As a father of 4, a Washoe County native, and the chief law enforcement officer for Washoe County, I have deep concerns with ballot question 2, the legalization of marijuana’s recreational use.
I am not looking to lockup low-level marijuana possessors and I support using increasingly scarce tax dollars on treating substance abuse rather than convicting and jailing addicts who don’t commit other crimes. My administration is the first in Washoe County to fully support local drug rehabilitation efforts by staffing treatment and diversion courts having created a Specialty Court Team. Nevertheless, I take the strongest of stances against legalizing recreational marijuana because making it legal will increase community problems, not solve them.
Modern day marijuana is not what it once was. It has evolved resulting in alarmingly high potency levels. In the 60’s and 70’s, THC (the chemical responsible for its mind-altering effects) levels averaged around 1 percent. In the 80’s it was 4 percent. Now, there are potency levels in marijuana close to 30 percent. Even more ominous are edibles, such as candy and soda infused with THC which are very attractive and harmful to children, that can be as high as 95 percent pure THC. In short, the marijuana today is not what we or our parents ever grew up with.
Rather, it has become a very strong drug with magnified effects.
In the short period of time since Colorado decriminalized marijuana it has seen the percentage of traffic fatalities where the driver tested positive for THC nearly triple from 7.8 percent in 2008 to 19.3 percent in 2014.
Washington has seen similar concerning numbers since it decriminalized the drug. In 2015, 32.7 percent of all drivers stopped for DUI in Washington tested positive for THC. The findings of these studies reinforce what common sense dictates, the introduction of recreational marijuana to a community results in more impaired drivers on the roadways that we all must travel together.
Tragedies on our roadways are ever-present now, in the last two weeks alone Washoe County has had an alarming 5 separate traffic fatalities resulting in 8 people killed. These incidents are catastrophic to family and friends, and jolt our community. An example, an 8-month pregnant school teacher and her baby were killed in a head-on collision leaving behind a 2-year old daughter and a shattered husband and family; another, a local engaged couple was killed when their car was struck broadside by an impaired driver who ran a red light ending their dreams of a new family and life together.
These tragedies rightly evoke extreme sorrow, emptiness, anger, and strike fear in your very soul for loved ones who necessarily are on our roadways. Remember those emotions in November when you are presented with a yes or no on question 2. As a community, do we want to add a recreation that will increase these fatalities? The answer should be very simple.
Christopher J. Hicks is the 37th District Attorney for Washoe County. The Sparks Tribune welcomes op-ed pieces on a wide variety to community topics. You can submit them for consideration to Publisher Sherman Frederick at firstname.lastname@example.org.