Smashed Peaches

Drug Research Studies

Column: Today’s word is ‘pot’ | Columnists – SW News Media

Talking pot today.

I’ve discussed legalizing marijuana with area law enforcement officers, and formed my opinion based at least in part on what they said. What follows is my opinion, and doesn’t in any way reflect an official opinion by any government or private entity. Nobody’s paying me to lobby one way or another.

Some people seem to think legalizing marijuana is a political issue. I contend it’s not political, but rather a matter of health, and social well-being.

What me worry?

Did the UPS driver who just pulled up in front of your house smoke a joint on his lunch break 10 minutes ago? How will you feel about sending your kids to school on a bus whose driver (legally) toked up last night. Remember, the effects of marijuana use remain detectable in a person’s body for up to 30 days — which you may safely assume means there’s a cumulative effect to even infrequent usage.

Open the gate?

Many legalization proponents deny that pot is a gateway drug, or say alcohol is THE gateway drug. They say the gateway is already there, so let’s legalize it, and open the gate.

As I talked with law enforcement officers, I heard a common theme. Up to 95 percent of all busts for hard drugs spin out of marijuana stops. Someone gets pulled over for erratic driving, and there’s a strong odor or visible evidence of marijuana use, which leads to a vehicle search, which turns up harder drugs — meth, cocaine, heroin, and maybe alcohol too. It was also pointed out to me that most major drug arrests involve a variety of drugs, almost always including marijuana.

One law enforcement officer expressed the opinion that legal pot is coming, and there’s not a lot law enforcement officers can do about it. His hope is that at least lawmakers will consult with law enforcement officers to make a law that works, rather than some half-baked law that excuses things like DUI. Our current law is pretty weak as it is. Possession of less than 42.5 grams of marijuana is a petty misdemeanor. A user can be arrested multiple times with no more effect than a fine.

California Dreamin’?

Various reports indicate that in California, black market marijuana sells for less than legal (and taxed) marijuana, which creates a California conundrum of sorts. The state has to enforce tax laws against black market dealers in order to support taxpaying dealers, which means California has to pay for law enforcement against… illegal marijuana.

California gets some revenue from taxing marijuana, but it’s only about 19 percent of what was projected. Meanwhile DUI accidents are up, and the cost of those accidents is up as well.

What’s more, California allows cities, townships and counties to ban marijuana, which I think is a good thing, but confusing.

Sierra County says “Cities and counties throughout the State have reported adverse impacts from marijuana cultivation, including but not limited to increased risks of criminal activity, acts of violence in connection with attempts to protect or steal marijuana grows, degradation of the natural environment, unsanitary conditions, violations of building codes, disagreeable odors, and negative effects on physical, mental and community health. The creation of persistent strong odors as marijuana plants mature and flower is offensive to many people, results in complaints of respiratory problems, and creates an attractive nuisance, alerting persons to the location of valuable marijuana plants and creating an increased risk of crime. Accordingly, the Board of Supervisors finds that the unregulated cultivation of marijuana in the unincorporated area of Sierra County can adversely affect the health, safety, and well-being of the County and its residents.”

So, growing marijuana is generally illegal in Sierra County, which incidentally has an excellent climate for the crop. Riverside County is another story, with plenty of places selling recreational cannabis or marijuana, or whatever you want to call it.

By any other name

Marijuana or cannabis, either way we’re talking about a psychoactive plant. The operative word here is psychoactive. A PSYCHOACTIVE DRUG, PSYCHOPHARMACEUTICAL, or PSYCHOTROPIC is a chemical substance that changes brain function and results in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior.

It’s just a little dope, right?

In a study authored by Mahmoud A. ElSohly, a professor of pharmaceutics at the University of Mississippi. researchers looked at more than 38,600 samples of illegal marijuana seized by the DEA over 20 years.

Their findings? THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol — marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient — in the samples rose from about 4 percent in 1995 to about 12 percent in 2014. In other words marijuana’s strength has tripled in 20 years. What do you think will happen when big pharma starts developing recreational marijuana? Have you heard of the opioid epidemic?

Conversely, the level of CBD, or cannabidiol — an ingredient sometimes touted for its potential health benefits — fell from about .28 percent in 2001 to less than .15 percent in 2014.

Law enforcement officers who’ve been in the profession for 20 or so years find that they are now dealing with the children of users they dealt with back in the day.

For adults only? Don’t be naïve. Kids all think they’re adult enough to do the things their parents do. Drinking, smoking, sex, driving, snowmobiling, and whatnot. You know what I’m saying is true because you were a kid once, and you thought you could handle anything an adult could handle. Maybe your parents taught you lessons, and made them stick, like mine did. For me, the core lesson was always to do what’s right — not what I could get away with.

I laugh when politicians talk about safe streets, safe schools, safe yadda yadda yadda, and then say they want to legalize the gateway drug for abusers. Which cynical council members want to make a few bucks off licensing pot sales? And the benefits of hemp as part of the conversation about legal marijuana? Some folks need to be honest with themselves. What they really want is to be able to get high without legal effect.

Just don’t feed me nonsense about how a lot of people are doing pot now, so we might as well legalize it and make some money off it. Medical marijuana is legal in Minnesota.

If you want to be able to light a spliff, that’s your worry, not mine. I just hope you can see your kids through the haze.

Do you really want them to grow up in a place where getting stoned is OK? The kids you see on your Facebook page are the target market for legalized marijuana, even if they are too young to buy it themselves. I won’t tell you how to raise your kids, but I’ll tell you this — you’re responsible for whatever they turn out to be. You. Not the state Legislature, not the city council, not law enforcement officers, not teachers. You. Remember that when you think about your position on legal marijuana.

The Quote 

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” 

— Mark Twain