September 23, 2012
Medical Marijuana Supporters, Opponents Using Science To Argue Their Cases
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
As voters in the states of Washington, Colorado and Oregon consider whether or not to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes, both supporters and opponents of the proposition are turning to scientific evidence in order to make their case, according to recently published media reports.
In Colorado, those opposing legalizing pot point to a study completed last month by researchers at Duke University and King's College London, Keith Coffman and Alex Dobuzinskis of Reuters wrote on Saturday.
In that study, the researchers followed 1,000 residents of New Zealand for multiple decades and determined that chronic use of the drug resulted in an average decrease of eight points in a person's IQ score.
However, Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol -- an organization working in favor of legalization efforts in Colorado -- countered by citing a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey which showed that the creation of a state agency to oversee medicinal use of the substance resulted in fewer teens illegally using the drug.
That CDC survey, Tvert told Reuters, saw the percentage of teen pot users in Colorado fall from 25% in 2009 to 22% in 2011, even though the national average increased during that time span. Opponents deny his claims, Coffman and Dobuzinskis said, stating that there is no evidence to support that assertion.
"The claim that legalization and tight regulation will mean that youth will use less is bogus, because we don't have the experiment," Rosalie Pacula, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, told Reuters, adding that legalizing the substance in Colorado would itself be like conducting such an experiment. "We don't know definitively that legalization will increase youth use. I can tell you from the research I've done, it supports such a conclusion."
"Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States," claim Coffman and Dobuzinskis. "Teens are increasingly turning to it, and last year pot overtook cigarettes in popularity with 6.6% of 12th-graders using it daily, according to the University of Michigan Monitoring the Future Survey."
Colorado, along with Washington and Oregon, will vote on the issue on November 6. If approved, the measures would permit the sale of pot to anyone over the age of 21 at specialized locations. To date, 17 states have approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, according to Reuters.