As elections approach, people weigh in on medical marijuana

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COLUMBIA - MU students gathered Wednesday to learn more about the three different medical marijuana initiatives on the November ballot.

Opponents say marijuana is a gateway drug and legalizing it, even if just for medical use, will make it to easy for young people to get.

But, a veteran who uses medical marijuana to manage pain said just the opposite is true - that it can keep people from becoming addicted to opioids.

Retired U.S. Army Sergeant Joshua Lee had a one-year deployment to Afghanistan in 2010, and when he got back, he didn't have much hope.

He had been diagnosed with PTSD, fibromyalgia, arthritis and a litany of destroyed joints, from his neck to his ankles. Lee said by March of 2017, he was taking 27 pills a day.

"Opiates, muscle relaxers, compounded medications, pills to take pills to pills to counter the side affects of the side affects," he said.

Lee said all the medications wreaked havoc on his body.

"At 5'7'' I was up to 220 pounds and a size 40 and I was killing a bottle of 151 every night," he said. "Just to help manage the pain and depression and be able to function in even a minimalist manner."

But that same month, Lee said, his life changed when he went out to Colorado to try medical marijuana.

"I was able to be out in public for the first time in years and not experience stress and paranoia," he said. "I was able to sit in restaurants with my back to a door which was life altering by itself, trust me."

Joy Sweeny, the executive director of the council for Drug Free Youth, said she's worried legalizing medical marijuana would have unintended effects.

"The Council for Drug Free Youth feels that if marijuana is accessible, than more youth will have access to it."

According to Sweeny, its already happening.

"In the states where marijuana has become legal, more young people have used it," she said. "That's not just our feeling, that's based on the Rocky Mountain HIDTA report and other data that's available." 

Lee said he thinks people are focusing on the wrong issue.

"Anything can be an addiction, anything can be a gateway, but the real gateway, the first thing that people tend to get hooked on is caffeine," he said. "Cannabis has the same addiction rate of caffeine and caffeine is now being sold in high schools."

KOMU 8 News wants to know if you will support one or more of the November ballot measures on medical marijuana. Please take our Facebook poll.