Is marijuana the next ‘Big Tobacco’?

Sycamores start a conversation about recreational marijuana use with an activist and medical professional studying Colorado’s groundbreaking legislation.

One by one, states are legalizing recreational marijuana usage. Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use for adults older than 21 since 2012.

Science is not subjective, said drug researcher Ben Cort.

“Contrary to common belief, marijuana is addictive. Estimates from research suggest that about 9 percent of users become addicted to marijuana; this number increases among those who start young (about 17 percent) and among those who use marijuana daily (25-50 percent),” as stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is not subjective, Cort added. THC is the property within marijuana that gets the user “high.” The potency within marijuana is what is changing the market.

Hundreds of students, staff and faculty filled Tilson Auditorium recently to spend the evening with Cort, an activist and medical professional studying Colorado’s groundbreaking marijuana legislation.

A recovering addict since 1996, Cort came to Indiana State to start a conversation about the real-life consequences of legalizing marijuana.

It’s common for companies compete with different marketing strategies to sell their product. With more than 700 individually owned dispensaries across Colorado, marijuana companies are also working to differentiate themselves to get more business. This free market in Colorado has altered the audience of their ads.

Similar to start of the commercialization of tobacco, marijuana companies are now marketing to children, Cort said. Cartoon characters such as Cookie Monster and Santa Claus with a big bag of marijuana on his sleigh are the modern equivalent to cigarette companies’ now outlawed Joe Camel and the like.

The commercialization of marijuana is changing both the culture of the drug as well as its chemical components. The culture of marijuana is becoming as complex as tobacco was several years ago; the only major difference is that there are only major studies now surfacing regarding the negative consequences of marijuana, Cort said.

Hosted by the Hamilton Center, State’s Student Health Promotion and Employee Wellness offices, Cort spoke freely about his personal and professional experience with marijuana as well as what is actually happening in Colorado. The event was made possible by through a grant from Indiana Collegiate Action Network.

Janet Weatherly, the associate director of Student Health Promotion at Indiana State, was in charge of bringing Cort to campus with the help of Ken Chew, director of the university’s Student Counseling Center.

As the director of professional relations for the Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado Hospital, Cort has years of experience specializing in the treatment of co-occurring disorders such as mental health and addiction.

Cort is a board member for a project called Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a junior fellow at the University of Florida’s Drug Policy Institute, as well as serves on the board of directors for Denver-based Stout Street Foundation.

The goal of Smart Approaches to Marijuana is to inform public policy, have honest conversations about the life long consequences, attempt to prevent the establishment of Big Marijuana and to promote the research of marijuana’s medical properties.

“The values of the flower children are being replaced by the values of Wall Street,” said Kevin Sabet, co-founder of SAM during the Aspen Ideas Festival, in 2014.

Cort is currently writing a book about his perspective as a recovering addict, a dad and medical professional. He hopes to finish the manuscript this spring.

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