Pubdate: Mon, 11 Apr 2016
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Press Democrat
Author: Sal Rosano


There is a wise old adage which reads, "Be careful what you wish for, 
you may just get it." That message certainly applies to the proposed 
initiatives on the ballot later this year to legalize the use of 
recreational marijuana in California.

Voters in California passed Proposition 215 almost 20 years ago, and 
only recently has this state established a viable method for making 
this product available for those who have a legitimate medical need. 
Recreational use, however, is an entirely different matter.

Proponents have argued that smoking or ingesting marijuana is no more 
harmful than smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol. The health costs 
associated with smoking tobacco and the abuse of alcohol are well 
documented. We don't need to normalize another product likely to 
compound those health costs and create a variety of both known and 
unintended consequences.

Marijuana is a preparation of the cannabis plant that is intended for 
use as a psychoactive drug, the main ingredient of which is referred 
to as THC. When it's not being used to alleviate a medical condition, 
it is consumed to experience a mental and physical effect such as 
being "high" or "stoned," a general alteration of conscious perception.

Chronic marijuana use and the higher potency of today's marijuana 
correlate to greater incidence of psychosis and schizophrenia - and a 
host of other medical issues. Today's potency is substantially 
increased from what it was some years ago. Levels of THC, which were 
historically 3 percent, are now in the range of 9 percent to 25 
percent, a much more potent level of drug.

Given society's past experience with tobacco and alcohol, use among 
teenagers would increase substantially if it is legalized in 
California, with long-term consequences to mental and physical 
health. In some cases, health problems could result in permanent damage.

Evidence from Colorado and other states that have legalized this 
product indicate that edibles in the form of cookies, candy and a 
variety of packaged products attractive to children represent almost 
half of all the marijuana sold.

The emergency room at one of Denver's largest hospital has seen more 
people being admitted after consuming large quantities of edible 
marijuana in the form of these food products. Otherwise healthy young 
adults are showing up agitated, anxious and, in some cases, hallucinating.

There are more marijuana dispensaries in Denver, Colorado than 
Starbucks, McDonalds and 7-Elevens combined. Colorado also reports an 
increase in drugged driving.

California can expect to see increases in traffic collisions as a 
result of the legal use of marijuana. There is no standard 
measurement for determining what constitutes being under the 
influence of marijuana until after police observe behavior in the 
form of erratic driving or arrive at the scene of a collision.

In addition, each of the initiatives calling for legalizing 
recreational use in California includes the provision for home-grown 
marijuana plants, with the attendant problems of obnoxious odors if 
grown outdoors and restrictions regarding the number of plants 
permitted by each person in a residence. These are largely unenforceable.

None of the states which have legitimized the use of cannabis 
products has undertaken a study of the total societal costs 
associated with the widespread use of marijuana. But things such as 
increases in homelessness, use of pesticides, environmental 
degradation, businesses less concerned about health and more 
concerned about profits, continued black marketing of alternative 
drugs such as heroin and cocaine, gray marketing by those who ship 
the product to states where it is not available, increased emergency 
room admittances, more government regulation and oversight at 
significant cost and a host of other yet-to-be-identified 
consequences are to be expected. This is not what our society should 
be considering, particularly when we have the means to address the 
medical necessity, which has long been the focus for supporting marijuana use.

Better to give recently adopted legislation designed to manage 
medical marijuana a chance before embarking on what could be a 
disastrous experiment.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom