Linda Chavez

My dad painted houses for a living. He was always on the job by 8 a.m. and stayed until it was too dark to work or the job was finished. The only people with similar work habits now seem to be immigrants -- who, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, use marijuana at less than half the rate of American-born adults.

But the real damage will be to Colorado's youth. Young brains are especially vulnerable to marijuana use, with studies showing that becoming drug-dependent is far more likely among people who start using marijuana in their teens. Drug-related school suspensions are a major problem in Colorado -- with more than 5,000 occurring in the last year for which there are records.

Colorado teens already use marijuana at higher rates than others, with Boulder teens using at three times the national rate. One in four Boulder teens currently uses pot, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and more than one-third have used it in the previous 30 days. Of those Colorado youth who are users, 11 percent use the drug daily. And kids are experimenting at younger and younger ages, with almost one in 10 middle school students in Adams County north of Denver admitting they used marijuana in the previous 30 days.

Colorado is already the butt of many a Rocky Mountain high joke, but the issue is a serious one. Marijuana legalization is likely to make Colorado a less desirable place to live, work, study and raise a family. But by the time Colorado voters figure that out, the damage already will have been done.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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