Recently, the marijuana industry in America ran into a new nemesis: Surgeon General Jerome Adams. The surgeon General issued the first marijuana-specific advisory in decades, urging Americans to see through the Big Marijuana claim that the drug is safe.

The rush to legalize marijuana has gone too far, too fast. We must slow down. Our members of Congress, especially U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, should not allow a new backdoor effort to legalize marijuana federally to succeed.

Today’s pot is lightyears away from the 5% THC weed of Woodstock. Colorado-style commercialization has resulted in the creation of super-potent pot products that are almost pure THC — the mind-altering chemical that produces a high. The way the drug is being consumed is also largely different, with kid-friendly sodas, candy bars and lollipops replacing bongs and joints.

The science is sorely lacking in understanding how this new, super-strength marijuana affects the brain. From studies on much lower-strength dope, we know marijuana use can affect memory, learning, reduce IQ points and has been linked with severe mental illness. Recent research on higher potency marijuana found daily use of the substance is linked to a fivefold increase in psychosis. 

Kennedy recently introduced legislation to help combat the addiction epidemic our nation is facing, but he should be aware that some of his pro-marijuana industry colleagues are trying to ram through back-door federal legalization of this addictive drug under the radar. 

Very soon, the Senate Appropriations Committee will take up a must-pass funding bill. Senators friendly to Big Marijuana are expected to offer an amendment prohibiting Department of Justice funding from being used to enforce federal law against recreational marijuana facilities in “legal” states. Because the Food and Drug Administration uses DOJ resources to take enforcement action, the public health watchdog will be powerless to enforce basic oversight on the industry. 

Furthermore, we expect to see another amendment allowing the industry access to banks. Due to marijuana’s federal illegal status, the industry does not have access to banks and the industry has spent millions lobbying to change this. Why? Because it would open up immense investment, rapidly expanding the industry, allowing it to morph into the second coming of Big Tobacco overnight. 

As a member of this committee, Kennedy would best serve the public health of Louisiana by opposing these back-door maneuvers. With addiction sweeping out of control and the marijuana industry following the playbook of Big Tobacco, we cannot pour gasoline on the fire by granting such blatant giveaways to the industry. Please, senator, stand with the surgeon general and oppose these Big Marijuana giveaways. 

We are both Louisianans dedicated to assisting those struggling with substance abuse through a variety of nonprofits, including the Bridge House, Grace House, the Greater New Orleans Drug Demand Reduction Coalition, and Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Additionally, Gregory serves as CEO of the Transoceanic Development Co. and chairman of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

Gregory Rusovich

Suzanne Rusovich

civic activists

New Orleans