As I have traveled the state I have been asked about my position on legalizing marijuana. While I am willing to work with the experts to assess whether we should consider the legalization of marijuana or its byproducts for medical uses, I do not support legalization for recreational use. My position in that regard is based upon the invaluable information that has been provided to me by folks in the fields of medicine, mental health treatment, addiction, counseling, education, and law enforcement. I have also spoken to fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers whose family members have suffered the consequences of heavy marijuana use. Having heard their stories I am more convinced than ever that legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use is not in Wyoming’s best interest.
The fact is that states that have legalized recreational marijuana use are paying a heavy price. Our neighbor to the south in Colorado legalized such use in 2012. We can now assess how this “experiment” has gone, with a number of alarming statistics that warrant Wyoming taking a longer “wait and see” approach. Schools in Colorado, for example, report a nearly 19% increase in marijuana suspensions. It only makes sense that if marijuana is legal, more young people will have access to it, and use it. In fact, marijuana use among teens in Colorado is 55% higher than the national average. That is a frightening thought as we look to our children as the future of Wyoming.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has reported that 69% of cannabis consumers have driven under the influence of marijuana at least once in the last year. Over one-quarter of the users – 27% — admit to driving high almost every day. It is no wonder that marijuana-related traffic deaths (with the driver being under the influence), more than doubled from 2013 to 2016.
In the state of Washington, nearly one in five daytime drivers may be under the influence of marijuana, up from less than one in 10 drivers prior to recreational retail sale of marijuana.
While some argue that marijuana could be the solution to our ever-growing opioid crisis, opioid-related overdose deaths actually increased in Colorado after legalization, not decreased.
These alarming facts and statistics are extensive. It is clear to me that it is not in Wyoming’s best interest to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes – it would be damaging to our families and our businesses. I am simply not willing to change our culture because “other states are doing it.”
A related question is addressed to the use of “medical marijuana” to treat a variety of ailments. I understand that there may be some evidence that using marijuana or its derivatives (i.e., CBD) may help ease the suffering of those with serious medical conditions. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved Epidiolex, a drug that uses CBD to treat epilepsy. I believe that as a state, we should look for solutions that allow for limited use of marijuana or its derivatives for medical reasons. I am committed, however, to avoiding the challenges and problems faced by states like Colorado and Washington. I intend to work with the experts in the field – medical professionals, educators, law enforcement personnel, counselors, and addictionologists to find common sense solutions to this situation.
Finally, I have been repeatedly been told that Wyoming could generate substantial tax revenue if only we were to legalize marijuana. I will make myself very clear: I do not believe in legalizing something that we know is bad for our citizens solely for the purpose of taxing it. I instead believe that legalizing a dangerous substance for taxation purposes demonstrates that you have a broken government.