Marijuana – The Old Arguments

Today, I will be picking apart an article recently published by Hartford Connecticut’s newspaper The Hartford Courant titled Other states show why legalizing marijuana is a bad idea. The article is written by Kevin Sabet. For those in the know (of which I wasn’t), yes, this guy.

When I looked over this article yesterday before work, I initially assumed it was just the musings of yet another localized health expert (Docter, police officer, guidance councillor). Just another expert who couldn’t be bothered to update their knowledge, yet still felt entitled to be taken seriously.

It’s a common sight in newspapers all over North America, particularly where conservative values reign supreme. As such, I was surprised to learn that this man is apparently known to be a leading voice in the anti-legalization discussion. To my eye, what I read certainly does not come across as something I would expect from such a prominent figure in a movement.

But my opinion of the speaker is irrelevant.

Before I proceed further, some clarification. I didn’t choose this article to bring harsh light to the author or the publisher. I chose it because it’s a fitting example of an increasingly common type of anti-marijuana legalization Op-eD showing up in local papers all over North America. The platform for this one happens to be a Connecticut newspaper, but you can find the same types of articles on the websites of many local newspapers and tv stations.

In his state of the state address on Wednesday, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said that “like it or not, legalized marijuana is a short drive away in Massachusetts and New York is soon to follow.” He followed up this statement by calling on the state legislature to have a commercial marijuana market in place by 2022.

The governor must be unaware of the dangers from today’s high potency marijuana. It’s a long ways away from the days of Woodstock weed.

Here, we come to the first reason for my previous critique of the author. This ain’t the weed that we were smokin in our dumb daze!

Okay, Boomer.

The man isn’t wrong. Over the course of the 5 or so decades in which marijuana has been a schedule 1 substance in the US of A, the potency has only increased. Interestingly enough, though, one can credit THAT change to the unregulated business racket that marijuana was allowed to become.

There never has been profitability in strains or products catered to the beginner to moderate user. The money is in the chronic long term users. Repeat smokers who will always be buying, as opposed to recreational weekend users when it’s time to party.

It does sound terrible. However, addiction is the driver of more than a few enormously profitable business models involving everything from fast food to mobile app development. There is a reason why many apps behave in a way that is akin to a casino slot machine.

I didn’t say that this was right. I am saying that this is how it is. If the marijuana industry is following this path, it’s hardly a trailblazer.

On account of this, the only type of marijuana that is available in most areas has been so-called Superweed. Or at the very least, strains that have pushed the THC content higher and higher while dropping the paranoia-equalizing CBD content close to (if not) zero.
The end result is an end product that can be WAY more than an inexperienced user is prepared for (I have such a story from my youth). And in the worst-case scenario, the possibility exists to trigger latent mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Can modern-day marijuana be a trigger to mental health problems?

The answer is a definite Yes. People making that claim are not wrong. HOWEVER, if you use this argument as a reason to keep marijuana prohibited, then I implore you to update your research JUST A LITTLE.

If you are not promoting education, you are not a crusader for mental health. Rather, you are a crusader for schizophrenia.

Gov. Lamont must also be unaware that Massachusetts’ marijuana regime is in shambles. More than 100 communities have banned pot shops in their neighborhoods, poison control centers report massive increases in marijuana exposure in children and emergency room visits related to marijuana have soared. All this, while tax revenues have been unremarkable.

Additionally, the black market is thriving while the industry regulatory board is quick to sweep concerns under the rug, as evident in the recent coverage of numerous cases of the vaping illness being tied to marijuana products purchased at Massachusetts dispensaries.

1.) Of those over 100 communities that banned pot shops, how many of those people based that decision on educated opinions?
 
I don’t know the answer to that question. I can guess who many of them may have read beforehand, though.
 
2.) When a substance becomes more common with a higher percentage of the population, it stands to reason that ALL side effects (including the negative) will increase. I’m sure cases of alcohol poisoning also spiked in the year following prohibition.
I’m also sure there was a pro-prohibition advocate back in the day that cited that statistic to back his argument.
 
