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Ron Nehring

Now that pot is “legal,” here are some tough questions for Californians

Now that “recreational pot” is “legal” in California, now is a good time to ask a few questions as we assess this change in policy and drug use climbs.

Will you feel safer driving on our roads and freeways while many more people are getting high each day in California, and some of them will be driving on the same roads?

With pot’s negative stigma falling away, will your children, or other children in your neighborhood be more, or less, likely to try pot? Will people under the age of 18 really have no access to “legal” pot?

Will there be more, or fewer, workplace accidents?

Will the cost of car insurance go up, or down, as the number of “driving while high” accidents rises?

Will it become more, or less, desirable to live in California as the number of people getting stoned each day climbs?

Every one of these questions is an important matter of public policy – and each one directly relates to every Californian regardless of whether one consumes pot or not. The decision of voters, at the misguided urging of people like Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, carries a heavy price tag downplayed or ignored by proponents of legalized marijuana.

Since many have taken to invoking science as the basis for their favored public policies on climate, let’s take a look at what science has to say about pot in three critical areas.

First, it’s not medicine. We already have a process for approving safe and effective drugs to the market – it’s called the Pure Food and Drug Act. Marijuana has never made is through this process because it fails the basic tests of a medical treatment. “Medical marijuana” is not science – it’s a political term for redefining pot as “medicine.”

Second, pot fundamentally alters brain development in its users who are under age 25. Every insurance statistician in America knows the human brain doesn’t finish developing until age 25 (at which point people start behaving more responsibly and accident rates drop). The serious mental health risks associated with people under age 25 using pot even “recreationally” is routinely downplayed by the burgeoning marijuana industry.

Finally, it’s not “just like alcohol.” There are five categories of psychoactive compounds, and we treat each such compound differently based upon its own characteristics and the impact of its use on the human body. While THC is perhaps the best known psychoactive compound in pot, marijuana contains many others, in unpredictable concentrations. THC and other compounds in pot impact the mind and body of the user in fundamentally different ways than alcohol.

The proponents of “legal” pot ignore both sound science and common sense in their pursuit of profits. An industry is growing in California, and that industry is financially vested in targeting young people and turning them into lifelong customers. The future victims will not only be those who fall victim to the marketing by becoming pot smokes, but by the rest of us who will face greater risks and costs of just living in a state where pot will be everywhere.

Ron Nehring was the 2014 Republican nominee for Lt. Governor and served as Chairman of the California Republican Party from 2007 to 2011.  For more information visit