Pubdate: Wed, 08 Jun 2016
Source: El Dorado News-Times (AR)
Copyright: 2016, El Dorado News-Times
Author: Jessica Stevens


Tremendous Opportunities for Union County Health

EL DORADO - Benton Police Capt. Kevin Russell told the audience at 
Tuesday's TOUCH Coalition meeting that the hazards of legalized 
marijuana outweigh the pro-ported benefits.

"I became involved in this issue about five years ago and have 
studied it extensively," said Russell, a 17-year veteran of Arkansas 
law enforcement.

A recent FBI Academy graduate and member of the Benton Police 
Department, Russell has made it his mission to inform and educate 
Arkansans on the effects seen in states following the legalization of 
marijuana on their youth and communities.

During the TOUCH Coalition's June meeting at College Avenue Church of 
Christ, Russell worked to dispel common myths that are currently 
being promoted by supporters of marijuana legalization.

These myths ranged from the drug being harmless and its ability to 
cure over 700 ailments to its legalization causing a decrease in 
crime and usage as well as the increased tax revenue that the economy 
will see from legal sales. Extensive research in Colorado, 
Washington, and Oregon have given Russell an in-depth look at both 
sides of the ongoing debate.

In regards to the medical benefits of marijuana, Russell said that 
the myth that the drug has the ability to cure over 700 ailments is 
false. He did confirm that there are certain medical conditions that 
it has been proven to prove beneficial such as for cancer patients 
and childhood epilepsy.

"But so do other drugs, like opiods, but you don't have to smoke it 
to get the effects," he said. "The CBD [Cannabidiol] oil has been 
used with a lot of success for the treatment of childhood epilepsy 
more so than artisan oil. Artisan oils have been found to be 
contaminated with fertilizers and pesticides, some of which have been 
banned in the United States." He also clarified the common 
misconception of medical marijuana users receiving prescriptions for 
the drug. "It's actually just a note they receive that they take to 
the dispensaries," said Russell.

There are currently more dispensaries or marijuana pharmacies in 
Colorado than Starbucks or McDonald's, Russell said, in an attempt to 
drive home the vast availability of the drug in the state.

The note needed for an individual to obtain medical marijuana can be 
for something as simple as severe, unknown pain. "Some are for tennis 
elbow or skateboarder's knee," he said.

Russell described the average user according to the studies are white 
males under the age of 35. Another common belief is that marijuana is 
beneficial to those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. 
According to Russell, current ongoing studies have shown to the 
contrary that it might actually make the symptoms of PTSD worse. The 
DEA has recently authorized 300 research grants to test this and 
other treatments said Russell.

Honey oil, or what is more commonly referred to as "dabs" is growing 
in popularity while also causing increasing concern due to its very 
high concentration of THC and the severe effects its use can have on the user.

Honey oil is created by using a butane torch to extract the oil from 
the plant which results in a concentrated liquid that can be anywhere 
from 80 to 90 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

According to Russell, the problem is only becoming worse due to the 
cross breeding of plants in order to obtain plants with higher 
content making it more potent. Another trending problem with this 
form is the explosion of the labs used to make the oil.

In 2014, 32 butane labs reportedly exploded in Colorado said Russell. 
He continued to say that homes found with these labs often have to be 
gutted and remodeled in order to make them livable again, similar to 
what happens with homes that contained meth labs.

Possibly one of the gravest concerns with the legalization of 
marijuana is its negative effects on youth. Russell said that 
emergency room admissions for children have doubled in the states 
with legal marijuana due to the ingestion of THC-infused edibles that 
bear similar packaging to common candy and snacks children frequently eat.

He said that Kellogg's had to file a cease and desist order for the 
spin on their popular product, Pop Tarts, which was called "Pot 
Tarts." To reinforce just how similar these products can be, Russell 
displayed a Power Point slide displaying two groups of gummy bears- 
one regular and the other THC infused. When no one in the audience 
could tell the difference he said, "Well, neither can the kids."

Russell touched on various other issues including the newest fad of 
"co-mingling" tobacco and marijuana which is said to cause a more 
intense high and frequently causes seizures when used. Another 
concerning point is that employers in Colorado have stated that they 
are being forced to find workers from surrounding states due to the 
lack of qualified employees who are able to pass a drug screening.

In more drastic cases, employers have had to relocate out of state 
due to this issue, according to Russell.

He played a candid video of Michael Lynch, a high school principal in 
Colorado, who spoke on the effects the legalization of marijuana has 
had on the youth in his school.

"What is concerning for us as a school not only have we seen an 
increase in the students coming to school under the influence but 
we've also seen an increase in repeat offenders," said Lynch. Drug 
violations and suspensions of children in school have skyrocketed 
since legalization said Russell.

Recent studies on toxicology screening results in adolescent 
suicides, ages 10-19, in Colorado have shown that marijuana is 
outpacing both alcohol and opiates.

Crime rates, hospitalizations related to marijuana, and adolescents 
using opiates have all increased in Colorado and other states with 
legal marijuana, according to Russell.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom