By Scott Chipman
As legalization of pot ramps up in California what should citizens and especially parents be considering?
State regulations will not be effective. They appear to have been written by the marijuana industry and aren't even as strict as those on the alcohol and tobacco industries. For example, producers of tobacco products are not allowed to add flavors, sweeteners or ammonia that increases the impact of nicotine on the brain. None of those restrictions apply to pot products.
The industry has been lawless. What little enforcement that has occurred has been the result of citizen complaints. There is no proactive investigative agency so the burden of knowing the laws and regulations and filing complaints on pot businesses will continue to fall on the citizens who are being negatively impacted. Shameful!
The marijuana knowledge gap is widening. With thousands of research papers on marijuana over the last few decades, you might expect public awareness and knowledge to be at a high level. Unfortunately, there is a growing gap between the science-based research on marijuana and what the public knows. Today's pot is ten to 40 times stronger than in the 1960s or 1970s. "Edibles" can be 60 to 90 percent THC, the "crack cocaine" of pot. Psychosis, schizophrenia, depression and paranoia are linked to, and more prevalent among marijuana users. Pot impacts perception of space and time, the heart, the reproductive system, the unborn, the nursing baby and more. It causes or exacerbates mental disorders, especially among young users.
Legalization actually makes marijuana more dangerous. Legalization implies use isn't harmful because it would be "irresponsible" for government to sanction a harmful industry and its products. However, marijuana continues to be addictive and psychoactive, and negatively impacts the brain and the body. Harvard brain biologist Bertha Madras indicates marijuana primes the brain for addiction to other drugs including opiates. The 2016 U.S. surgeon general's report, "Facing Addiction in America," lists marijuana over twice as often as other illicit drugs. An estimated 30 percent of users show signs of addiction. At a typical addiction treatment center, you find the majority of patients started with marijuana, especially young patients.
Crime and violence increase after legalization. Local law enforcement throughout California, including police chiefs, sheriffs and deputy sheriffs called for banning commercial pot drug dealing operations because of the impacts on crime. Most jurisdictions in the state listened. Some have not. Research indicates psychiatric patients who use are more than twice as likely to turn to violence than nonusers. Studies indicate a "more constant relationship" between cannabis and violence than between alcohol or cocaine use and violence. Colorado arrests related to marijuana are up. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrisey said "every crime type in every community increased after legalization." Law enforcement is busier now than ever addressing marijuana-related crime.
Legalization actually increases the black market. Colorado's black market in marijuana is booming, Denver police official James Henning said last year, "Denver police arrested 242 people for illegally growing, selling or extracting marijuana." Henning's team seized 8,913 pounds of marijuana that year. In just three years, law enforcement across the country has seized 4.5 tons (11 million joints) of marijuana from Colorado. California produces much more pot and between six and 10 times more than it consumes. "Legal" states amount to national drug cartels.
Tax revenue will be dwarfed by the costs. What is the cost of high school and college dropouts, the cost of addiction and therapy, the cost of lost work and productivity, the cost of the impaired driving crashes, the cost of children improperly cared for by addicted parents? The costs far outweigh tax revenues and taxes encourage the black market.
What can concerned citizens do? First, we need to get fully informed and tell our friends and associates the real facts about today's pot and discourage use and misinformation. The media has been inadequate in exposing the harms. Speak to your children and teens daily about the dangers of marijuana and drugs. On average, kids are first exposed to marijuana at age 12. And this age is lowering. Impacts to the developing brain are devastating.
We also need to create local ordinances to protect our communities and cities from the marijuana industry. About 60 percent of California cities have banned pot businesses. Sadly, some city and county officials have chosen the industry over health and safety. Citizens and children will be the victims of their poor policy decisions.
Scott Chipman is Southern California chair of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana (CALMca.org) and co-founder of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods.