New assessment tool better illustrates marijuana risks

 SAN LUIS VALLEY— The controversy over marijuana and its effects on youth continue, but a new way of assessing the findings in recent studies and predicting the outcome of marijuana use on youths, especially those 12-17, makes it easier to apply those statistics to the population.
A predictive process known as risk management, introduced by the Army in the late 1980s and used by government agencies and contractors, provides all the tools necessary to conduct the assessment, even providing planning worksheets.
The plan could have been used to track black-market operations, combat them, trap them, marginalize them and eradicate them even before marijuana was legalized.
“Initial risk levels include historical lessons learned; intuitive analyses, experience, judgment, equipment characteristics and warnings; and environmental considerations,” Army manuals state. “Determine initial risk for each hazard by applying risk assessment matrix. Enter the risk level for each hazard.“Develop one or more controls for each hazard that will either eliminate the hazard or reduce the risk (probability and/or severity) of a hazardous incident. Specify who, what, where, why, when, and how for each control. Enter controls. Select the highest residual risk level and circle it. This becomes the overall mission or task risk level. The commander decides whether the controls are sufficient to accept the level of residual risk. If the risk is too great to continue the mission or task, the commander directs development of additional controls or modifies, changes, or rejects the COA.” (FM519)“Accept(ing) no unnecessary risk. Commanders compare and balance risks against mission expectations and accept risks only if the benefits outweigh the potential costs or losses. Commanders alone decide whether to accept the level of residual risk to accomplish the mission.
“Nothing is worth the cost of a life as the result of taking unnecessary risk. If an action will result in an unacceptable risk, measures should be taken to mitigate it. If the risk cannot be mitigated to an acceptable level, the action should not be executed. Circumstances may occur during mission execution when a decision to stop and defer execution of the operation should be made to avoid taking unwarranted risk” (FM100).
National Survey on Drug Use and Health
Using these standards, a private citizen familiar with the process recently demonstrated that legalization of marijuana constituted an “unacceptable risk,” according to the rules governing government models. The original table developed has been modified and evaluated by health officials using statistics from a 2017 study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health ( The revised table reflects the following findings:
• Page 13 of the survey shows fewer youths age 12 and older and those ages 18-25 are using marijuana, but among those users more are developing something knows as Marijuana Use Disorder (MUD). These percentages are slightly higher than the numbers for alcohol abuse disorder in the same age groups (page 21).
• Page 30 describes marijuana use disorder as occurring “when someone experiences clinically significant impairment caused by the recurrent use of marijuana, including health problems, persistent or increasing use, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.”
•  The studies show that 35-37 percent of those 12-17 are likely to develop MUD and 10 percent of the 18-25 age group will be diagnosed with the disorder.
The survey also links co-occurring mental health issues to marijuana use in all age groups. An article published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience relates that according to one recent study, even if young teens only use marijuana once or twice, it could change their brains and damage memory and learning centers (
Other studies have shown that thalidomide-like effects (missing limbs) could be attributed to cannabis use during pregnancy.

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