Commentary: State isn't ready for the legalization of recreational pot

This commentary was submitted to the newspaper's Opinion page by a reader. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

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By Robert Hoel, Alexandria, MN

Our states’ legislators have set aside the reason that substances like marijuana (THC) are declared illegal by FDA. That is, their ability to cause harm outweighs benefits.

I offer this article that is current and readily available by Crean RD et al, "An Evidence Based Review of Acute and Long Term Effects of Cannabis on Executive Cognitive Functions." Peer reviewed articles like this have been critiqued and are publicly available at the NIH library. The authors discuss evidence of the negative impacts of Cannabis (THC) on executive brain functions, including driving skills, impaired reactions, and decision making.

Our legislators seems willing to risk innocent lives and futures especially within the young people teens to 30, which is the largest demographic of deaths and related driving under the influence infractions. To quote a European physician colleague’s observation, "America does poorly in prevention of driving under the influence of alcohol, so why legalize another drug that impairs driving?"

Alcohol related MVA deaths increased 8.3%, (42,338 people died in motor-vehicle crashes in 2020 compared to 39,107 in 2019) — National Safety Council statistics.  Impaired driving remains the #1 cause of death on our roadways  (MADD). There is no practical method to accurately test for driving under the influence (DUI) of Cannabis as it is retained in body fat for several weeks. There is not an established “safer” limit as with ethanol (0.08%). Minnesota law enforcement has come out against legalization, knowing obstacles for DUI enforcement with recreational marijuana. Our legislators need accept the fact that current DUI enforcement are not prepared to keep roadways sufficiently safe from THC impaired driving. We must see safety concerns expressed by law enforcement and our Minnesota Safety Council addressed first.


We need to stare into our Minnesota conscience, which feels sadness for lives impacted adversely by substance abuse disorders which have a direct correlation to family breakups, homelessness, and crimes outside of possession. Developing young teens and adults that use will face unachieved life potentials, linked with substance use disorders.

Our governor has said marijuana incarceration is unjust, but our Legislature could appease our collective conscience by reducing marijuana possession incarceration statewide without actual legalization. The motivation for tax revenues must first address investments in treatments of addictions, which is listed as cause #2 in contributing to those suffering homelessness. Our state’s leadership is not ready for the responsibly of the legalization of recreational pot.

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