Pubdate: Tue, 25 Jan 2005
Source: Peoria Journal Star (IL)
Copyright: 2005sPeoria Journal Star
Author:  Jennifer Rigg


Elevated THC Levels Make Marijuana More Dangerous Than Before

PEORIA - The casual marijuana-smoking days the baby boomers once
enjoyed are long gone, a national drug expert will explain to a Peoria
audience today.

Dr. Andrea Barthwell, a former deputy director for the White House
Office of National Drug Control Policy, said today's young people are
suffering the consequences of smoking a much more addictive and
dangerous type of marijuana.

Barthwell hopes to inform parents and community members of these
dangers at a discussion at 9:30 a.m. today at White Oaks Center, 3400
New Leaf Lane.

In the 1970s and 80s, the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, was at
3.5 percent, Barthwell said. Today, the THC found in most marijuana
averages more than 7 percent. But specific growing techniques can
skyrocket the amount of THC to as high as 27 percent.

"The higher (the THC) gets, the more rapidly you deliver a large jolt
of the active ingredient to the brain," she said. "Today's marijuana
is much more powerful and much more addictive than it was a generation

As marijuana users develop a more regular pattern of use, they can
become increasingly dependent on the drug and actually go through
withdrawals if they attempt to quit, Barthwell said. Chronic users can
also experience changes in their brain activity that interfere with
their ability to form memories.

"Memories that you should be making while you're smoking aren't made,"
Barthwell said. "So marijuana intoxication selectively renders you
incapable of functioning on the basis of knowledge regarding your
personal life."

While she stresses that the risks and dangers of marijuana abuse are
critical, prevention is possible, and the key to it lies in the
education of parents.

"When (baby boomers) look at their children's use of marijuana, they
look at it through a lens of their own experience," Barthwell said.
"And that lens creates an ability to think that marijuana use maybe
isn't that harmful, but if you compound the fact that children are
using at a younger age when the brain is developing and they're using
a higher potency product, you can understand why we feel a need to
inform parents about the real risk."

Barthwell's discussion also will focus on the push for legalized
marijuana for medical uses, or the "decriminalization movement." This
movement is led by groups like the National Association for the Reform
of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Marijuana Policy Project, whose
campaign is targeting Illinois.

"They're using the medical marijuana issue as a wedge to create public
support to make marijuana legal for non-medical use," Barthwell said.
"They use the pain and suffering of patients and the natural
compassion that we as Americans feel to change the drug laws in this

"Legalizing (marijuana) as a drug will set the clock of modern
medicine back to a time when, as a young country, Americans were
exposed to a host of often benign and sometimes deadly medicine
'cure-alls' sold from the back of a horse-drawn cart."
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