DOSTAL: Legal Marijuana Offers Harmful, Empty Promises

Legal Marijuana Offers

Harmful, Empty Promises

By JULIE DOSTAL • Special to

This is not your parents’ weed.  Information and data from states that have legalized marijuana should give New Yorkers reason to pump the brakes on taxed, regulated recreational use.  Legalization of the 2020 version of cannabis is not about consenting adults discretely smoking a joint in the privacy of their home.

It is about an industry-driven, full-on commercialization with pot shops, pot advertisements, pot sponsorships, and pot fundraisers.  All of these to sell pot brownies, gummies, cookies, vapes, sodas, infused wines, distillates, concentrates, ointments, and vapes. If we legalize cannabis for recreational use, prepare to be inundated with highly concentrated cannabis products that do not remotely resemble the weed most readers might remember.

We as a community need to view legalization with eyes wide open.  This is about a billion dollar industry whose primary concern is NOT your health or the health of your children.  It is about dollar signs in an untapped market.  There are multiple promises that the industry and its advocates have touted related to the commercialization of the drug.  The public should know that nearly all of the industry’s public health promises have been disproven in the states that have legalized recreational use.

Examples include:

Promise: Youth use rates will go down

Reality: Youth rates of cannabis use are increasing

Promise: The black market will disappear

Reality: Black markets are thriving in legal states by selling street pot cheaper than taxed pot

Promise: Social justice issues will be resolved and fewer minorities will be arrested

Reality: Arrest rates for minorities are disproportionate in legal states and increasing

Promise: The cannabis supply will be safer

Reality: Commercialized cannabis, up to 99.9 percent THC, is a drug with far more harms than the 5 percent THC version of pre-legalization

Promise: Legal marijuana will make people safer

Reality: Marijuana-related traffic fatalities have increased significantly in legal states

Promise: People cannot become addicted to marijuana

Reality: Cannabis Use Disorder (Addiction) is an actual diagnosis

Promise: Legalized marijuana will reduce death from opioid overdose

Reality: This early assumption was disproven by a 2019 study.

Revenue projections are also not as promised.  None of the NY tax-bonanza predictions include the costs associated with police for increased traffic enforcement, hospitals for increased emergency room visits, government departments for increased oversight, poison control for increase calls for pediatric consumption, businesses for diminished job performance, or mental health for increased incidences of psychosis (all of these have occurred in legal states).  Those are not costs that will be borne by the billion dollar cannabis industry.  Those are costs that will land on tax payers.  In Colorado, tax payers spent $4 to mitigate the cannabis-related harm for every $1 gained in tax revenue.  But, those numbers don’t make national news.

Let’s pump the brakes, New York.  Our youth, our health, our traffic safety and our mental health are far more important than a questionable revenue stream.  We did the right thing last year with decriminalization.   The next step does not have to be opening the doors to a billion dollar industry whose entire job is to make stockholders happy.  Commercialization does not have to be inevitable.

Julie Dostal is executive director of The LEAF Council on Alcoholism & Addictions, Oneonta.

2 thoughts on “DOSTAL: Legal Marijuana Offers Harmful, Empty Promises

  1. John

    do you have any sources or facts to back up any of these claims? Terrible journalism right here.
    1. Higher THC levels do not make something less safe
    2. Car related accidents cannot be linked to marijuana. It remains in the system for up to 30 days, so if a blood sample was taken of a driver, it could be from that day or a week ago. No way to prove whether the accident is marijuana related.
    3. Marijuana, like biting your nails, can be habit forming. Anything can. But you do not get addicted, you do not go through withdrawal. It could be a great resource for alcoholics, and opiod users alike.

    Do not let your ignorance get in the way of progress.

