces, and they will work while impaired regardless of their drug of choice’s legality.

      Therefore, legalizing marijuana will have little to zero impact on the amount of marijuana impaired employees in our workplaces.

      Responsible people do not go to work impaired, period. Regardless of their drug of choice’s legality.

      Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All American pastime, booze.

      Equal rights and protections as alcohol drinkers in our workplaces and everywhere else.

      Plain and simple!

      Legalize Marijuana Nationwide!

      Reply
    2. Brian Kelly April 21, 2021

      Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

      Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of marijuana legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

      The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

      If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

      Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

      Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and/or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

      Reply
    3. Brian Kelly April 21, 2021

      There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize marijuana nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

      The prohibitionist view on marijuana is the viewpoint of a minority and rapidly shrinking percentage of Americans. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda.

      Each and every tired old lie they have propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

      Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The vast majority of Americans have seen through the sham of marijuana prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

      With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for a marijuana prohibitionist to do?

      Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think, and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

      Legalize Nationwide!…and Support All Marijuana Legalization Efforts!

      Reply
  2. Caitlin April 28, 2021

    I’m sorry but this is ridiculous. It’s based in antiquated “Reefer Madness” ideas that show that the author doesn’t really know how marijuana works or its impact on users. Pushing ideas that marijuana makes it so you are not a functioning employee or citizen are so outdated and not based in any sort of fact.

    The parts about your employer dictating what you do when you are not on the clock, in your own home is absurd. I am an employee 8 hours a day, being an employee is not my entire identity and I should have some level of autonomy, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone.

    Finally, regarding the stats about addiction and dependence…again absurd. What is their definition of “addiction” and “dependence”? Are there reputable stats and research coming from an organization who does not stand to monetarily gain from criminalization?

    These ideas about all marijuana users being losers or criminals or cretins in a basement is based on That 70s Show and something Nancy Reagan told you all in an age before home computers, not reality.

    Reply

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