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EDITORIAL: Experts want correction from Hickenlooper

By: The Gazette editorial board
March 16, 2017 Updated: March 16, 2017 at 10:29 pm
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One judge and a group of scientists from Harvard, the University of Colorado and other institutions want a correction from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

"We hope that you will clear the air and correct the record in your next media appearance," they wrote.

They objected to Hickenlooper's Feb. 26 appearance on "Meet the Press," in which the governor indicated he might vote for recreational pot legalization if it appeared on the ballot today.

"I'm getting close," Hickenlooper said. "...we didn't see a spike in teenage use. If anything it's come down in the last year. And we're getting anecdotal reports of less drug dealers. I mean, that's, to get rid of that black market..."

The medical professionals beg to differ. They told Hickenlooper his optimistic view about teen use is based on the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS), which "is not a reliable or representative indicator." It is so discredited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refuses to use it.

"Even taking HKCS into account, youth use has risen statewide since legalization..." they wrote. "The turning point occurred exactly when the state legalized pot. Additionally, swings in youth use per HKCS are quite large in some counties where pot shops are prevalent."

They explained how the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows Colorado "leads the nation among 12 to 17-year-olds in (A) last-year marijuana use, (B) last-month marijuana use, and (C) the percentage of people who try marijuana for the first time during that period ('first use')."

As for the black market, the professors cited an increase in organized crime filings from one in 2007 to 40 in 2015. They quoted law enforcers, including Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, attesting to a sharp increase in black market activity resulting from legalized pot.

"Moreover, the legalization of pot in Colorado appears to have opened the door for Mexican cartel operations in the heart of the United States," the professors wrote.

The letter was signed by:

  • Stuart Gitlow, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., executive director of the Annenberg Physician Training Program in Addictive Disease
  • Sharon Levy, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children's Hospital
  • Paula D. Riggs, M.D., M.A., director of the Division of Substance Dependence in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine
  • Hoover Adger, M.D., M.P.H., professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University
  • Sion Harris, Ph.D., CPH assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard University and co-director of the Boston Children's Hospital Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse
  • Judge Arthur L. Burnett Sr. (retired), executive director of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition
  • Christian Thurstone, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado
  • Howard C. Samuels, Psy.D., founder of The Hills Treatment Center
  • Roneet Lev, M.D., director of operations for Scripps Mercy Emergency Department

Hickenlooper governs the developed world's most liberal marijuana market. Other governors and world leaders hang on every word Hickenlooper says regarding legal pot. He should study the letter, written by experts in substance abuse, and consider the public correction they have politely asked for.

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