Pubdate: Tue, 18 Aug 2015
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2015 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Jamie Comstock
Note: Jamie Comstock is health promotion manager for Bangor Public 
Health and Community Services.


By Jamie Comstock, Special to the BDN Posted Aug. 17, 2015, at 8:50 p.m.

Let's break down some myths about marijuana:

Myth 1: Marijuana use is harmless. Today's marijuana is far more 
potent than the plant of the past.

New strains are being crossbred to produce higher levels of 
tetrahydrocannabinol "" the chemical responsible for marijuana's 
effects "" than ever before, with some reaching 20 to 30 percent THC 
(as compared with the average 1 percent THC in the 1970s).

We don't yet know the full extent to which increased levels of THC 
will affect the brain and the body. However, the National Institute 
on Drug Abuse cautions that it could lead to higher rates of 
addiction and adverse health consequences.

Additionally, since the big boom of the marijuana industry, states 
with recreational legalization laws have seen increases in 
marijuana-related emergency room visits, child poisonings from 
edibles, and fatal car crashes involving drivers who tested positive 
for the drug.

Marijuana has been proven to harm motivation, learning and attention. 
Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to these outcomes.

Regular marijuana use is also linked to increased high school dropout 
rates, unemployment, low productivity and poor job performance. 
Frequent users also self-report a lower quality of life.

Myth 2: Smoked marijuana is medicine. Some research indicates that 
marijuana's components may have medicinal benefits. But raw marijuana 
in crude form is not a medicine. Just as we do not smoke opium or 
inject heroin to receive the benefit of morphine, we should not smoke 
marijuana for the potential benefit of its components.

Further there is no consistent or reliable dosage of marijuana in 
this form, and medical marijuana is being dispensed outside the 
health care system. Essentially patients have no assurances about 
what they are receiving, and no opportunity to discuss potential drug 
interactions with health care providers such as pharmacists.

It's clear that medical marijuana laws have gotten ahead of the 
science. Patients deserve a rigorous scientific testing process that 
ensures the safest delivery method for any helpful components in marijuana.

The Obama administration recently eliminated one of the barriers to 
doing this kind of research by doing away with the 1999 Public Health 
Service research review. This opens the door to further testing and 
more data about the potential risks and benefits of marijuana's 
components as medicine.

Additionally, some marijuana-based medicines are already on the 
market, including Marinol, which contains lab-made THC. Other 
medications such as Savitex and Epidiolex are in the development process.

Myth 3: Legalizing marijuana will empty our jails. Marijuana is 
already largely decriminalized in the state of Maine, which means 
there is no arrest or prison time for the possession of a small 
amount of marijuana for personal use. Our jails are not filled with 
marijuana-possession offenders.

In fact, Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton recently stated there 
are no prisoners in the Penobscot County Jail for simple marijuana possession.

It's a myth that countless Maine people are behind bars for 
possessing marijuana and that we could sharply reduce our criminal 
justice costs by legalizing the drug.

In the U.S., in fact, only 0.1 percent of state prisoners are 
marijuana possession offenders with no prior sentences, according to 
the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Myth 4: Most residents of Colorado view marijuana sales favorably. 
Several polls have shown a fairly even split between Colorado voters 
who still support the state's marijuana laws and those who don't.

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 58 percent of Colorado's voters 
said they supported it, slightly more than the 55 percent who 
approved it in 2012. However what's missing is that as of January 
2015, 71 percent of local jurisdictions had banned medical or 
recreational marijuana businesses within their borders.

One might ask why most municipalities are saying "oenot in my town" 
if so many Coloradans favor the current law.

Myth 5: Choices about marijuana policy are "'all or nothing.' Some 
might think there are only two choices when it comes to marijuana: 
legalization and prohibition. The truth is there are many options 
when it comes to marijuana policy reform.

Smart marijuana policy would focus on the public health, safety and 
quality of life for all, rather than what would primarily benefit the 
marijuana industry. Maine could, for instance, seal records for 
non-violent marijuana possession offenses, to protect future job 
prospects and financial aid for education.

All or nothing is a false choice. Mainers have a right to be wary of 
people who try to rush them into making a decision.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom