Legal pot will add to New Mexico's social ills - Albuquerque Journal

Legal pot will add to New Mexico’s social ills

Unless New Mexico’s political leaders come to their senses, recreational marijuana is going to be legal in our state. I realize I’m fighting a losing battle, so just a few thoughts before my side goes up in smoke – literally.

After decades of being in the majority of Americans opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana, of being in the mainstream, I’m now the rebel, the contrarian – the disheveled guy standing in some alley next to a dumpster south of UNM trying to convince people NOT to smoke pot.

I’ve argued in the past that our easing of attitudes toward illicit drug use is just going to produce generations of cognitively compromised peoples moving into our workforce and take us down the road to greater amounts of addiction to drugs worse than marijuana. We are already on our way. Oregon is decriminalizing use amounts of coke, meth, and other hard drugs – drug cartels everywhere are rejoicing.

Now that we have a few years of legalized pot behind us, the data is at best inconclusive in the harm-verses-benefit argument, although the impaired-driving data is pretty damning to the legalization argument. We can beat each other over the head with conflicting studies till the high wears off, so if 30% THC levels and marijuana strain names that appeal to kids such as “Lucky Charms” and “Cookie Monster” doesn’t convince you, then I’m going to pull the last arrow out of my anti-legalization quiver – age dependency ratios.

Briefly, age dependency ratios are the relationship between those of working age and those of non-working age. The higher the number, the more non-working citizens – the young and the old – are relying on the fewer productive citizens to sustain our economy, to create and innovate, basically to keep our country strong and resilient.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2009 to 2019 that ratio has increased from 63.4 to 66.1 and is estimated to be at 70.8 by 2029. Who cares? We all should. We are already going to be at a deficit with a productive workforce in the future without also losing those that find themselves getting addicted to the point of incapacitation. That incapacitation usually takes a family member or two out of the productive labor force as well.

You may not agree that greater availability of addictive drugs combined with a relaxed attitude toward their use will lead to greater addiction, but you’d be wrong. Any former addict, treatment professional or long-term narcotics officer can tell you permissiveness and availability is a recipe for addiction.

I’ve been on record that I don’t believe we should be locking people up simply for being addicts. We need to invest in greater availability of treatment and research into more effective methods. Still, it seems to me that a more compassionate and effective way to treat addiction is to keep people from becoming addicted in the first place. I’m advocating for public policy and humane consequences that emphasize that we as a society are not going to accept the ruin of a human life, and those who love them, through drug use.

The legalization of recreational marijuana is wrong for New Mexico. This is going to make some folks mad, but we haven’t earned it. Our state is a social-ills disaster, and the legalization of anything that is remotely bad for one’s health or economic status should be completely off the table. Cite the fairytale of a tax panacea and empty jail cells all you want; all legalization is going to do is disadvantage our kids who are already facing an uphill battle coming from a state with all its education and socio-economic problems. If you really care about the future of your children, tell your state legislators to vote no to legalized recreational marijuana.

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