Thursday, September 24, 2015

15 Pro-Marijuana Points I Hear All the Time and Why They Concern Me

"Cannabis Plant" by Cannabis Training University - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -

I work in substance abuse prevention. I'm also a single pringle, so sometimes I go on dates. I went on one recently and as soon as the guy heard that I was into substance abuse prevention, he talked for 10 minutes about why I should be pro-marijuana (aka, pro-cannabis). I finally forced a change of topic, since I didn't want to monopolize the entire date talking about public health. (Okay, that's only kinda true. I'll talk about public health any time, any place.;) )
You would think that knowing that my career is in substance abuse prevention, it would be clear that I have unfavorable opinions towards substance use. It would be clear that I have spent many hours researching the issues and I may be a little better informed about them than the average Joe.
Apparently, those things are not obvious, as this date scenario actually happens to me pretty frequently. ;) It's usually great, just friendly people bringing up interesting points they've heard. But since I don't like to argue on dates, I don't always have the chance for a full discussion. So, here it is!

15 pro-marijuana points I hear all the time and why they concern me

1. "It will be a cash cow for the state. I say, just tax the crap out of it and use the money."
This is so false. Utah has THEE HIGHEST alcohol tax rate in the nation. And it still only equals about 1/4th of the cost of treatment. And that's just treatment!! We already have a lot of individuals with cannabis use disorder in treatment here. And it's paid for with tax dollars. In other words, if you pay taxes, you are paying for treatment. When treatment costs rise proportionally with use and taxes can only pay for a small portion (which will be the case unless there is a 100ish% tax on substances) you will pay more taxes to care for addicts.
Even in places like Colorado, where marijuana is recreationally available, still, the marijuana tax makes up far less than 1% of the general tax fund. And there are SO many costs that come along with abuseable substances.
Increased treatment of individuals who can't pay for it themselves, so it's paid for by the taxpayers. Increased law enforcement needed to patrol DUIs and process them. There's no breathalyzer for MJ, it's a more difficult, time and resource consuming process. Paid for by tax payers. Accidents.
Increased days missed from work. Decreased number of individuals able to hold a steady job. They then become a financial burden on society.
Law-makers time.

2. "If we legalize it, we will shut down the black market. Drug cartels will just stop. Why would someone buy illegal pot if they can buy it leagally????????"

Umm, because it's cheaper. If we "tax the crap out of it," it's going to be a lot cheaper on the black market. And with pot legal, it will be much, much more difficult to enforce laws surrounding black market marijuana deals, making it easy for drug cartels to flourish. Some have gone legal. Cool. Now we have cartels running legally recognized entities. Crime rates have risen in Colorado since legalization.

3. "No one has ever even died from it. In fact, there are no side effects."

You mean, other than chemically-induced psychosis? Good heavens. Even my Allegra comes with a hefty list of side-effects and contraindications. If you don't know what they are for marijuana components, it's only because they haven't been documented yet. Some interesting ones have been surfacing though. Like that young frequent marijuana users have an 8 point drop in IQ. That's just sad. Let's protect our kiddos please. They will be leading our nation soon.
Also, this doesn't account for non-overdose, marijuana related deaths. People are killed by those driving under the influence. Violent marijuana-related crime and the dangerous processes of extraction kill people. Those deaths are basically 100% preventable.

4. "It's not even addictive."
If you follow pot talk at all, you've noticed that the marijuana industry and pro-marijuana proponents have stopped making this claim. Sometimes they'll soften it by saying, "Well, yeah, you can get addicted to it just like anything, like sugar or video games." Hmm. Looking at the actual numbers, about 1 in 6 young, frequent pot users will become addicted. The industry is realizing they can't lie about this anymore. *cough* Big Tobacco *cough*

5. "It doesn't make you high."
Okay, this is one no one really says out loud. But marijuana proponents have done SUCH a good job sending out the message that "marijuana is benign" and even "good for you" and that you can "use it responsibly..." that people have kind of forgotten that it even gets you high. That smoking/ingesting THC gets you high. People don't always do dumb, dangerous even literally psychotic things when they're high. Not even the majority of the time. But definitely more frequently than when they're not high. Do you really want to live in a community trying to interact and do business and function in school and the workplace with people who are high? It would not be awesome.

6. "Just regulate it tightly."
Perhaps the biggest myth of all, the myth of regulation. The attempt to "regulate" marijuana is a joke. There has been an unprecedented amount of new law-making in Colorado in order to attempt to control what has been released. It's like trying to rebuild a dam during the flooding.

What if you told someone, "Okay. You can only grow 4 tomato plants. I know tomatoes are very lucrative to grow, a lot of people want to buy tomatoes from you, but I'm telling you- only grow four plants okay? And make sure those plants are all under 2 feet. We don't want you producing too much. Don't breed them, grow more, share with your neighbor. Don't harvest more than twice a season. I don't know how long a season is, I guess it just depends. Just don't harvest too much. Don't let your kids near them. Don't sell them unless we tell you to."
Do you see the problem here?
Some pro-marijuana people who claim they are proponents of freedom of choice, somehow think that people will instead be willing to be controlled. It kills the legal system. It overwhelms law enforcement.

7. "Once marijuana is legal, cops will be free to focus on bigger problems."
Not only is this a new burden, but it's taking away valuable time from lawmakers and law enforcement doing actual important things, like making improvements and reducing serious crime. Like going after bigger things than smoking pot.

8. "It would free up alllllllllllllllllll the prison space we have which is currently filled with people who smoked marijuana one time.
I asked them last time I visited the prison what they were in for, and they all said they were just doing their thing, smoking marijuana, and an evil cop appeared. The cop said, 'Ten years for smoking marijuana!' now the prison is full of, hmm, like 85% marijuana smokers I think."
Okay. Okay, okay, okay. No. Fallacy. Just think about it. Do you really think this would happen? According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only about 0.4% of prisoners with no prior offenses are in state prisons for marijuana related offenses, usually things like trafficking/violent crime. Not smoking and possession of a personal supply. According to the United States Sentencing Commission in 2008, 6,337 people were sentenced in federal court for drug crimes related to marijuana. Only 1.6% of these 6,337 were sentenced for marijuana possession. Now, I'm no mathematician, but that comes out to about 101 people in federal prison for marijuana related crimes. In. The. Nation.
Really. Look it up.
And the funny this is, most of these cases were argued down. So, people's charges were way more than marijuana-related crimes, and they were graciously plead down to a marijuana charge.
Our prisons are not filled with innocent pot users. Gosh.
Yes, we have a prison system problem. That's another issue, or as some would call it, a red herring. Don't get confused. Legalizing a substance won't automatically fix deeper problems.

9. "It's better than/just like alcohol, and that's legal."
Look around. Do we really need another alcohol? Do we really need more of the social, financial and relationship devastation caused by this substance? Did you know problems caused by alcohol use costs Utah tax payers $3,000 per house hold per year? And we have the driest state in the nation. Imagine states where alcohol use is at or above the national average.
You might think to yourself, "Other than our expensive taxes...I haven't felt like $3,000 is missing from my household. This must be false." Well, the thing is, it's not evenly distributed among every household. No, it hits the most vulnerable the hardest. A family loses their income because a parent can't keep a job. Emergency room costs to teen who has been binge drinking. Funeral costs to someone who is the victim of alcohol related violence. We don't need more intoxicated people. I know it can be fun and enjoyable to some people. But no, I don't think some people's relaxation/enjoyment is more important than the morbidity and mortality experienced by those who are most vulnerable as a result of these substances. And MJ doesn't replace alcohol. In fact, marijuana users are more likely to use alcohol than non-users.
10.  "It's medicine. It helps people, why wouldn't you want to legalize it? #heartless..."

Wait, I thought this was like alcohol. Alcohol makes a lot of people feel better, right? Calms anxiety? Reduces insomnia? Temporarily numbs PTSD? Why don't we prescribe it for these things??
Because it's bad for you. The small benefits are not worth the extremely detrimental effects. It would be unethical to prescribe it to ill, and (especially) mentally vulnerable people.

Also, since when do legislators determine what's effective as medicine? I thought we let the medical community do that? If it's really medicine, make it go through the channel every other medicine has to to get approved. Study it. Test it. Can't? Then push for research, not legalization. We DO NOT HAVE adequate research to openly legalize cannabis as "medicine." There has been some really interesting and promising things shown in case studies. Let's test them properly. Let's dose it. Let's get it down to a measureable substance, not a random form of some "strain" that no one is regulating. Test for mold and pesticides. Let's help, not hurt sick people.

It would be awesome if simply writing into law that cannabis cures cancer and epilepsy and glaucoma made it so. But laws can't change the actual effectiveness of a drug. Whether it's even viable is not determined by legislation. It's determined through rigorous research and the scientific method.

