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Substance abuse coalition: Many reasons to opt out of recreational marijuana

updated: 11/6/2019 11:00 AM

To the editor: The Southern Illinois Substance Abuse Alliance is a community anti-drug coalition and has involved over 300 volunteers in Washington and Randolph Counties to prevent drug misuse by teens. In the past four years we have partnered with our schools to provide effective drug misuse prevention lessons. We are also encouraging parents to talk with their children about not using drugs.

The coalition has hosted parent education programs and shared information at community events in both counties. We have also recruited and involved over 50 high school student leaders to support prevention. These students give us much hope as they are energized and creative. The people, organizations and businesses of our communities give us even more hope as they are very active in our work.

We think and believe that legal retail marijuana is a major challenge. We applaud the leaders in Sparta and Steeleville who have opted out of retail marijuana and ask others to do the same.

The coalition has studied the issue carefully and has concluded that the demonstrated negatives outweigh the claimed benefits. It is not true that legal marijuana will provide local government with more money. According to Smart Approaches to Marijuana, for every $1 raised in revenue there will be $10 in costs for increased drugged driving fatalities, ER visits, workplace absenteeism and injuries, and addiction treatment services.

Other studies by SMART and the Centennial Institute indicate similar higher costs will occur in Illinois after retail marijuana becomes legal, just as they have in Colorado. Any additional tax revenue will be more than offset by these increased costs.

Allowing local retail marijuana will increase its access to kids and further normalize its use. In the past year teen marijuana use went up 10% in states that have legalized retail marijuana, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Opting out, even when a nearby community allows retail marijuana, fights normalization, decreases access to children, and will help prevent teen use of marijuana.

Marijuana is a harmful and addictive drug, according to the National Institutes of Drug Abuse. The companies who sell it (in most cases these are now tobacco companies) are not being truthful when they say it is harmless. At one time these same companies advertised that cigarettes were safe as well.

These companies have exponentially increased the addictive chemical in marijuana, THC, so that consumers become more easily addicted, enabling the companies to make more money. These higher THC levels lead to more addiction which leads to serious problems with relationships and work (SMART).

For every six teens who try marijuana one becomes addicted, and for every 10 adults who try marijuana, one becomes addicted (SAMHSA).

Local retail marijuana will be harmful to our communities, and the incidental costs associated with it will far exceed any tax revenue that is generated. We ask that you consider this information and support our efforts to opt out of local retail marijuana to help the Southern Illinois Substance Abuse Alliance prevent teen drug misuse.

Coalition Executive Committee: Principal Scott Beckley, Sparta; CEO Joann Emge, Sparta Community Hospital; Shea Haury, executive director, Human Service Center; Marc Kiehna, Randolph County commissioner; Carol Mulholland, marketing, Sparta Community Hospital; Pastor Mark Nebel, St. John's Lutheran Church, Red Bud and Superintendent Gabe Schwemmer, Sparta.

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