  2. Julie D.

    John, I will happily exchange sources and facts with you! At the end of my note will a grouping of studies from which I pull my information. I ask the same of you:

    1-I would be interested to see the research that proves higher THC is no more harmful than at pre-legalization THC rates. Those findings would be different from the recent studies I have seen.
    2- Multiple legalized states show increases in marijuana-related auto fatalities. These are states who are betting on big revenue from cannabis. It would be in their best interest to report an adjustment to lower the number of marijuana fatalities if that were possible. If there are data where the numbers are adjusted after tox screens come back, I would love to see the before/after. I think it would informative.
    3- Biting nails is not a medical diagnosis. Marijuana Use Disorder is an actual medical diagnosis with a diagnosis code. Addiction treatment centers all over the U.S. have seen an increase in people who report addiction to marijuana. There is actual physical dependence as demonstrated by increased tolerance and an identifiable withdrawal syndrome. Have you seen studies that indicate that this diagnostic category is in error?

    Here are the studies that support my editorial view. I look forward to a robust and respectful conversation!

    Youth Use in Legal States:
    NSDUH. (2016-2017). National Survey on Drug Use and Health, SAMHSA,
    HHS, State Estimates.

    NSDUH. (2018). National Survey on Drug Use and Health, SAMHSA,
    HHS, State Estimates.

    Johnston, L. D., Miech, R. A., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., & Patrick, M. E. (2018). Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use 1975-2018. Overview, Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.

    Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. (2019).
    Colorado Healthy Kids Data. Retrieved February 2019, from https://www.

    Social Justice:
    Colorado Department of Public Safety. (2018). Impacts of Marijuana
    Legalization in Colorado: A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13-283. Division of Criminal Justice.

    Sabet, K., & Jones, W. (2019). Marijuana Legalization in the United States: A Social Injustice. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law & Public Affairs, 5(1), 15-23.

    DC Metropolitan Policy Department. (2018). Marijuana Arrest Data.
    Washington, District of Columbia. Retrieved February 2019, from

    Black Market:
    Oregon Secretary of State. (2019). Oregon’s Framework for Regulating
    Marijuana Should Be Strengthened to Better Mitigate Diversion Risk and
    Improve Laboratory Testing. Retrieved from

    Fuller, T. (2019, January 2). Now for the Hard Part: Getting Californians to Buy Legal Weed. New York Times. Retrieved February 2019, from

    Blood, M. R. (2019, January 10). California pot taxes lag as illegal market
    flourishes. Associate Press News. Retrieved February 2019, from https://

    Rocky Mountain HIDTA Strategic Intelligence Unit. (2018). The
    Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact Volume 5. Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHITDA). Retrieved February 2019, from

    Marcum, J. L., Chin, B., Anderson, N. J., & Bonauto, D. K. (2017). Self-
    Reported Work-Related Injury or Illness — Washington, 2011–2014. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

    Colorado Department of Transportation. (2017). Colorado Drugged
    Driving at a Glance. Retrieved February 2019, from

    Respiratory Illnesses Associated with Use of Vaping Products. (2019, December 26). Retrieved from

    Corum, J. (2019, October 1). Vaping Illness Tracker: 2,506 Cases and 54 Deaths. Retrieved January 8, 2020, from

    Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2017 Preliminary Data. (2018). Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2017 Preliminary Data. Retrieved from

    Cannabis and opioids
    T. L. Caputi, K. Humphreys, Medical marijuana users are more likely to use prescription drugs medically and nonmedically. J. Addict. Med. 12, 295–299 (2018).

    Shover, C. L., Davis, C. S., Gordon, S. C., & Humphreys, K. (2019, June 25). Association between medical cannabis laws and opioid overdose mortality has reversed over time. Retrieved from

    Olfson, M., Wall, M. M., Liu, S. M., & Blanco, C. (2017). Cannabis use and risk of prescription opioid use disorder in the United States. American Journal of Psychiatry, 175(1), 47-53.

    Salottolo, K., Peck, L., Tanner II, A., Carrick, M. M., Madayag, R., McGuire, E., & Bar-Or, D. (2018). The grass is not always greener: a multi-institutional pilot study of marijuana use and acute pain management following traumatic injury. Patient Safety in
    Surgery, 12(1), 16.

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