11. "It's better than/just like prescription pain killers. You can't overdose on marijuana like you can on opioids."
As far as I know, it is very difficult to hit a deadly amount of marijuana components based on the way people are currently using it. It's also hard to overdose on smoked opium. Buuut, look at how opioids have been developed over the years. If we see something similar with cannabis, then we may have to revisit the issue. BUT for now, even if marijuana is less dangerous on its own, users are more likely to use opioid prescription drugs, heroin and benzodiazepines, all of which can lead to overdose. It's almost like there's an underlying problem here. That needs more help than just medication.

12. "It's better than/just like tobacco."
Just kidding. This is one is actually not used that much, because it doesn't really persuade people to be pro-marijuana. Because tobacco is an industry that targets vulnerable populations, only seeks to profit, doesn't care that the product causes harm. The tobacco industry straight up lied to the faces of American judges and prosecutors for years. It blows my mind that tobacco is still legal. Blows my mind. But, they have dollars. They have an addicted customer base. How many people do you know that die from cigarette overdose? Okay, I see what you're saying. There are other ways things can be detrimental to society and individuals other than causing immediate overdose deaths. And it could take decades to fully understand those societal costs. And cigarettes don't even get you high...

13. "Don't listen to those prevention people. It's propaganda. They LIKE spending time and resources on things like stopping substance use, rather than working on actual protective factors, and proactively taking their communities to the optimum public health. They do it for MONIES!!!!! To keep their very high-paying, lucrative jobs in substance abuse prevention. Listen to someone you can trust, like the for-profit, unproven marijuana industry! They have no reason to lie!"

Ha. Ha. I love this one. Some people make jokes (I call them jokes) about how prevention people really just want to keep everyone addicted so that they can keep working in the substance abuse prevention field. If you ever want something to cry on your pillow about at night, cry about how much prevention funding gets designated to other things. All I have to say is, there are one million other things that could be worked on if substance abuse went away.

Then there's the absurdity of trusting information from the Marijuana Industry, only people who stand to profit if you start using their substances. Yeesh. It is hard for me to believe that everything they say is purely out of the goodness of their hearts when you see operations popping up all over for the sole purpose of making a profit. I think some do it out of the goodness of their heart. Especially those looking to truly research medicinal properties of chemicals in the cannabis plant. I tip my hat to anyone trying to do good.
But even if people pushing for fully legalized, open marijuana access are trying to do good; they simply are not. It is not a good thing for society. And it's hard for me to put my blind faith in someone who has the chance to become a millionaire based on my choice to use.

*Warning* this one gets religious!
14. Religious person: "I support marijuana use."

Using drugs is against most religions. Why would you directly oppose the teachings of the church you choose to belong to? Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion. But before you go parading your support of substance use, question what your opinion really is. Question if you truly believe the teachings of the church. What if marijuana became legal recreationally? Would you use it? Alcohol and tobacco are quite legal, but many churches don't support their use. So? People will choose to use them. That's their choice. But if you really believe that those things are not good, and that you will in fact be happier without them, why would you wish on someone less happiness?
Looking at addictive substances, why would you ever, ever wish that on someone? With your increased understanding of what's good and bad, wouldn't you want to help people rather than keeping them in the dark to make a decision without full knowledge?

*Warning* this one gets moral!
15. "I support people doing whatever they want. If they want marijuana, sure, bring it here."

For all of the above reasons, it's a false idea to think that substance use won't affect anyone besides the user. No man is an island.

But this one is rough for me on a personal level. This one's deeper than being angry.
Deeper than being frustrated and annoyed.
More like being heart-broken.
I don't want to keep marijuana away from people because I want to control them. No. It's because I love people. People are absolutely wonderful and inspiring. All of them have value.
Have you ever been there, have you ever seen a grown man break down and cry, because he's tried time and time again to quit and he just can't? Have you ever been there in a home where addiction has taken a father by storm and his kids live in fear and poverty? Have you ever been there at a funeral of someone's son who was killed by substance related violence? Have you been there while a beautiful, innocent young person waits for an HIV diagnosis after having unsafe sex under the influence? Have you, personally? It sucks. It changes you.

Take Home Message:
I'll get off my dramatic soapbox, but seriously, look at the whole picture. I've seen some of these effects, and substance use is no joke. It's costly and causes unhappiness. In the short term it may be fun or numbing, but please, consider the long term. Consider the good of society; of the rising generation. I support research for medicinal value of some of the components of marijuana but I do not support the use of marijuana for recreational or unregulated, unproven "medicinal" use. There are too many adverse effects.

The end, thanks for reading. :)

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