In yesterday’s column, I explained why I don’t think marijuana should be allowed in Benicia. Today, I dive into further data.
Health & Safety – Increasing Potency
Marijuana today is significantly more stronger than the weak homegrown versions of the ’90s. Marijuana strength has grown from about 4 percent THC in 1995 to nearly 12 percent in 2014; a 200 percent increase in THC and growing. Marijuana growers continue to hybridize plants to breed more potent strains with more and more THC while reducing CBD the natural anti-psychotic that counterbalances the effect of THC. In 2004 the CBD content was 0.5 percent and has dropped to less than 0.2 percent in 2015, a 150 percent reduction. It is noteworthy that the increase in ER admissions almost parallels the rate of marijuana potency over the same time period.
There is a direct link between marijuana and schizophrenic-like psychosis that has been known for years. Dr. Christine Miller, a Baltimore pharmacologist specializing in neuroscience said, “The old version of weaker pot would increase the risk for schizophrenia about twofold; now it is fivefold.” “That equates to about 1 out of 20 people who are moderately heavy users and the risk begins to increase dramatically with weekly use.” “About half of those who experience marijuana-induced psychosis, which can be temporary, will go on to be chronically mentally ill with continued use.”
Health & Safety –
Smoking marijuana does make people more violent
A study by five researchers from institutes based in Montreal examined the lives of 1,136 men and women who were patients at psychiatric hospitals in Missouri, Pittsburgh and Massachusetts. Records were gathered from interviews carried out every ten weeks for a year after their discharge. The conclusions of the study are:
* Researchers said that marijuana causes violence and they found no evidence that the link is the other way round – i.e. that violent people are more likely to use marijuana. This project is the first to demonstrate that marijuana is not only linked with violent crime but is the cause.
* The research found there was a more consistent relationship between marijuana and violence than alcohol or cocaine use and violence. The researchers said the link between marijuana and violence was not two-way but uni-directional.
Health & Safety – Knowing the difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana
It was disconcerting to read that Vice Mayor Young state that he thought medical and recreational marijuana was the same. That is simply not true. In layman’s terms, medical marijuana contains a lower level of THC and higher levels of CBD reducing the “high” associated with recreational marijuana. CBD is an anti-psychotic and can be used in treatment of mental illness, helping decrease anxiety, pain and inflammation.
Conversely, recreational marijuana has higher levels of THC combined with high levels of CBD producing a substantial mental high but also contributes to other psychotic conditions as discussed earlier.
Safety – Auto crashes are on the rise
A new study by the Highway Data Loss Institute of the three states that have approved the sale of marijuana for recreational use shows an increase in motor vehicle accident insurance claims. The number of vehicle collisions is 3 percent higher than what would have been if marijuana were not legal. After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often found in the blood of drivers involved in crashes.
The difficulty in specifically linking marijuana to accidents is that there is no standard test to confirm the driver is under the influence. An added difficulty is that marijuana affects people differently especially if they are a first time user vs. a long term user. Blood test can confirm the presence of THC but the role marijuana plays in crashes is questionable.
The only clear learning at this time is the increasing trend analysis is directly correlated to the legalization of recreational marijuana to the increase in traffic accidents. More study and research is required to develop a hard scientific conclusion.
Safety – Crime
Colorado has experienced a thriving underground marijuana trade where legal pot sales have provided cover. In April, DEA agents told Colorado Springs City Council of more than 186 large-scale (illegal) marijuana growing operations in the city, mostly destined for out-of-state sales. In Oregon, hash oil extraction operations are becoming the new meth labs; explosions of butane used to extract hash oil have rocked houses in Medford and Springfield. In Washington State, 17 THC extraction labs exploded in 2014 alone. The risk to the public to these endeavors and explosions is significant.
Health and Safety – Teen Use of Marijuana
There is a direct correlation between the legalization of recreational marijuana and the use of marijuana by teens from the ages of 12 to 17 years old. Colorado has launched a significant campaign to reduce marijuana use by those 12 up. Currently they are ranked first in the nation for youth use of marijuana. This is a trophy no one wants, and significant work and expense must be dedicated to change that trend. Research shows marijuana is harmful to the developing brains of adolescents, which may result in psychotic symptoms, schizophrenia, drug addiction and lower IQs.
The above information is just the surface of a much deeper problem. It is up to the City Council to conduct their own research, consider all of the consequences, negative and positive before agreeing to proceed with authorizing the distribution and sale of recreational marijuana. The most important piece of information regarding a delay in the decision is that the state is not ready to allow sales to begin on Jan. 1. The state’s progress of developing a policy is only half-way at best with only a couple of months left this year. Benicia should join the more than 95 percent of cities in a 10-plus mile radius in passing ordinances denying the sale, growth and development of marijuana. After that, call a time out, take that time to really study and understand the issue and then proceed at a moderate rate after all of the state rules are in place and understood. Above all, I ask the City Council to remember, you are our representatives and we hold you accountable for developing plans and policies that protect the health and safety of everyone. Fail to do that, and you have failed to represent us faithfully. We will not forgive that failure.
Pastor Rick Warren said it best when he said, “A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right and evil doesn’t become good just because it’s accepted by a majority.” Marijuana is both a health and a safety issue. Please keep it out of Benicia.
Dennis Lowry is a Benicia resident.