Speaking of alcohol poisoning . . .
 
 
More related to my point of focus . . .
 
 
Our articles author makes an appearance in this piece, too. Check it out!
 
3.) One who is claiming to be on the side of human health REALLY should be careful about trotting out the tax revenue argument. If marijuana is BAD, then flat taxes on seemingly non-existent sales is not a bad thing.
 
Aside from that, how CAN you have a good tax base if many communities actively choose to only reap the negatives of marijuana legalization without the positives?
 
4.) Much like the entirety of the marijuana industry 15 or 20 years ago, the vaping industry was entirely unregulated until fairly recently. And much like the situation with the marijuana market, the consequences only became apparent when it was too late.
 
Indeed, a new generation had become addicted to a new form of nicotine delivery system in the span of 2 to 5 years. However, nothing grabs attention better than “vaping illness kills teen”. Add the word marijuana into the mix and . . . OH SHIT! WE GOT A PROBLEM!
 
Why weren’t these things regulated from the very beginning?!
 

What’s more, a comprehensive report on drug trafficking found that state-level legalization of marijuana has served as a boon for criminal gangs and cartels. They are using the cover of legalization to conduct massive growing operations. Furthermore, the report found that these illicit grows — that often occur on public lands — present a significant threat to local environments and natural resources.

No state presents a better example of the failure of legalization than California. Its marijuana industry, barely three years old, is facing extinction due to its failure to compete with the illicit market. Gov. Gavin Newsom has resorted to sending in the National Guard to combat extensive illegal growing operations. Worse, law enforcement found a foreign cartel running a trafficking organization out of suburban housing developments and utilizing indentured servants as workers.

 
When I look at this, I can’t help but think of the uneven playing field presented by differing gun laws all over the United States. If sales are well regulated in the upper half of the nation, but almost existent the further south you go, you know there will be spillover.

 

If marijuana is grown illegally in one county or state, is it staying there? Is most of it being sold locally? Or is it being exported to prohibition states to be sold at higher premiums?

The question of government intervention also comes into play. Not just law enforcement, but the entire licensing and regulation process in itself. Is the bureaucratic paranoia of marijuana knowledge ignorant politicians creating artificial barriers for the newly emerging market that are stifling overall growth?
 
I’ve seen it play out, again and again. Here in Canada, provincial governments that were ready to embrace the industry don’t face as much competition from the illegal players. Because given the choice of a nice storefront and a seedy apartment, what would you choose?
 
I’m sure that the bootleggers of alcohol didn’t vanish overnight once their market was eliminated.
 
If the threat of stronger underground markets and increased crime isn’t enough to convince lawmakers that marijuana commercialization is not the way forward for Connecticut, perhaps the potential loss of life will.
Here we go . . .
 

According to a report released last week from the American Automobile Association, drivers in Washington State involved in fatal car crashes who were under the influence of marijuana doubled after the state legalized the drug. The study also stated that about one in five drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2017 tested positive for marijuana, mirroring similar results out of Colorado.

Lawmakers should also consider the potential harms to the future generations of Connecticut.

First off, don’t drink OR smoke and drive. Period.
 
With that out of the way, was the marijuana the reason FOR the fatal accident? Or was it just a factor? Could I use the same data to announce to the world that caffeine or carbohydrates were found in the systems of drivers involved in fatal accidents?
 
Amounts matter. Consider alcohols 0.5 to 0.8 threshold.
 
And finally, we come to the “OBVIOUSLY!” aspect of this argument. When more of the overall population takes part in an activity, ALL side effects will increase!
 
Positive and negative.

A recent survey on youth drug use found marijuana vaping among high school seniors has more than doubled since 2017, and daily marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders rose significantly since 2018. While the rate of use and acceptance of marijuana has risen among our youth, the same metrics on other drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes have declined.

The reason for this shift is simple: the rhetoric surrounding marijuana legalization efforts have sent the message to our kids that use of the drug is safe. This could not be further from the truth.

1.) AGAIN, the situation with vaping should NOT be mistaken for the situation with marijuana, though they do overlap. The reason for the dramatic uptick in teen vaping was the FDA’s choice to drop the ball and fail to control the actions of a predatory industry BEFORE it got its hooks into young people.
 
Though anecdotal, I’ve been hearing the argument of vaping as a safer alternative to cigarettes being made FOR YEARS. And for years, there has never been a strong official opposing stance to this status quo.
To be fair, I’ve been hearing the same thing about marijuana for years as well. The big difference, however, is that claim is FAR from unchallenged. The resources and energy poured into enforcing prohibition alone is a loud and clear challenge.
Vaping only became an issue when the error of a chemist resulted in people ending up sick or dead.
 
This also brings to mind the clusterfuck that was bath salts / synthetic marijuana a few years back. Horrifficly toxic chemical creations that no one would DREAM of touching (and that there would be no market for!) if the much more benign vegan plant version had been on the market to begin with.
 
Actions have consequences. Though notably, almost never for the academics, doctors or other well-educated idiots of whom never seem to make the connection as to WHY these incredibly nasty alternative substances become so popular.
 
2.) The “Marijuana is completely safe!” mantra does exist amongst too many people, and it is annoying and unhelpful. However, the solution lies in education. And not fear-mongering, either.
 
In the context of the word safe, marijuana is like household bleach. Compared to many substances of a similar usage nature (marijuana vs harder drugs, bleach vs stronger solvents), each is benign enough to be thought of as safe.
However, this doesn’t mean you can drink a cup of household bleach without consequence. Just as marijuana use (excessive use, in this case) isn’t without consequence.
 
Most teenagers are not stupid. Assumption of anything less is just asking for problems later. If they conclude that nothing they are told is trustworthy, why would they keep listening?
 
3.) Another aspect of increased interest in marijuana likely also owes to the fact that we’re still in the novelty stage of legalization. Give it a few years and the numbers will likely mirror marijuana’s lower usage trending drug counterparts.
 
We are no longer dealing with the weed of Woodstock. Marijuana commercialization has resulted in the creation of a new, super strength substance that features THC levels of upwards of 99% in some of the infused candies, drinks, concentrates and vaping devices.

The potency has been going up for decades as it is. Good thing we’re all paying attention to details.

From research conducted on much lower potency marijuana, we know that marijuana use has significant links to serious mental health conditions — such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. Prolonged use in adolescents has also been shown to lower IQ and motor function and even result in higher odds of addiction to the drug. Speaking of addiction, marijuana addiction rates among teens in states that have “legalized” marijuana are 25% higher than in states that have not. And again, this is what we know about low potency marijuana. The data is far behind what is available in states that have legalized.

It’s almost like it would have been beneficial to have allowed studies on marijuana in the years before it would become a legal commodity. Who would have thunk it?

1.) Education is key. Ensure that EVERYONE (not just teenagers) knows the potential consequences of the marijuana products they are buying. Funny thing . . . that is a WHOLE lot easier accomplished in a legalized framework than in an untraceable underground framework.

2.) While the addiction rates among teens in states that have “legalized” marijuana are 25% higher than in states that have not could be explained away by the increased general usage trend and novelty, it’s still worth considering. That is, where exactly are they getting this age-restricted substance?

If it’s from adults furnishing them illegally, then fix that. If it’s from illegal sources, then that is another fix. Frankly, a balance between law enforcement reducing bureaucratic red tape on the legal industry.
If all other categories of intoxicant use are falling, then those same measures are obviously working.

Lawmakers in Hartford must now decide if they will aid Big Marijuana in its addiction-for-profit scheme or if they will stand with the multitude of health and safety organizations. The harmful consequences of marijuana commercialization are not worth less than one percent of a state budget. Let’s keep Connecticut healthy and productive.

Now THAT is hilarious!

Coming from a man who was head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for pretty much the entirety of the modern day opioid crisis, this is a joke.

Marijuana legalization is the future. The way to proactively work for the health and safety of the public (especially the children!) is to treat marijuana in the same way we treat everything else.

Be informed.

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