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Faith-Based Leaders and Community Activists Converge on State Capitol to Oppose Legalized Marijuana

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- California religious and community leaders, who have witnessed first hand the ravages of drugs on impressionable youth as well as the homeless, sick and mentally ill, gathered today at a press conference to speak out against legalizing marijuana sales and use in California.

More than 150 members of a faith-based coalition, representing numerous faiths and religious denominations, were joined by community activists and former drug addicts and dealers to dispel the myths perpetuated by a San Francisco legislator who they contend is bent on sending society down the wrong path with a misguided piece of legislation.

Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has introduced AB 390 to legalize marijuana sales and use in California as a cure to resolving the state budget woes and reducing the overcrowded prison population. Those from the religious community say the measure is full of mistruths and ill-gotten facts.

"I know from personal experience the devastation that occurs in one's life and community as a result of drug abuse that began with marijuana," said Bishop Ron Allen, founder and president of the International Faith Based Coalition (IFBC), one of two organizers of the press conference.

To understand the damage that will be done if marijuana is legalized and taxed, Californians need only to look at already legal drugs -- alcohol and tobacco. Taxes collected from these two substances (alcohol and tobacco) pale in comparison to the social and health care costs related to their widespread use.

Opponents of legalizing marijuana point out that in 2005, California spent $19.9 billion on substance abuse and addiction or $545.09 per capita on alcohol and tobacco. However, in comparison, the State collected only $1.4 billion dollars of tax revenue or $38.69 per capita on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products. The costs far exceeded the revenue and marijuana would likely follow a similar trend.

California State Senator George Runner, Jr. (R-Antelope Valley) noted, "Encouraging the public, particularly young people, to smoke marijuana in order to increase state revenue is reprehensible."

Consider these facts:

  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse states emphatically marijuana is addictive. According to the National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services (SAMHSA), each year, more teens enter treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illicit drugs combined.
  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which opposes the legalization of marijuana, any change in the legal status of marijuana, even if limited to adults, could affect the prevalence of use among adolescents. For example, tobacco and alcohol products, both legal for adults 18 and 21 years of age, are the psychoactive substances most widely abused by adolescents.
  • The AAP states the significant neuropharmacologic, cognitive, behavioral and somatic consequences of acute and long-term marijuana use are well known. Negative effects include those on short-term memory, concentration, attention span, motivation and problem solving, which clearly interfere with learning, adverse effects on coordination, judgment, reaction time and tracking ability. These effects contribute substantially to unintentional deaths and injuries among adolescents (particularly while driving) and negative health effects with repeated use similar to effects seen with smoking tobacco.
  • Drug policy in some foreign countries, particularly those in Europe, has gone through some dramatic changes toward greater liberalization with failed results. In the Netherlands, for example, after marijuana use became legal, consumption nearly tripled among 18-to-20 year-olds.
  • Marijuana is a gateway drug. Those in drug law enforcement say rarely do they meet heroin or cocaine addicts who did not start their drug use with marijuana. Scientific studies bear out their anecdotal findings. One study showed 62 percent of the adults who first tried marijuana before they were 15 were likely to go on to use cocaine.

John Redman, Executive Director of the Californians for Drug Free Youth (CADFY) said, "This is blood money, pure and simple." He pointed out, "We have a responsibility to protect our youth and communities from another carcinogenetic and addictive drug. The cost to future generations in terms of individual health, public safety and real dollars to pay for the health and social impacts will be enormous unless this ill-conceived legislation is stopped now."

Pastors, bishops, ministers, deacons, reverends and representatives of multiple religious faiths joined community activists and former drug addicts in filling the halls of California's State Capitol this morning to voice their opposition to legalizing marijuana. Sporting buttons saying "Seriously?" Christians, Muslims, Pentecostal members and non-denominational religious leaders attended the hearing and then marched around the Capitol.

Bishop Allen said those trying to legalize marijuana should take note. "We are organized and passionate. "Our more than 3,600 members around the world are committed to fighting the legalization of marijuana. We are a force to be reckoned with and we are building momentum."


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