Amendment 64 task force can't make mountains out of marijuana molehills, advocate says

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Dr. Christian Thurstone, another member of the task force, definitely doesn't fall into the reformer category. He's long pointed to what he considers to be marijuana's dangers, particularly for young people. In a February 2010 Westword interview, he maintained that kids were becoming addicted to what they referred to as "their medicine." Here's an excerpt from that piece:
"In the scientific community, there's no debate about whether or not marijuana is an addictive substance," he says. "We know that marijuana triggers the same parts of the brain as all other addictive substances, like nicotine, cocaine and heroin. Probably about 2 percent of adolescents have an addiction to marijuana, and we know that dependence is not just psychological but physical -- and that it includes tolerance levels. Users have to smoke more and more to get the same effect, and there's a withdrawal syndrome that lasts one to two weeks with heavy users.

"My main concern is what this is doing to our kids, our youth," he continues. "And we know that when access to substances goes up, teenagers use them with more frequency. And we also know that when the perceived harmfulness of a substance goes down, teenagers use the substance more frequently -- which may be why we're seeing more teenagers coming in due to problems with marijuana abuse."

Adding to this problem, from Thurstone's perspective, is the increasingly popular view that marijuana is actually healthful.

"There's a medical marijuana dispensary going up in my neighborhood that's going to be called 5280 Wellness," he notes. "What does that communicate to our children? That marijuana is associated with wellness. But it's not a benign drug. It's associated with aggression as part of the withdrawal syndrome, as well as risky sexual behavior that can lead to STDs and teen pregnancies. And a study in Canada showed that 80 percent of people who reported using marijuana in the past year also reported driving within an hour after smoking -- so it's no doubt associated with impaired driving and increased accidents, too."

When asked about Thurstone, McAllister says, "The campaign and most marijuana advocates would tell you they're on the same page as Dr. Thurstone -- marijuana is not a drug for young people. And it's still illegal for anyone under 21. But the doctor has lost credibility in the past with his reiteration of things like the gateway theory.

"So the question is: Will he be part of a group that will use hypothetical and anecdotal concerns to try to stall the entire system? Because that's something we shouldn't allow. With all these issues, we should be asking ourselves, 'Will being overly protective shut the system down?' And the answer is, we should default to the will of the voters. We should go back to the fact that 55 percent of voters wanted this to be the case. So we need to adopt things that address these issues, but not use these concerns to stop us from implementing what the voters want."

Continue to see the members of the Amendment 64 task force.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts