Drug counselors concerned with marijuana law passage
Washington's new marijuana law legalizes recreational pot use, sets up state-licensed growers and distributors, and raises concerns among members of the drug rehabilitation community.
Some drug counselors refer to marijuana as a gateway drug, and although many people who've smoked it before don't always turn to harder drugs, the majority of people on harder drugs started with marijuana.
"As far as the accessibility issue, we've opened up a legal can of worms," STOP Rehab Center program director Annie Murphey said.
As the program directory at the STOP Rehab Center, over the last seven years Murphey has heard stories of how people started using drugs.
"The potential for people causing more damage to themselves with a legal substance is definitely there," she said.
Now she's worried about the effects of making marijuana legal in Washington and the potential for people relapsing, becoming addicted, or driving intoxicated.
"Lets say you smoked right before you got in a car, or let's say you smoked two weeks ago because now it's legal. You're still going to come out positive," she said/
There are positives with the initiative passing in Washington for centers like STOP. The initiative states 15-percent of tax dollars after administrative costs would go to programs aimed at prevention or the reduction of substance-abuse.
"This has always been an understaffed field, underpaid field, and there's never enough money for people who really need treatment," Murphey said.
On the other hand, Murphey also worries the increased funding will be necessary for new clients who haven't started using drugs yet.
"Now that it's legal, there are going to be people using it that maybe hadn't used it before and those people need to be aware that yes it is an addictive substance," she said.
Proponents expect the legalization to raise $1.9 Billion over five years for the state in tax money, while others say that's only if the state is able to move forward without any interruption from the federal government.
© 2012 KXLY.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior permission.