Whether you love it or hate it, it’s a fact that 29 states have some form of marijuana decriminalization or legalization, with more considering the possibility.

People have strong opinions about the legalization of marijuana — but how often are those opinions based on science and an understanding of evolving best practices? It’s high time we have a national conversation that is rational, science-based, and open minded around the many public health implications.

Substance use disorders, youth prevention, drugged driving, health effects, pesticides — the list is long, and these questions make it a complex process for states working to translate policy and legislation into reasonable regulation.

The marijuana industry has been dominated by commercial interests, and any national conference or gathering has been overshadowed by these market drivers. Is this how we want public policy to be determined: On the fly and pressured by interests more concerned about profit than public health and safety? Or do we want to invest the time and energy into research, thoughtful policy-making, and application of best practices as they evolve?

We think the latter, which is why we’ve organized the National Cannabis Summit, to be held Aug. 28-30, in Denver, as the first forum for states and stakeholders to gather and have a neutral, objective, and open conversation about the hard questions.

Speakers will include top experts on U.S. drug policy, officials from states in more advanced stages of implementing medical/recreational marijuana, and federal representation with a research focus. They bring knowledge of public health and safety, public policy, research, governance and science. The topics will focus on practical approaches to sorting through the challenges raised.

The hosting organizations — Advocates for Human Potential, Inc., National Council for Behavioral Health, and Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) Network — have no financial interest in the event and have ensured there will be no ties to industry. There is a fee to defray expenses because we don’t have that industry support.

These organizations have donated the time to create this event because we think it is critical that we establish a thoughtful national dialogue. This is a platform for you — the policymakers, state officials, public health and medical professionals: the stakeholders who have to implement new legislation — to listen, share experience, gain knowledge from others who have gone before, and bring back practical ideas to make it work.

Let’s stop pushing the mythology of marijuana and start focusing on research and science. Let’s stop making assumptions, jumping to conclusions, and firing off opinions not based in fact.

More research is needed and is key to making good policy decisions. So while we’re at it, let’s encourage the federal government to remove marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive category reserved for drugs with no medicinal value and high potential for abuse. This will make it easier for researchers to conduct studies and add to the body of knowledge that informs good public policy.

Neal Shifman is president and CEO of Advocates for Human Potential, Inc.

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