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Merit director airs concerns about marijuana

Before becoming a drug counselor in 1983 and serving as the executive director of Merit Resources for the past 20 years, Dave Wilson smoked marijuana daily between the ages of 16 and 23.

"In two years my GPA went from 4.0 to 0.75 because I was too stoned to go to school," Wilson said. "I have knowledge about marijuana not only from talking to researchers but of what it did to me."

Wilson shared that knowledge this morning, Wednesday, with the Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club.

Wilson was invited to speak as a counterpoint to a previous speaker at the club who advocated for the legalization of marijuana. Wilson opposes legalizing marijuana.

He noted there are 421 chemicals in marijuana and that the drug is addictive, contrary to the opinion of those who favor legalization.

He agreed with marijuana supporters that no one has ever died from overdosing on marijuana, but added, "Would you rather be mauled by a fast tiger or a slow moving bear?"

The idea, Wilson says, is that marijuana's harmful effects take place over time. He said the drug has four-times more carcinogenic than tobacco, yet marijuana users often think their drug of choise is harmless.

Further, he adds, those who use marijuana on a regular basis become lethargic and suffer amotivational syndrome. "Folks who smoke marijuana stop doing things, they do not get anywhere near their potential."

Wilson also refuted other claims by marijuana backers, noting the drug was banned back in 1914 along with other drugs like cocaine. He said the ban on marijuana had nothing to do with opposition from cotton or pharmaceutical companies, as backers of the drug contend.

Medicinal marijuana also came under fire, as Wilson said it is the only prescribed drug where it is left up to the user and the pharmacy to determine the quantity and frequency of usage.

As for its medicinal uses, Wilson says there are far better drugs than marijuana for relieving pain.

In addition, the cost to society is too high to legalize marijuana, Wilson noted. He described an instance in Wapato where a motorist stopped his car in the middle of a four-way intersection and was found passed out in his car, stoned on marijuana.

He said a pivotal case from 1987 took place when two railroad engineers were found to be stoned, confessed to smoking marijuana while on duty, and missed warning signals that led to a head-on collision with another train that resulted in 16 fatalities.

There is a social and personal cost to marijuana, Wilson added. He said the drug stays in the body for two weeks or more. That means use of the drug can still turn up on tests and traffic stops even though a person hadn't used for two weeks.

Wilson noted one case he saw in his work with clients where the drug stayed in a person's body for six months.

While pointing out that legalized marijuana would probably increase his drug counseling business at Merit Resources, Wilson said he is firmly against it.

"My presence as a member of my community outweighs my business," he said.

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